Do As The Locals Do: Pesa Vegia

Do As The Locals Do: Pesa Vegia

Do As The Locals Do: Pesa Vegia

by Dejou Marano

Do as the locals do by enjoying one of Lombardia’s upcoming holiday events:


The Pesa Vegia festival is a 405 year old tradition that takes place every January 5th in the bucolic Lake Como community of Bellano.  The history of this unique celebration begins in 1606, when the town fell under Spanish rule. Count Pedro Acevedo of Fuentes was appointed governor over the area and immediately banned the traditional system of weights and measures used by the Bellano lake merchants. Dissatisfied with their newly appointed governor and his decree, the merchants united in refusing to use the “Pesa Nueva” system and declared there be a formal review of the new mandate.

The night of the Epiphany was the backdrop for a formal decision to be reached by a town committee elected to decide whether Bellano would keep its own commercial weight system or acquiesce to the Spanish decree. Legend states that a Spanish delegation set off across the lake by gondola to deliver the verdict. As the Spanish neared the shore, they were greeted by the call of hundreds of townspeople that had been waiting patiently lakeside for days to hear news of a decision. With nervous anticipation the townspeople cried out steadily, “Old weights or new weights?” While the delegation’s boat drew closer, the people welcomed their new rulers graciously, with hordes of onlookers lining the town’s piers to acknowledge the visitors. As the Spanish stepped onto the shores of Bellano, their words rang loud and clear, “Old Weights!” The town erupted in celebration over the news and proceeded to run through the streets gathering all of the Spanish weights and replacing them with the old ones. As it was the night of the Epiphany, legend has it that the citizens were so overcome with excitement that a large statue of one of the three wise men was set ablaze and carried off in a procession along the lake, while people ate and drank happily in the streets, at nearby cantinas and in restaurants.

The people of Bellano have continued to celebrate the age old tradition every year without fail, despite wars and civil unrest. On January 5th, all of Bellano lights up with hundreds of people dressed in authentic costumes from the 17th century, celebrating both the Italian and Spanish culture of that period. The folk tradition of burning a wise man at the lakefront is also continued each year, as well as the lighting of bonfires along the town’s piers and wharves, setting the night sky aglow with fiery orange, yellow and red. There is even an annual town race held to commemorate the impetus for the celebration, where race participants carry replicas of Bellano’s “old weights” throughout the community’s winding streets, bringing good cheer and holiday joy to everyone.

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3 thoughts on “Do As The Locals Do: Pesa Vegia”

  1. Rebecca M

    I truly enjoyed reading about the Pesa Vegia. I participated in these festivities a few years ago and it still fascinates me to see everyone partake in this celebration.

    1. Pesa Vegia is certainly one of the most unique celebrations in all of Italy. It’s truly wonderful that you’ve had the chance to experience it firsthand. Thank you for your feedback!

  2. Pingback: Italian Lake Culture | The Bred Blog

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