Since time immemorial an original wedding procession crosses the countryside at Rocca Grimalda at carnival time, followed by the cracking of whips, the jingling of bell harnesses, by multicoloured ribbons, odd characters and richly decorated animals. This is a fascinating and mysterious, but also cheerful and exciting rite, that legend maintains goes back to an act of rebellion by the people of Rocca against the jus primae noctis imposed by the feudal system.
The rite includes dances, shows of strength, and theatre in the square, and over the centuries has taken on symbolic forms and social functions. The 'Trapulin', the strange harlequins who accompany the dances cracking whips, the two 'Lache' - tireless dancers wearing tall flower-covered mitres (see frontcover) - and the restless Bebe clown-devil, all dance around the wedding couple followed by zouaves, damsels, muleteers and country girls.
The event includes traditional dances exclusive to Rocca Grimalda with special mimes and scenes. The real 'Lachera', in which the 'lachei' jump in harmony towards and away from the couple, while the two zouaves cross their swords in a sign of defence, the 'Giga' (jig) danced by the lachei and the bride and groom, the 'Calisun' in which the bride running in fast tiny steps chases the lachei, the 'Monferrina' and the 'Curenta' danced by the muleteers and country girls.
La Lachera is a festival to experience and enjoy, both during the Questua (collection)from farmhouse to farmhouse, and by following the ritual dances in the narrow streets of the mediaeval town.
The oldest finds in the area of Rocca Grimalda go back to the pre-Roman era, the position of the site has always attracted human settlements. A Celtic-Ligurian necropolis and the remains of an early mediaeval castle dug into the rock can still be seen on the 'Bricco di Treonzo' (Rock of Treonzo) which, according to legend, is inhabited by witches.
For centuries, from the Middle Ages onwards, the ancient town, set on a rock in the valley of the Orba, was the site of numberless struggles between the Repubblica di Genova, Monferrato and Stato di Milano. It is definitely important for its strategic position but also, we think, for its "natural beauty". Still today the streets and lanes have ancient sounding names, and it's not surprising that families like the Trotti family from Alessandria and the Grimaldis from Genova wanted to take control of it.
This rich and lively historic past has shaped the soul of the Rocchesi (the people of Rocca) and has led them to maintain their mysterious and fascinating traditions. Every year the rite of the Lachera takes place at carnival time with four days of shows, dancing and music around the area, in the wine cellars and in the town of Rocca Grimalda.