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An ancient and essential tradition.

An ancient and essential tradition.

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An ancient and essential tradition.

Page Type: Article

Activities: Mountain


Page By: chaberton

Created/Edited: Oct 1, 2013 / Oct 1, 2013

Object ID: 288629

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the paths of the Shepherds
The Paths

In the last few years in Italy, is disappearing a millennia-old tradition: the "Transhumance".

Community policies marked by the production of dairy products to low-cost, cut-throat competition, just as short-sighted government policies are destroying not only a historical heritage but also productive for the best.

The Piedmont and Lombardy have followed the unfortunate indications coming: "from the Top", but regions such as Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto, which have refused to look at the herd at high altitude, harvested from years the fruits of this successful decision.

I wonder: it is better to drink milk and eat cheese produced by animals fed with: Clear Alpine Water, pure mountain air, Alfalfa, outdoors, or entrust their power to farmed animals (only and exclusively in the stable) fed with forage preserved and perhaps treated with pesticides?

Personally I'm inclined to the former.

It is for this reason that every year in September, I look with infinite admiration the shepherds and farmers who are going to leave the alpine meadows to reach the plains.
I realize that they have done a great job, and it is sufficient to observe their animals (healthy, prosperous and vibrant) to understand it!



The word derives from the Latin "trans" (beyond) and "humus" (earth) = sheep transmigrating with the seasons, along the tracks, from the Latin "tractoria" = the streets of the shepherds.

The transhumance has an ancient history which most likely coincides with the very history of the farm. The migration was regulated and disciplined since Roman times as a complex of laws and taxes to be paid in the various customs, which was given a strong voice of tax revenue for the state.

But Norman era, which underwent a reorganization of the entire production process of legislative bases linked by a part of the usufruct of public pastures (founding the bases of the enormous land property) and the other to the inviolability of the rights of the pastor that was safeguarded in its activities in accordance with the law.


All the seasonal migration of wide-ranging territorial unit with which reared animals of large and medium size moving, spontaneously or conducted by man; regions of the plains to the mountainous regions, and vice versa, which is found in the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean, from Spain to Asia minor, as well as in the Caucasus, Central Asia and in the Andes.

In Italy, the transhumance PERFORMED historically by pre-Alpine regions up to the Alpine and Apennines: for what concerns the Alps animals were conducted on the mountain pastures in June and it came down in September.

Transfers are used to complete the long runs to natural background marked by periodic movement of the herds.

The transhumance is a serious matter..

..especially for pastors who consider it as an important moment to show their animals, with the bells to shine and paraded through the streets of the town among the curious crowd.

In the past transhumance heavily had conditioned the life and customs of the pastor, who could not count on the stables and facilities foraging, modern milking and refrigeration and as a result was forced to go up and down from the mountain twice a year.

Today transhumance has become a practice rare in our country, only practiced in some parts of Italy: nowadays, with animal husbandry and farming, the animals remain in the stables of the plains and the movements of the herds are increasingly rare.

Alpine Pasture
Alpine Pasture

The horizontal transhumance is practiced by at least two millennia.
It used to climb and the descent of the crude large grassy paths, cattle tracks.

There is also a vertical transhumance of local pastors, who merely transfer the cattle at different altitudes, ensuring in this way from 7 to 9 months of the year outdoor grazing sheep and cattle.

During the high altitude pasture, are produced cheeses of the highest good.
Alfalfa, outdoor living, the pure mountain water are prerequisites to obtain the highest quality products, to which, the seasoning will give the best and distinctive organoleptic characteristics.

healthy Cows

In the preparation of cheese, every breeder follows his own technique. In general, the milk is filtered, heated to 35-40 ° C for 15-25 minutes and added with natural rennet (obtained from the stomach of lamb).

The curd is then broken up to the size of a grain of corn, cooked at 40 ° -45 ° C for about 15 minutes (but not all), transferred into fiscelle and pressed to facilitate the escape of the residual whey.

a room for aging cheese (Toma).
the maturing room (underground)

After salting, the cheese is placed on wooden planks in cool, well ventilated, the dairies. The aging lasts from two months to one year, the period during which the forms are regularly greased with olive oil to prevent excessive drying.

From the diary of a shepherd


I feel safe.

The memory of man is strange thing, thankfully today you register and writes everything down, so you year of real data and not just "impressions". However, everyone who comes out in the pastures, before or after saying for years that it was not seen so much snow this season.

It is not a bad thing, the water supply is assured and there will be green grass and flowers until August or later. The problem may arise even for those who get in alp with disproportionate numbers of animals, but, seeing that the laws of man do not intervene effectively to stop some havoc, nature will at least get respect!

The real pasture is on the top. Sure, there are some even at medium altitudes, from 1500 to 1700 meters, but when you get closer to 1900-2000 is another thing. Breathe another air, it changes the grass in the meadows, the forest thins out, you know that every day you will go up, higher up, hand to hand that the snow will be gone.

After grazed the lower areas where the grass could become old and hard, the flock is made up of, along paths that are only traces, historical paths where they were more animals that man to trace the path.

The abandonment of past seasons has meant that the vegetation advancing more and more and now even animals are hesitant to venture down the track evanescent. Then they walk, one by one ...

Not always, however, the sun shines, indeed, the days are often interrupted by fog and light rain, if not by thunderstorms also very intense. Some say that it will do so throughout the summer, the shepherds shrug their shoulders and are content to live for the day, as always. The important thing is that there is grass and the wolf turns away ...

Alpine Sound (Video)

Transhumance from chaberton on Vimeo.


the paths of the Shepherdsa room for aging cheese (Toma).Transhumance 2013Eat, drink and live well!PiedmonteseAlpine Pasture


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