The strength of small big steps: transhumance yesterday and today

The strength of small big steps: transhumance yesterday and today

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The Via degli Abruzzi

Created to unite the Sabina to the Sannio through the plateau region, the Viadegli Abruzzi allowed contacts and exchanges between the Etruscans of the north and the Greek-Etruscans of Campania since the pre-classical age. It became even more decisive in the Angevin age by virtue of the connections between Naples and Florence and between Florence and northern Italy and the rest of Europe. Subsequently, the new dominion of Romasancito from the unification of Italy brought value back to the east-west axis. Next to that substantial one, well harmonized with agriculture, and in particular with the business model that revolved around the farm, there was also a specialized form of sheep-goat farming, totally or partially detached from the agricultural world and often in open conflict with it. This business model could be presented on a small and medium scale, in which case it did not differ from the model described (breeding in some way harmoniously inserted in the agricultural cycle). The owners of flocks, without their own pastures, moved their livestock through transhumance itineraries The prerequisite for carrying out this method was the existence of open pastures for civic uses, which is why even members of the middle classes were able to play a distinct economic role . Specialized and intensive breeding, on the other hand, needed adequate grazing throughout the year, which Tarantino (and Puglia in general) were unable to provide for the period included (usually) between May and September, coinciding with the long summer. Since the Protohistory, the practice of transhumance became necessary, that is a sort of seasonal commuting of the flocks between the complementary regions: on the one hand, the Apennine ones, lacking pastures during the long winter (due to snow and rigors) but rich in grass during the summer season, and those on the coast of Puglia, which, on the contrary, in autumn-winter were able to provide abundant pastures.

Both flocks belonging to the owners of the mountain (Abruzzo, Molise, Irpini), and those of the owners of the Murgian centers (Martini in particular) and breeding were the main source of income moved along the itineraries of transhumance.

The ecological complementarity between the Apennine system and the coastal plains is the basis of horizontal transhumance, distinct from the vertical one (or pasture) and other forms of non-seasonal movement of herds, to be framed more properly in the phenomenon of nomadism.

In addition to the obvious economic repercussions, transhumance had considerable consequences in the context of cultural anthropology, both in the degenerate forms of delinquent behavior (such as banditry and the plague of the abigeate), and in cultic practices (the shepherds of each epoch elected their own divinities and saints protectors, fixed places of worship, celebrated propitiatory ceremonies), and in urban architecture (with the identification of rest stations and predefined itineraries, the tratturi). Last but not least, the political-administrative fallout, due to the constant presence of a state always careful to exploit the cattle traffic along the grassy streets to its advantage. The pens for the breeding of goats were generally placed in inaccessible environments, on steep terrain and with outcropping rock, facing south, thus reproducing the environment most suitable for the habits of these frugal animals.

Sheep heritage in Italy

From a social point of view, the presence of animal husbandry in mountain areas is linked to cultural traditions and social institutions that risk disappearing along with it. Think of the village festivals and fairs connected to the products of pastoralism and mountain farming; to elements of the Apennine gastronomic tradition such as sheep alla callara, kebabs, lamb with cheese and ovo etc.

The abandonment of pastures and the gradual disappearance of animal husbandry with their implications on the presence of man in the Apennine mountain areas, also lead to the abandonment of stazzi and centenary rural settlements that often degrade by modifying the anthropic landscape of these areas. This in addition to a negative impact on tourism has a social impact since the population remains concentrated in the villages that forgave the function of civilization outpost for the inhabitants of the scattered houses.

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