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You are Here: Home > Where to go > History > The sheep-tracks and the transhumance
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The sheep-tracks and the transhumance
Transhumance or "transhumant breeding" has very ancient origins and has been used in Southern Italy since before the Roman epoch, but in 1400 it was institutionalised. The flocks were driven from the Abruzzan, Molisan and Campania mountains towards Puglia (winter transhumance, October-May) and were then driven back to the mountains in the summer (summer transhumance, June-September). The flocks were obligatorily led to transhumance stands (poste) and to assigned sheep-pens (jazzi). The shepherds paid an annual fida (fee) for the use of the pastures. The shepherds were obliged to sell their animals and the products of the shepherding at the Foggia fair, which began on May 8th. Once they had paid their fee, the shepherds could return with a permit to their hometowns.

The Customs Office consolidated the complex system of herding roads, made up of 15 sheep-tracks (grassy roads for pasturing, 111m wide) for a total of 1360 km, 60 small sheep-tracks (37, 18.5 or 27.75 m wide) for a total of 1500 km and 11 secondary tracks for a total of 161 km.The Customs Office, created by Alfonso d'Aragona, functioned from 1447 to 1806 and has a massive effect on the territory. Andria, Canosa, Casale Trinità, Salpi, and Salsola were some of the 23 ordinary leases in which the Puglian Tableland was subdivided. This zone is crossed by the ancient Canosa-Corato small sheep-track, which corresponds to the Trajan's Way, by the Canosa-Monte Carafa secondary track, by the Monte Carafa-Minervino small sheep-track, by the Barletta-Grumo large sheep-track, which passes through the centre of Andria, by the Canosa-Ruvo small sheep-track and by the Melfi-Castellaneta sheep-track, which passes through Spinazzola and crosses the Bradanica Pit, in the territory of Poggio Orsini. Therefore, the whole territory still has a myriad of signs and evidence of this intense pastoral activity.

In particular, the pre-Murgian and Murgian areas contain and extraordinary quantity of architectural evidence and an agrarian landscape that, for hundreds of hectares, is configured in such a way as to show the whole layout of the complex system connected to the stopping and the pasturing of the flocks. The highly articulated system of internal roads that connected the sheep-tracks, the poste and the many waterways and flood grounds, the capillary system of water supply, the dozens of kilometres of dry-stone walls that delimit the parks and the pastures that branch out fan-wise from the main poste, the beds of whole flood grounds disseminated with dry-stone shelters, jazzi, poste, trullos, whole pasture plots that are still intact, uncultivated pastures and the remains of copse forests, perazzi trees and splendid examples of ancient oaks . . . together render the entire zone an environmental and landscaped enclave of enormous interest and represent an enormous patrimony to safeguard. The lunar landscapes of the Murgian highlands, the views of the sea as far as the eye can see, the rich road network which can be travelled on foot or by bicycle, the presence of splendid examples of typical species of vegetation and ancient waterways, are further suggestive elements.
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