The medieval hilltop village of Ceriana in western Liguria has many attractions, fabulous food, mountain walks, splash pools, but perhaps most unusual are the six choirs, famous for preserving the ancient tradition of regional polyphonic singing, or drone music. The thriving choirs, linked to the confraternities, have a calendar of events throughout the year. They are fiercely proud of their unbroken tradition of rural singing in the valley, some of which is sung in local ‘Cerianasco’ dialect.
Italo Calvino, the writer, was a partisan fighter there during the Second World War, and some of the modern (20th century) ballads recall the events of this period.
To hear the choirs, go to the Easter festival, or even better the festival of Madonna della Villa in September, which starts with a torch-lit procession to the chapel, and includes the choirs singing in the piazza. Festivals are both moving and entertaining, with most being accompanied by copious amounts of locally made food and wine.
If you are lucky, you don’t need to attend a special event; an impromptu session can happen at any social gathering.
These are very much village events, not tourist spectacle, but the welcome to strangers is open and sincere.
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