La Transumanza ~ Cow Heardin' Italian Style

by Ashley in Italy /
Ashley in Italy's picture
Jun 16, 2009 / 1 comments

cow herding in italy

This was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had, nell mio cuore per sempre! (in my heart forever) not only because I am the 1st American & female to participate in Piobbico but for the absolute beauty of the day....La Transumanza.

So what is La Transumanza? Here's the story:
The cows after surviving the cold winters in the stall graze in the rich fields of the hills surrounding the farm and then move to the higher meadows of Monte Nerone. This traditional farming practice of moving the cows is particular to the farmers of this area and is known as “La Transumanza” which is one of the most nostalgic memories of the farm life, especially for our dear neighbors the Mochi family. From the moment we heard of this practice we were ready to help out!


Franco leading the herd in his 60th transumanza

Only when all the conditions are right (the cows are happy, the weather is perfect & the grass is at a certain height), normally on the second Saturday of June the entire herd is moved to the grazing fields of Monte Nerone at a height of about 1200 meters about about a 15+km walk.
Monte Nerone
This is Monte Nerone - we walked to the top of this beast!

transumanza piobbico italy

No matter what the age (from 84 to 23) our group left promptly at 4:30 am on a beautiful summer morning. Off to a quick start, due to the horses pushing them in the rear - the cows literally ran through the whole town of Piobbico before the sun or town was awake.After heading up into the mountain, surrounded by the smell of wild mint, we stopped along the way for an impromptu picnic - bread, mortadella & wine. I was looked at like a crazy lady when I offered water to the group - "Ashley why drink water, when we have wine! It is better for you." After a short rest & finishing off about 7 bottles of wine, we began moving the cows as the men broke out into song! (God! I love Italy!!)
cattle wrangle italy piobbico ashley

From Ruggero the big slow bull to the "old lady" it was fun naming the cows as we herded. And then of course, there was Norman (for all you City Slicker fans) I couldn't stop caling out to him: "Norman, Helllooooooo!!" No one on this journey could understand why I'd call out to a calf like that - they asked if he spoke English & I said yes he does!
transumanza mochi piobbico
Most of the time the cows just followed the leader, with a gentle nudge here & there, but ever once in a while they would wonder off course & we'd had to herd them back in & flush them out of the woods. One particular time a few cows in my zone headed up into the woods - Michele shouted out - "Ashley VAI! Go get your cows!!Go Go! Push'em!" I loved it, as the only girl, I was glad not to be cut any slack! I wrangled back in no-time!

Welcomed by family & friends with a huge picnic lunch, we arrived at the top of Monte Nerone around 10:30 am. A few fell right to sleep for a quick nap, others recounting our favorite moments & just enjoying the day we spent together - forever bonded by this great journey.

The cows, tired & hungry like us, were all happy to arrive at the top to relax in the green fields & begin their grazing. The herd now remains on Monte Nerone until mid-October when they will return to the hills surrounding the Mochi farm.

Piero Mochi
Piero Mochi counting his cattle at the top of the Mt. Nerone

The transumanza is a complete group effort, farmhand, family members and friends help participate in this annual tradition. Among the many Enrico, Michele, Tiziano, Giacobbe, Egido who for a decade have never missed the transumanza. Completely honored, my name will be on that list as one of the faithful few!! And I must say... I think I'm a pretty damn good cow herdn' & wranglin' city slicker!

Ashley Bartner is the Living in Italy Editor for Wandering Educators.

La Tavola Marche Agriturismo & Cooking Holiday

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