Legends and curiosities

Mysterious places and strange creatures – legends and curiosities in Valtellina


Once upon a time there existed a Valtellina suspended in time – an enchanted and at times frightening Valtellina – that lives on in fairy tales and legends.

Homo Salvàdego and végia gòsa

One of the best-known legends about Valtellina is that of the Homo Salvàdego, a creature that is part human, part animal – similar to a faun. The solitary shaggy-coated creature symbolizes kindness and harmony on the one hand and fear and animal brutality on the other. Two apparently irreconcilable worlds blend seamlessly in Homo Salvàdego. A depiction of him can be seen in the camera picta, which dates from the mid-15th century, in Sacco, the first village you see going up Val Gerola, at 700 m above sea level.  

Végia Gòsa, the female version of the Salvàdego, is legendary in Albaredo San Marco, in Val Gerola, which is also the home of the famous Bitto cheese. According to the legend, an old lady had a goitre and lived alone in the woods. Her occasional appearances were a source of curiosity and fear.

The legend of the Gigiat in Val Masino

Val Masino is the home of the huge Gigiat, a cross between an ibex or chamois and billy goat with a thick coat. His gigantic horns and disproportionately big head are the subject of many a story told by refuge owners and mountain guides. According to the more reliable sources, the partly fictional and partly real animal roams the Porcellizzo, del Ferro, Qualido and di Zocca valleys, but there is no concrete proof of his existence. Very few people can claim to have seen him, and those who do never agree on his appearance.

Valtellina, land of... dragons!

Dragons, they say, once soared over Valtellina and Valchiavenna with their enormous wings. Legend would have it that several unusual boulders, such as the Sas da l’öof on the path from Nogaredo to Piazza Caprara in Samolaco, Valchiavenna, are petrified dragon’s eggs.

Witches in Valtellina

Witches star in yet another local legend. It is believed that on the waning moon witches gathered in a clearing called Acqua di Cofana in Lower Valtellina. Gathering around their wicked fire, they spread misfortune over the province and caused people, both young and old, to become afflicted with sores and diseases. Crops withered and animals died. A peasant eventually came up with a simple but brilliant idea to put an end to the devastation: on nights when the witches gathered, the locals would light multiple fires in the meadows and fields in order to confuse the witches and disrupt their evil rituals. 

Despite the spread of Christianity, magic and ancient rituals stubbornly persisted throughout Italy and particularly in Alpine regions like Valtellina. As a result, from the 15th century the church started to persecute anyone suspected of witchcraft. From the 15th to 18th centuries, numerous witch trials were held in Bormio and the Poschiavo valley. Many women were arrested, tortured, convicted and burned, often alive, in front of the church of San Gallo in Premadio.

UFO sightings in Valtellina

UFOs are decidedly more modern, if not futuristic, and over the years there have been various sightings in Valtellina. They have always been reports of balls of light or strange unidentified flying objects, which hover around for a few seconds before disappearing. 

Valmalenco has one of the highest rates of UFO sightings in the whole of Italy, and even hosts an annual convention that attracts UFO experts from Italy and abroad.