A Walk Down the Tratturi of Molise
Molise lies between Abruzzo and Apulia and is a region that, although not as popular as its neighboring regions, hosts numerous art treasures, breathtaking natural sceneries and thousand-year-old traditions. A characteristic aspect of Molise is its tratturi, a network of ancient grassy paths. From the pre-Roman era up to only a few centuries ago, ancient Italians traveled these trails from season to season. Transporting livestock, the principal mainstay of the southern peasant, was based on a rigorous journey from the cool mountain pastures of Abruzzo in autumn, to the hot and humid Apulian Plateaus.
Undertaken predominantly by the Samnites since the 6th century B.C., the practice of transhumance enjoyed a period of splendor under the Romans who expanded the tratturi “grid” in order to better connect the Empire’s urban centers. Many of the tratturi run next to the stone-paved ancient Roman roads. These green trail ways are still almost entirely intact today, thanks to the Aragonese rulers that heavily promoted the trade of livestock products in the 15th century.
The Aragonese monarchs constructed the Modern Tratturo, approximately 366 feet wide, with a series of smaller tratturi called tratturelli and bracci, which are secondary, connecting paths. The edges of the Modern Tratturo were completed in stone and featured points for bureaucratic affairs. In their totality, the tratturi expand over 70 different communes within Molise, among which are Campobasso, Boiano and Isernia. The Regional Park of the Tratturi was created in 1997 and since 2006, the group of tratturi has been a candidate on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Essentially, the tratturi cover the entire territory of Molise and offer unique itineraries such as the roads that unite the Gargano National Park to the regions of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise. Shepherds and livestock breeders still move their herds along this trail network to graze, evoking the rhythms, sounds and traditions of another time. Currently, the most important tratturi are the Celano Tratturo of Foggia, which crosses the Majella National Park and the Archaeological Zones of Vastogirardi and Pietrabbondante, the Tratturo of Castel di Sangro in Lucera, where visitors can see the beautiful Castle and Tratturo of Pescasseroli in Candela, which extends over a distance of 125 miles.
The Pescasseroli tract passes through Castelpetroso, amidst a magnificent mountain landscape. Here, travelers can also admire the Sanctuary of della Vergine SS. Addolorata and journey through the localities of Cantalupo nel Sannio, dominated by the suggestive Matese Massif. This is followed by Sepino, famous for its archaeological site and Roman remains. The tratturo also meets Isernia and its fantastic historic center, as well as the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise.
One of the most famous tratturi from the era of the Aragons is that which linked L’Aquila to Foggia. Also called the Tratturo del Re or Tratturo Magno (the “King’s Tratturo” or the “Great Tratturo”), this route traces many localities, including Termoli, where the Castello Svevo and the ancient marine borgo are worthy of note.
After a visit to the area’s excellent monuments and archaeological excavations, do not miss the opportunity to taste the gastronomic specialties of this gorgeous and intriguing terrain.