Abruzzo can be infuriating for getting information for those whose Italian isn’t their first language, but it can be a joy delving down deep and finding historical documents that dazzle and paint such a picture that you can’t wait to get your walking boots on and step out in those same footsteps. As you read you also end up realising how inane your own writing is, and how much we rely today on photos to illustrate a story, but heyho!
Whilst searching for some snow terms in dialect I came across this wonderful account of Abruzzo and the transumanza entitled ‘Shepherds of the Abruzzi’ in an edition of The Penny Society Magazine which was set up by the Whigs in London as a means of educating the literate masses – it’s first year having a readership of 200,000. Imagine, 200,000 people knowing where Abruzzo is! I still more than often get asked “Abruzzo, where’s that?”!
Click here to read the full account as a pdf.
So little has changed it seems; here are some of my favourites, perhaps I’m biased, but the essence of romance, generosity, storytelling and love of music still rings true, as does that strong summer wind that blew down my novice tomato plants housed in a pots on my terrace.
“The same taste for romantic traditions that distinguishes our highlander and the inhabitants of mountainous countries.”
“Generally, they are as superstitious, they have the same love of music and their instrument is the same as that of our northern brethren, for their zampogna scarcely differs from the highland bag pipe, an instrument it is said is also found in nearly all mountainous countries of the world.“
“Some of their superstitions are evident of classic paganism; others a compound of monkish legends and paganism and the mass is course what has arisen from the Romish church. They have a traditional reverence for the name of their countryman Ovid, but like the poor Neopolitans who believe that Virgil was a great magician, they make their poet’s fame depend upon his having been a mighty adept in necromancy. In the town of Sulmona, the place of the poet’s birth they keep a rude stone statue which people have chosen to call Ovidio Nascone, though it is more probably the effigy of a portly abbot of the fourteenth century.”
“The winds that blow from these mountains even as early as the end of summer are often bleak and piercing.”
“The dogs are a remarkable fine breed, rather like our Newfoundland dog, very strongly made, snowy white in colour and bold and faithful. The shepherds say that two of them “of the right sort” are a match for an ordinary wolf.”
“Popular tradition had faithfully preserved the memory of the great events that once occurred in that solitude.”
“The next morning when [the author] was about to continue his journey to Canosa, he offered money for the accommodations he had received. The old shepherd refused and seemed hurt by his pressing it upon him.”