Il tratturo visto dal Tivone


I Tratturi molisani

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The tratturo

The territory of Castropignano, like 76 other municipalities in Molise, is crossed by one of the most important Tratturi (cattle-tracks), the Castel di Sangro-Lucera, which is 127 km long and 50 "Naples steps" (116 meters) wide.
The current path was defined (with stones) by the Aragonesi between 1400 and 1500, before the cattle-tracks used to be scattered in the area. The Aragonesi , Alfonso D' Aragona in particular, availed themselves of the valuable collaboration of the d'Evoli family of Castropignano, which among other things, were in the herding business and lived in the castle, which for its location, architectural features, size and military and administrative functions, is a real monument to the transhumance. The castle of Castropignano is intimately linked to this tradition , together with the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (the convent of Capuchin to which it is attached).
Since the late '70s the Tratturo is no longer used for the transhumance of sheep. Each year the Colantuono family leaves from San Marco in Lamis to reach the mountain of Frosolone with their flock. Unfortunately this is not sufficient to restore the Tratturo to its former appearance of grassy street. Although still recognizable and viable, it is every year more invaded by shrubs and natural vegetation. Adriano La Regina, then superintendent of Molise, in 1976, submitted the Tratturi to an archaeological bond (law 1089/39), which even amid many difficulties and contradictions has contributed, albeit not sufficiently, to protect the Tratturi. The sheep-tracks and their history are a good start to try to understand the land and the history of Molise.

The day of a transhumant shepherd ("r passarecc")

It 's still dark, when the transhumant shepherd (in Castropignano's dialect : r passarecc ) opens his eyes, but does not see the sky. He has slept on a wool blanket spread on the bare ground, his head and torso covered by the saddle of a mule, the legs by another blanket and an umbrella. He is still wearing the heavy hobnail shoes, which he did not take off, to be always ready to react to an attack by wolves (which follows the transhumance like shepherds) or cattle rustlers. He is wearing a not colored raw wool vest, long wool underwear, woolen socks, a flannel shirt, a bodice of velvet, corduroy trousers and a jacket of dark velvet of the same dark color of the trousers.
Around him the familiar sounds , the barking of dogs, the bleating of sheep, eager to get back on their journey, the voices of the cowherd ("vuttr") and his subordinates - "vttruocchi" and "vuttrini" – who begin to disassemble the pens and to place on harnessed mules networks and bollards. The cheese maker reorders the copper cauldron ("frscelle") and the wooden containers. Once awaken, the shepherd checks his equipment: the knife in one pocket, the bottle, the "Mishisca" (sun-dried mutton) in another pocket, whistle to call his dogs, faithful and obedient animals, with their white fur to be easily distinguished at night from wolves, and with their enormous spiked collars. He calls to show that it is time to move and slowly starts another day. The sun has just risen, the herd begins to move. In the front a couple of dogs and the shepherd with the "leader sheep" on his side, followed by the dogs and the loaded mules, in the back of the herd another shepherd with two or three dogs.
The breakfast is frugal, eaten while he is walking and controlling the sheep, he chews the "Mishisca" and drinks from the small wooden flask. The journey is slow, sometimes a whistle, a cry, to call a listless or unruly sheep.
When the sun is high in the sky and the heat begins to be felt, the sheep "ammuzzano", stop, rest and begin to ruminate. The shepherd can take a break, he looks for some shadow beneath a tree. Two or three hours and he reaches the prearranged place, near to a spring or a village.
To prepare the overnight stop others have arrived before the flocks, they lit the fire, set up the pens, and are ready to milk the sheep. When the sheep arrive are closed in the pens through a narrow passage and are milked .
The milk is collected in large copper cauldrons and heated, curdled to make cheese and "ricotta"(cottage cheese).
Shepherds get ready for the night, the dogs take their place around the pens, the dairymen sale or exchange ricotta and cheese for bread, wine or eggs with the farmers in the area, someone goes to the nearest village to buy tobacco, matches, salt, or to the barber for a shave. They all gather around the fire: a few words, the tasks are assigned, fatigue is the host. The night, and then a new day, a new journey towards the destination.

Pasquale Sardella