Il Zampognaro (zahm•poh•NYAH•roh) is a part of most Italian Presepi or Nativity scenes. Zampognari are traditional Abruzzese shepherds, playing bagpipes known as zampogne (zahm•POH•nyeh). I have wanted one for a long time, and wrote about it in Il Presepio and Il Presepio di Mamma. Last year in Napoli’s Via San Gregorio Armeno I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to look for one!
This year, I spent a few days in Lecce before going to Napoli. Lecce is known for cartapesta-papier maché and I saw Nativity figures, so I searched and found my hand made glazed terra cotta zampognaro. He is smaller and does not look like the other figures, but he has so much character with his puffy cheeks, I can almost hear him playing Tu Scende dalle Stelle….
Are you wondering why Abruzzese bagpiping shepherds are in Italian presepi? It has to do with la transumanza, the migration of animals along tratturi-established paths in use since pre Roman times that were protected by royal decree. Pastori-shepherds moved their animals from the mountains of Abruzzo and Molise where they grazed in the summer, to la pianura, the lowlands of Puglia. They did this to escape the snow, and in spring the sheep and goats were herded back to Abruzzo. The tratturi were used into the 1960’s, then trucks replaced the crossing by foot.
During le feste Natalizie, December 8th to January 5th, zampognari in traditional dress would go to the villages to play for extra money or food, thus the zampognaro became symbolic of Christmas in Italia and earned a place in the Presepio.
La Transumanza: Cammino Reale/Royal Shepherd’s Track has been on the tentative list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites since 2006. On December 11, 2019, it received UNESCO designation as ‘intangible cultural heritage of humanity’! Auguri zampognari! Do any of you have un zampognaro?
Cari lettori di Un po’ di pepe, Vi augura un Buonissimo Natale e un meraviglioso 2020 piena di gioia e salute!
Dear readers of Un po’ di pepe, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a marvelous 2020 filled with health and joy!