The Transhumance: The Royal Shepherd's Track

Date of Submission: 01/06/2006
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(x)
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Ministry of the Environment and Land Protection
State, Province or Region:

Rregions: Abruzzo, Molise, Campania and Puglia

Ref.: 5005

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The network of shepherd's tracks links wide areas in the southern part of Italy through the region of  Abruzzo, Molise, Campania e Puglia. The routes of the transhumance comprise the grazing in the Gran Sasso and the Maiella up to Capitanata (Foggia). They pass through the inner side of the Apennines which are formed by an extremely variegated land, between mountains and plains. There is also an archaeological area: Sepino in the Molise region.

The shepherd's tracks are routes passed through by livestocks for the seasonal moves linked to the transhumance. The transhumance is a type of grazing based on the seasonal move of herds between various regions with different climate. When the plain becomes arid because of the heat, herds and shepherds move to the mountain in spring and they come back to the plain in autumn. This 1000-year phenomena can also be traced in Spain, France, Swiss, Germany and other countries; in Italy, the transhumance presents its most evolved expression in Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia, Campania e Basilicata.

The network of shepherd's tracks, traced down to the pre-roman age, was further developed by Romans and connected to the network of consular routes thus making the transhumance an established, organized and protected economical activity. Thanks to the Aragonesi, the transhumance became the leading sector of the economy as much as Alfonso I of Aragona (1442-1458) established an office for its management and called it Regiae Dohanae Menae pecudum Apuliae and Royal Shepherd's Track. Along the network of shepherd's tracks there are many settlements. The tracks are long green-grass routes and the settlements present sanctuaries, taverns, weaving mills, etc. The town of Saepinum (Sepino) rises along one of the main shepherd's track of Molise. The whole set of public works realized during the roman age in this city were connected to the shepherd activities. The city walls, the gates and the towers were built during the I century A.C. Along the shepherd's track at the crossing with the cardoon, there are the most important public buildings: the macellum, the basilica, the temples. Behind the walls there is a theater, a thermal bath; outside and beside the walls there is the cemetery. Following the depopulation, Sepino has been occupied by farmers which established rural settlements; nowadays the latter have been restored thus representing a further historical evidence. The shepherd's track, instead, has been used constantly up to nowadays.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The shepherd's tracks have been used for many centuries and for the same purposes thus preserving their features. Nowadays, part of the old routes are used for agricultural purposes.

The Sepinum site has been revealed during the 1970's and, together with the network of shepherd's tracks, is protected by the Italian legislation as an archaeological site and a state property. The excavation and restoration interventions are run directly by the State with exact scientific criteria.

According to the law 1089/39, the whole network of shepherd's tracks is protected by a set of Decrees of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage:

  • 15/6/1976 Decree: "Binds on the state properties in the Molise Region and encompassed in the network of shepherd's tracks";
  • 24/1/1977 Decree: "Declaration of public relevant interest of part of the land in the Boiano municipality";
  • 20/3/1980 Decree as the extensions to the binds of 15/6/1976 decree.

Molise Region :

  • Regional Law n°9 of 11/04/1997: "Protection, valorization and management of the state property within the shepherd's tracks";
  • Regional Law n°6 of 18/01/2000: "Forest Act of the Molise Region".

Abruzzo Region:

  • Regional Law n°35 of 29/07/1986:"Protection and use of assets in the state property".

Puglia Region:

  • Regional Law n°67 of 09/06/1980: "regulations for the administration procedures related to the state property and to the assets of the dismissed national former military opus";
  • Regional Law of the 16/02/1985: amendments to the Regional Law n°67 of the 09/06/1980;
Regional Law of the 24/07/1997: "regulations for the establishment and the management of natural protected areas in the Puglia Region"

Comparison with other similar properties

The primary shepherd's tracks (five in Molise) continue in Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania and Basilicata.  Similar routes can be found in the Balcanic and the Iberic Peninsula.

The urban settings of the city of Sepino matches those of the roman cities with some differences due to the shepherd's tracks. Similar considerations can be done for the building techniques. Finally, it ought to be remarked the extraordinary coexistence of environmental, natural, historical and monumental values.