The harmonious coexistence between man and nature is the identity cornerstone of this Valle
The instinct of its people towards self-sufficiency, combined with values such as frugality and courage have developed in this valley a unique culture in Europe that has deep roots.
Even if Valle Maira as a whole has never experienced its own unity and political autonomy, thanks to its isolated geographical position, though on the border, has developed a native culture characterised by its own language, Occitan, and by a sort of religious syncretism that even though not being equalised, is certainly tolerated and disseminated: Catholicism, Calvinism and popular beliefs.
Valle Maira is still today, one of the few geographical regions in which the use of the lenga d'oc, better known as the Occitan language persists. Quoted by Dante Alighieri in 1303 in his De Vulgari Eloquentia, the ancient Langue d'oc of the Trobadors and the love lyrics, although spoken today by an ever-smaller number of people, still survives in the dialect, songs and poems of these lands.
Throughout the entire Occitan area, the stories and legends that were passed orally, especially during the Vià, the night watches in the barns in which people met to spend the evening, gathering one or more families, heated by the breath of the animals and the voices of the elderly, were numerous.
There are many legends linked to the existence of strange creatures: Masche, witches, generally very ugly or very beautiful women that had given their friendship to the devil, often used as a scapegoat for illnesses, famine and all kinds of disasters; and Sarvanòts, little forest elves, typically dressed with a red hat that disappeared for the betrayal of the men. The religious devotion to saints, considered intermediaries between God and man, often bordered on superstition. The proliferating of pillars, chapels and shrines are owed to this, dedicated to San Sebastiano and San Rocco, protectors against the plague.
Even daily life, from birth to death, was pervaded with rituals.
Baptism took place the same day as the birth to save a soul from Purgatory, while the mother of the child could not leave the house for 40 days to not be kidnapped by Sarvanòts.
During funerals, the close family of the deceased had to stay at home in bed, waiting for members of the community for dinner and they had to leave a dish and house keys for the deceased. When weddings were held, the ritual of the Chabra took place, groups of young people built noisy barriers to slow the joining of future spouses, especially when the bride had to change community.
You can still sense the ancient traditions of Valle Maira today walking through the villages and forests.