Sardinian Shepherds in Tuscany
While travelling along the winding roads of the Crete countryside outlying Siena, all around lie green pastures dotted with white sheep nibbling at the grass. Every flock is watched over by a shepherd and his dog. These are Sardinian shepherds who came to Maremma in the1950s and 60s, when the local farmers abandoned the countryside for the city, selling their home and farmland for a mere pittance. The story of this mass migration in its third generation but still not completely integrated into the local culture, is full of interesting vicissitudes in Italian agricultural history. The fact that we may continue to admire enchanting landscapes in the Crete, savour the famous pecorino
cheese made in Pienza and observe bygone traditions here is all thanks to the Sardinian shepherds, a cultural enclave that has enriched the cultural heritage of central Italy and is becoming increasingly prominent in the local economy.
Each family belongs to a vaster family clan in which the leading elder often has a surprising story to tell, such as that of Francesco Pittalis. He first left Illorai for Australia to pick tabacco and cut sugar cane, as was done in the 1800s. He then joined his brothers in Buonconvento, where he helped them raise sheep, shear them in the yearly group ritual, undertake the seasonal migration to winter pastures and transform the sheep milk into cheese.
The more recent story of Angelo Coseddu tells how he has managed to sell the products of his flock's milk in his own cheese factory and even in a new restaurant about to open to tourists at a country estate in a farmhouse restored by his grandchildren. All this progress has not heralded a loss of traditions: there are still family feasts, shearing celebrations and meetings in cultural centers where the home dialect is spoken.
In the Province of Siena 10% of the population is of Sardinian origin, and a thousand families manage 200,000 sheep, representing an increasingly important part of Tuscany's agricultural economy.
The true social life of this micro-society takes place outside its official Sienese and Maremman context, and in the past there were even isolated instances of criminality involving kidnapping. Some resulting suspicion and misunderstanding from the local community was subsequently overcome by the reputation for hard work that the Sardinians of Maremma created for themselves.
Text on request by Gianni Perotti
To know more:
Reportage: 140 photos on DVD