Twenty Mile, Three Day Hike with 300 Sheep - You Call that a Honeymoon?

I can hardly believe that it’s already been a week since we were with the sheep. Anversa degli Abruzzi is a small town tucked neatly into the Sagittario Valley between the picturesque mountainsides of Abruzzo, Italy. It was our mission to take Nunzio Marcelli’s sheep flock from Anversa to the top of the mountains in Chiarano. It was a ~20 mile, three day journey, full of cured meats, aged cheeses, many gallons of wine, bottles of moonshine grappa, and 300 sheep friends that we will never forget. Click on the thumbnails to see a rough approximation of our route.  

Click each image to enlargeTranshumance RouteTranshumance is the ancient practice of moving ruminant animals to fresh pastures on a seasonal basis. Before feed could be imported to the farm, shepherds would walk with their animals to faraway pastures in order to graze at various times of the year (see our previous transhumance post). Nunzio Marcelli has been practicing this tradition for many years and has recently opened it up to visitors who would like to participate. Check out his site at for more information. Even if you can’t go on the transhumance you can still adopt-a-sheep! For the final three days of our honeymoon we decided to join him and his shepherds on the trip, it was a great decision.

The night before we set off on transhumance we celebrated with the townspeople of Anversa in a “Sagra degli Gnocchi del Pastore”, which is basically a Shepard style gnocchi-fest in the town piazza. The whole town of 300 was out in full effect. Tables lined the plaza streets,

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Water Buffalo First Steps. I melt!

In the area of Salento, Puglia, we visited a Buffalo Mozzarella maker and farm. La Masseria San Biagio is an old farmhouse that now supports a water buffalo herd and creamery as well as extensive wild herb and vegetable gardens, a young fruit orchard, and an educational farm.

The day we visited we found ourselves the happy witnesses to a baby water buffalo's first steps! I know we'll see many births and first hobbles in our future, but I'm positive that this one will hold a special place with me. After a chat about the Masseria and a walk through their fascinating and madly deliciously smelling gardens, Davide, one of the farmers, told us about the calf that had just been born. He brought us over to a secluded area padded with fresh straw where the most beautiful, doe-eyed, knock-kneed, dewy nosed little creature lay blinking while it's enormous wild eyed and dramatically majestic mother paused from nuzzling and licking it to circle her calf before tossing her fur around and taking one or two "don't mess with my baby!" steps towards us.

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The Fading Art of Transhumance

Transhumance is the ancient process of seasonallt shepherding animals through large tracts of fresh pasture. Back before our animals were fed grain and kept inside warehouses or fenced in permanent dirt lots all day, shepherds would guide ruminant animals across public and private lands to consume forage at the optimal times of the year. In the summer the animals were brought to higher elevations as grasses and shrubs matured in the low country. Before humans came along animals would just do it themselves.

In Abruzzo we're staying at La Porta dei Parchi, which is owned and operated by Nunzio Marcelli and his team of farmers, shepherds and cheesemakers. We'll be participating in a couple days of transhumance starting tomorrow morning. We got a little practice yesterday morning with the goats and rams, check out the pictures below.

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