Witches and Sheep–more from Abruzzo

hills of abruzzo 2

I spent a couple of days exploring the Abruzzo region following on from the TBD Italy travel bloggers conference. I’ve got a post coming shortly about my experience visiting the shattered town of L’Aquila – but first I’m going to share a couple of highlights from my wanders in this region.

First, sheep.

Now, let me be clear. I was born in Wales, and spent a year living in New Zealand. I’ve already seen my fair share of sheep. Some would say maybe even more so. So being offered the chance to sit in a trailer and get pulled up a mountain to visit some sheep didn’t exactly sound like it was going to rock my world.

The good thing though was that the sheep in question were at the top of a mountain, which meant there might be some half decent views of the surrounding area. And since the Abruzzo region is not a place where views of the surrounding area are to be sniffed at, I figured what the hell, let’s give the tractor a go.

Ok, so I didn’t actually have a choice. But I like to find the positives.

Tractor rides, for those of you not in the know, are difficult places to take photos of things from, what with them being all bumpy. So whilst the scenery on the way up to visit the sheep was very pretty, I don’t really have much in the way of photos of it. Here instead is a picture from a previous trip to Abruzzo, which didn’t feature a tractor. As you can see, it’s a pretty place.

Motorcycle Abruzzo road Italy mountains cloud

Luckily, the scenery at the end of the tractor ride was rather good, and I’d wager, worth the ride up.

Also, there was a funky pair of enormous dogs at the top, with whom I spent an inordinate amount of time attempting to photograph.

So much time in fact, that I forgot to take any pictures of the sheep. Or the shepherds. Or anything like that in fact. Still – dog. Pretty cool, right?

sheep dog guarding hills Abruzzo Italy

And then it was back down the mountain in a tractor trailer, in the dark. I have a photo of that, in case you wondered. Apologies for the blurry cam.

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We were supposed also to visit a castle, but time ran out. Luckily I have a picture of said castle from my previous trip, so you are not afflicted with the same level of disappointment that infected my fellow travellers, who were going to miss out on one of National Geographic’s top 15 castles in the world.

Castle abruzzo italy black and white

So yes, if you are in the area, definitely make time to visit this castle. It’s totally worth it. The sheep are also actually worth it, despite what you might feel from reading this – they belong to a way of life that dates back a great length of time, and  which is worth finding out about. I was just grumpy to miss the castle this time round. Next time – for sure!

Following on, from my tales of Abruzzo, we visited a gorgeous hilltop village, where we were to find some witches.

Witches in Italy Halloween style scaled

Witches, I have to say, are pretty cool. Floating around on broomsticks, always impeccably dressed in swishing garments. Sure, there’s the minor point around stealing your children and casting spells on you, but I liked to think that maybe the witches we were visiting were going to be the good kind.

Naturally, I was wrong.

The witches in question were the baby stealing kind. And the village carries out a performance once a year, lasting all night (the night of the witches, cunningly enough), to explain what the witches got up to, and how the village would ward off said witch attack. Other towns may practice fire drills, but up in the hills of Abruzzo, they practice witch attacks. Ok, I may have some of these details mixed up. Witches can do that to a guy.

Anyway, we wandered around the candle lit streets of Castel Del Monte. Witches were to be found in every nook and cranny. Some were stealing babies. Others had been nailed up in doorways (this looked quite painful). Some were possessing the souls of children. Yet more were counting broom bristles.

That last one, incidentally, is how one mostly deals with witches. Scatter some brooms around, and the witches will feel compelled to count the bristles. This task apparently confuses the heck out of your average witch, who will spend all night losing count, and forgetting her baby stealing child possessing intentions. As the dawn arrives, she will flee into the rising sun, and you’re safe for another day.

Witch in square night of witches Italy abruzzo

This event, by the way, is totally worth seeing, if the brief taster performance that we were treated to is anything to go by. It happens once a year on the 17th of August, and is called La Notte delle Streghe, or The Night of the Witches. The village it is held in, Castel Del Monte, is rated as one of Italy’s most beautiful. So yes, worth your time to visit.

That about wraps up my two day experience in the Abruzzo region, which featured a broken city, witches and sheep. I fell in love with Abruzzo the first time I visited in 2008, and this visit, in partnership with TBD Italy and the Abruzzo region tourism board, just re-inforced that. It’s a gorgeous part of Italy, barely known, and full of history and fantastic landscapes. Visit, I urge you, you won’t regret it!




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