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Busto Arsizio Guide


Twenty-Five kilometres north of Milan is the city of Busto Arsizio, located in the region of Lombardy (in the province of Varese). It is believed that the original inhabitants of the city were Ligurians, alternatively described as 'wild', 'hairy', 'unshaven', 'marauders' and 'robbers'. On the upside, they were good with iron and highly sought after as mercenary soldiers. The influence of the Ligurians can be seen in the dialect, Bustocco, which is a little different to other western Lombardy dialects in the area.

The inhabitants were well practiced at 'slash and burn' techniques, which gave rise to vast areas of open land for the planting of vineyards or cereals, or simply to build houses on. This created 'settlements', ('bustum', or burnt in Latin), and to distinguish it from other settlements, it was given another name - 'arsicium', which is Latin for 'burnt' or 'arid'. So the name is actually a tautology - burnt burnt, or Busto Arsizio.

The local patron saint, Saint John the Baptist, is celebrated on June 24th, as is an age-old festivity called the Giubiana. In the celebration, held on the last Thursday in January, a female puppet, a female witch, (each family making its own puppet) is burnt on a bonfire. The festival is twofold - it represents in ancient times, the passing of a matriarchal society to a patriarchal one, and also the destruction of the negativity of winter and the chasing of the winter troubles, and the coming of spring.

The name comes from Jupiter, and in Latin Thursday was the day of Jupiter (in Anglo-Saxon it was Thor) and on Thursday night witches assembled. Also, if the fire is a good one, the year will be good, too. The ashes are then sprinkled on the fields to generate good luck.

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