Transumanza (Transhumance)

 

"Settembre, andiamo. E’ tempo di migrare" begins a very famous poem by Gabriele d’Annunzio titled The sheperds. It simply means ‘September, let’s go. It’s time to migrate’ and it focuses on the seasonal duty of transumanza (‘transhumance’, in English), driving herds – of sheep, mostly – to lower grounds to protect them from Fall’s colder climate and to find richer pastures. When the warm season returns, the shepherds and their herds would go back to the highlands.

Of course, this would be rather easy in mountainous regions. On flatter grounds, however, transhumance would require long journeys and extensive stays away from home and family. This is the case of the Abruzzo region, where the transumanza rite has always been an important part of life and where to this day sheep herding (and transhumance) remains a common sight. Beside the lyrical mentions of transhumance, the exhausting back and forth trips gave birth to many related events, idioms, cultural heritages and places. The most characteristic of them are the tratturi network: a complex net of interconnecting paths criss-crossing the whole region. Tratturi can only be walked on foot – and possibly off-road bikes. They obviously run pretty isolated and scenic routes, therefore in recent times they became a favorite of trekkers. Tratturi are also very interesting to visit because of all the structures which sprang up along their routes. Churches, monasteries, keeps, guarding towers, resting places and even small villages catering to the shepherds’ needs. Some of them are now abandoned, yet they often remain spectacular sites, especially for their integration with their impervious surroundings. Transhumance impacted the very calendar of the region too. In correspondence with key dates for the transhumance several celebrations, festivals and other events were held, some of them surviving to this day.