When the council in Brentonico, an idyllic hamlet nestled in the foothills of the Italian alps, met two weeks ago, the usual debates over school autonomy and use of public land were temporarily shoved aside for a far more intriguing agenda item: whether a 60-year-old woman who was condemned to death as a witch nearly 300 years ago deserved to have another day in court.
Overwhelmingly, the council decided that she did.
Maria Bertoletti Toldini was not a particularly extraordinary woman, according to a local historian who has tried to piece together details of her life.
She was a childless widow who had remarried at the time of her arrest in August 1715. Months later, a trove of documents shows, she was found guilty of crimes including multiple murders of children, making land barren, damaging a local vineyard, blasphemy and heresy. She was even accused of throwing a five-year-old into a pot of boiling cheese. Read more