The Italian highlanders who may have Scottish roots

Mamma mia, laddie!

High up in the mountains of northern Italy, just a few kilometres from the Swiss border, the people of the tiny village of Gurro speak a strange dialect, incomprehensible even to the other villages in the same valley.

They have peculiar surnames, and the women’s traditional costume features a patterned underskirt that looks suspiciously like tartan.

One possible explanation is that their forefathers include a unit of Scottish soldiers – the Garde Ecossaise – who served the French King, Francis I, and were defeated with him at the Battle of Pavia, near Milan, in February 1525.

The story goes that while trying to make their way home the Scots stopped in Gurro, where they got snowed in for the winter. Many locals believe they never left.