Home | Valente and DiRenzo Family History - Village History Background - The tratturo in Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia

Preface: this is the story of Molise's "Sheep Trails" (tratturi), the grassy paths shepherds once used to herd sheep and cattle between the highlands of Abruzzo and the plain of Puglia (transhumance), ancient paths that shaped the history of the region.  What follows is a summary translation of the Italian Web page Il Tratturo <www.abol.it/molise/tratturi.html> as it existed in May 1999; that page is "Copyright © 1996 by Abruzzo On Line".

The Sheep Migration Tracks of Molise

"Situated between Abruzzo and the tableland (plateau) of Puglia, Molise lies at the center of a vast network of sheep tracks (tratturi) that, with tracklets (tratturelli) and branches, used to form a route almost 1,860 miles long, of which no less than 280 miles lay in Molise."

Map: mountain ranges of Abruzzo and Molise, Italy, 5 KB

"These great grassy arteries utilized for the transferring of flocks of sheep and goats and herds of cattle from the pastures of the plain to the pastures of the mountains, had a width of 122.02 yards (111.60 meters), a standard width that permitted the flocks to graze and migrate without problems.  The tracks were connected with one another by tracklets (tratturelli) of widths that varied according to the zone (40.45 yards, 30.34 yards, 20.23 yards), and by arms (branches).

"Throughout the sheep tracks resting or idling places were provided (erano previsti riposi o giacci), large areas in which the flocks and herds would halt during the migrations.

"The migration (transumanza) was regulated in the most detailed manner by the royal decree of 1447 that emanated from Alfonso I of Aragon, when, with the principal task of collecting taxes (tributi), the 'Customshouse of the Sheep Track in Puglia' (Dogana della Mena delle pecore in Puglia) was founded, with its seat first at Lucera and later at Foggia.  The regulations of the Customshouse imposed different times for the migration of livestock:  By early May all the types of animals had to have been transferred to the Apennines of Abruzzo.  The return to Puglia, on the other hand, was diversified: the sheep and goats had to descend from the highlands by the end of September, the bulls and cows by December.

"The migration represented an important activity for the entire economy of the Mezzogiorno (southern Italy), tied as it was to the production (lavorazione) and marketing of wool.

"The sunset (decline) of this activity began with the French in the early years of the 19th Century; it died away little by little until it disappeared completely, despite the efforts of the Bourbons to revive it.

"Today flocks and herds are still seen grazing on the mountains of Abruzzo; however, the animals arrive there aboard trucks, and their number is so reduced that it is no longer historically important.  And though bits are still passable, the sheep tracks have disappeared, as have the old wine shops (taverne) that spangled them."

More about the Tratturo

For 20th Century memories of the tratturo in Molise, please see The Mountain Shepherds, and The Christmas Zampognaro ("Bagpipe-player") in Gambatesa.

The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/valente/tratturo.html
Last revised: 15 December 2002 : 2002-12-15 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.

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