By

Qu Tours Team

The sheepdog of Abruzzo

When you caress a soft white sheepdog of Abruzzo you caress a history made of ancient times and traditions.

The origin of the sheepdog of Abruzzo is related with its primary functionality. The dog that defends the flock from the wolves assaults originated almost certainly in Asia. In particular around northern Iran about six thousand years ago. In those places probably the donkey, the goat and the sheep have been domesticated for the first time in history.

The canine types depicted in some low reliefs of those areas are practically the same known today. So it seems that those primitive people well understood the selection mechanisms to obtain breeds with different shapes and inclinations. A progenitor of the sheepdog of Abruzzo certainly arrived in Italy very early. Probably during the Phoenician or the Greek era. The Phoenicians were well known dogs merchants so the origin could be linked to the commercial exchanges of that times. For the Greeks, similarly, due to the operations between Asia and their colonies of Magna Graecia.

The Marsi people, however, fully developed the potentialities of these dogs.

These ancient and skilled shepherds already practiced a type of transhumant herding characteristic of a warm and temperate climate by imitating the nature. In fact, the local herbivorous species moved the flocks in the valleys during the winter and over two thousand meters on the mountains during the summer. To follow the flocks the Marsi carefully selected the qualities of the character of this wonderful dog breed bringing it to the degree of perfection that we know today.

One of the main feature of this animal is the total absence of the predatory instinct. This is the result of a real genetic feat obtained with techniques that are partially still unknown. This characteristic is much more important than the white coat that distinguishes it from the wolf. The total absence of the instinct to attack the sheep makes this dog ideal for defending the flock on any occasion.

The wolves defense dog lived everywhere in the world where pastoralism was practiced. However the people of Abruzzo had the merit of selecting a breed that maximizes the qualities of reliability, affection for sheep and courage. Already during Roman times the characteristics of the “canis pastoralis” are described and indicated as local. The historical reasons for the development of the sheepdog of Abruzzo in that period were due to the big importance of the breeding of sheep to the wealth and to the economy. The Roman had also a particular passion for animals. So if they discovered a dog with particular qualities of ferocity, strength or courage and considered it useful for some employment, they had no difficulty in importing it from Asia or other distant regions.

Pastoralism continued to be the main source of income for Abruzzo and for the entire kingdom of Naples.

This happened until after the unification of Italy. The crown of Naples was in fact dependent from taxes paid by the Abruzzo’s flocks. The sheep bred was mainly the “Gentile di Puglia” breed. This is a very rustic selection adaptable to poor and arid pastures. The sheep was even capable of feeding on straw only if necessary. They ensured a good production of milk, wool, meat and lambs. The breeding was so important in those times that when the prince Francesco got married, king Ferdinando asked to all the big owners to donate a large number of sheep that would constitute a personal income for the prince.

The rich gentlemen, to improve the rich source of income coming from sheep farming, invested into the sheep breeds selection. King Ferdinand of Naples and subsequently his son Francesco personally took care to improving not only the breed of sheep, but also the mastiffs used to defend them. Breeding and agriculture was a passion for the Bourbon kings. They personally established which cattle should cross each other and this certainly happened also for the sheepdog of Abruzzo.

This type of dog existed almost everywhere from the Alps to Sicily, but for historical reasons the selection center was Abruzzo. For centuries, in fact, this region represented the place where sheep farming was most developed. For this reason the shepherds cultivated a breed so specialized in defending the flock from predators. The sheepdog of Abruzzo once unleashed against an opponent rather than fleeing succumbs. Almost a suicidal instinct, contrary to the survival instinct, absent in the wild animal.

The Abruzzo sheepdog is beautiful dog breed.

From a morphological point of view, a typical subject has a large conical head. It has a medium-large size with 30-45 kilograms in weight and a stature between 60 and 73 centimeters at the withers. It has a completely white thick coat, does not have abundant skin and has a black nose truffle and black eyelid rhymes. She has a gait with a long step or an extended trot. However, in the Abruzzo mountains the shepherds do not pay much attention to the appearance of the dog. They appear, from a morphological point of view, to be rather heterogeneous. There are specimens with darker spots in particular on the ears, others with slightly curled hair, others with pink truffles and so on. The only feature they care about seems to be the white coat.

The shepherd, on the other hand, looks with attention at the dog’s attitude towards the protection of the flock. In breeding puppies they leave ample space for nature and instinct, sometimes refraining from touching dogs. This is used to get the dog used to seeking less the company of man and more that of sheep. In addition, in this way the bitch breeds the offspring without interference by strengthening the maternal instinct, which does not happen in breeding specimens. Shepherds of Abruzzo leave the dominant male with control over the harem and pre-domination over reproduction.

The females thus have pregnancies and regular births without altering the natural course of events. The traditional shepherds’ diet consisted mainly of whey with the addition of barley bread and  polenta. The meat was also never completely missing. In every behavior there is a genetically innate part and another learned. For this reason, there is the risk to lose it at least in animals not used for sheep farming.

Sheeps dogs Abruzzo

The history of Pacentro

Pacentro boasts a long history of peasants, knights, monks and hermit saints…

The history of Pacentro has an ancient origin. At the times of the Romans, the fertile territory, located at the foot of the rocky spur on which the medieval Pacentro will rise, presents a scattered and structured settlement system. In particular, for one of these places the name “Petilia” appears in many inscriptions and archaeological finds. However a fortified location named “Pacentro” is mentioned, for the first time, only in 745 AD. At this date the dukes of Spoleto Ildebrando and Lupo donated to the monastery of “San Vincenzo al Volturno” the church of “Santi Leonardi in Pacentru” located at the foot of the hill with the same name.

The territory of Pacentro, that belonged first to the Gastaldato and later to the County of Valva, shows in the X century a very influential and widespread Lombard and Frankish presence. This situation is witnessed by the first historical documents that tell about Pacentro, in particular the “chronicon vulturnense” and the “instrumentarum” of the “chronicon casauriense“. The Lombards can be found in the cult of their saint Sant ‘Angelo, but also in the origin of the name “Fonte Romana” (“Roman spring”) situated near the Majella. Indeed, this name does not refer, as it seems, to an elusive Roman presence, but to a Lombard name “fons arimanica“. This spring, In fact, belonged, with the surrounding wood, to a military chief Arimanno. His name has undergone a succession of phonetic alterations: fons restica, rimana and therefore Romana. The town of Caramanico has also the same derivation; originally “barimanicus” or “belonging to Arimanno“.

The oldest, but also weakest, monastic penetration was established in Pacentro, as in the neighboring area, by the Volturnensi.

The latter, according to their Chronicon, possessed all the lands between the Gizio and Vella rivers. Among the Volturnesi possessions, confirmed in the year 851 AD by Ludovico II, we find the church of San Leopardo which stood near the Vella. From the Benedictines the people of Pacentro learned the technique of crop rotation on the same land to increase its yield. This is highlighted by a dense network of purchases, transitions or donations of land in the mountain and flat territory of Pacentro, normally called “Villa Pacentri“, where “Villa” indicates a more homogeneous settlement context than the ancient Roman settlements. In this period rich landowners are known for these trades, such as the Lombard brothers Girando and Transarico, sons of Landolfo. Frauperga is also mentioned as a woman of Lombard lineage that, because became a widow, sold even her “morning gift”. The latter, according to Lombard custom, was made by the husband to his wife the morning after the first night of marriage. In the case of Pacentro it consisted of a plot of land.

In the year 951 AD a “group of several houses surrounded by defensive walls” was mentioned for the first time as the castle of Pacentro.

It was probably built not by the monastic orders, but by Oderisto to constitute a place of defense for the local populations, continually afflicted by the threat of Saracen raids. The magnificent towers were later erected within the walls, which still today are the pride and symbol of the indomitable Pacentro. Towards 1020 AD, not far from the church of San Leopardo, in a fertile area at the beginning of the middle course of Vella, the holy monk Adalberto founded the monastery of San Quirico SS. Trinity. This casauriense complex, called only “SS trinità” plays an important role in the territory of the Pacentro of the XI century. This is also because to the SS Trinità were donated a total of 745 hectares of land situated in the plain and on the slopes of the mountain reliefs. The whole territory located at the foot of the Maiella and up to Cotia (Coccia), is called in the Chronicon Casauriense, until the middle of the XI century: “De Pacentri Valle Superequana” that is the “valley above the plain” (superequum). Another example is Gerardo, an inhabitant of Pacentro, who freely donated to the monastery of SS. Trinità of Fignano the part that belongs to the small church of the Lombard saint Germano. This church has been rebuilt several times over the centuries mainly due to earthquakes.

Pacentro, protected by Morrone and Maiella from the icy winds of the north, fits in this way into an economic system that harmoniously integrates the mountain and the plain.

It allows the exercise of a modest micro “transumanza”, which recalls the vertical movement of the mountain pasture, and the conduction of an agriculture facilitated downstream by the abundance of the waters coming from its mountainous territory. This privileged position constantly attracts the feudal nobility, not only Italian, which will replace along the centuries the local domination. The first known count of Pacentro is Beraldo, in 1030 AD, while in 1130 AD it is confirmed that Gualterio, son of the count of Valva Manerio, lives in the castle of Pacentro. Given his nobility he strengthens automatically the defensive structures of the fortification. It is no longer the “castellum” mentioned in 951 AD and with the characteristics previously underlined, but now a more compact defensive circle that will be further enhanced by its successor, count Mallerio, “habitator et dominator” of Pacentro’s land in 1171 AD. In the 1187 Mallerio appears in the catalog of Barons vassal of count Boamondo, on whose account he still owned Pacentro. He probably erected the oldest tower of the castle, to be considered complete in the early 1200 AD. In the XII century Pacentro has an urbanistic nucleus already outlined with its castle as a center.

As for the churches in 1113 AD and 1138 AD, Pasquale Il and Innocenzo II respectively attest to Pacentro the first church of episcopal jurisdiction, San Vito, defined rural and located in the surrounding countryside. On the other hand, Adrian IV mentions, in addition to San Vito, the church of San Pietro which in the absence of any specification, it is assumed it was within the castle and with functions of “cura animarum” (soul healer). However the big development of the churches of Pacentro is recorded with the seal of Lucius III (1183), which mentions: San Vito, San Pietro, San Nicola, San Marcello, Santa Maria, San Lorenzo, San Salvatore, San Panfilo, Sant’Agata, San Giovanni, San Clemente, San Benedetto, San Pietro, Santa Giusta, Sant’Angelo. The seal of Clemente III, dated 1188, confirms the previous churches, qualifies one of the churches of San Nicola as “veteris” and mentions another church titled Sancti Petri.

At the beginning of the 200 Pacentro sees a demographic increase that leads to a need for more spaces that are stolen from rocks and woods and destined to crops.

The terraced cultivation represents a technique of which the people from Pacentro are masters. They handed down from generation to generation up to our days and particularly visible in that part of the territory that already in the Chronicon Casauriense is called Cisterna de Pacentri, a toponym that still exists. But the genius of this community explodes in the construction of the stone huts “a tholos”, of which splendid examples can be admired not only upstream to the slopes of the Maiella, but also downstream and up to the outskirts of Sulmona. , these shelters were originally shelters for peasants forced to reach the camps located very far from the main inhabited center. The huts existing upstream are in fact a projection of existing examples downstream, as the foothills of the Maiella and beyond the ascribed one today to the territory of Pacentro, has been destined essentially to crops and not to pasture, confirming that to feed the masses has provided the wheat and not the meat, the prerogative of the rich. In this period the feudal lords Amelio de Corbano are mentioned ( 1269) and Theobaldo de Bellovidere (1280).

In the 14th century the ownership of the county of Pacentro was divided between two feudal lords, a rather singular fact that ceased with the arrival of the mercenary captain Giacomo Caldora.

He enlarged the castle, fortified the town, enlarged the walls and sighting towers throughout the territory. In 1356, the pastoral visit of Bishop Francesco de Silanis instead allowed to better delineate the socio-economic structure of the Castrum Pacentri. First of all, we have three mother churches that have the care of the San Marcello, Santa Maria and San Nicola animarum. Then there are the ruralis churches such as Ecclesia Sancti Nicolai Veteris, San Vito, San Bartolomeo, San Leonardo, San Francesco, Sant Angelo, Santa Giusta, San Panfilo, San Giovanni, Sant ‘Agata and San Leopardo. These churches, defined in the document omnes rurales demonstrate the persistence of a scattered settlement system precisely because it is linked to agriculture, an activity that constitutes the historical soul of Pacentro and that leads to a wise channeling of the waters of Vella, whence the quarrels with Sulmona that resorted to King Robert in 1317. Despite the impressive fortification works carried out by Captain Caldora, the city did not manage to resist, in 1421, the siege of Braccio Da Montone, an ally of Alfonso of Aragon in the war against Renato D’Angiò, with whom the Caldora had lined up. In 1447, instead, the numbering of “fires” took place in the Sangro valley and in the Peligna area, which recorded a number of inhabitants equal to 983 units, of which about 90% of the registered surnames in Pacentro did not correspond to the current ones. On the death of Giacomo Caldora the fiefdom passed to his son Antonio who continued the fortification work begun by his father. Meanwhile, after the death of Alfonso D’Aragona, the war between the Aragonese and the D’Angiò for the possession of the Kingdom of Naples had resumed with greater force and Pacentro was again besieged by enemy infantry and 13 teams on horseback. The city capitulated on 11 August 1464. The winner Ferdinand of Aragon visited it a few days later finding the fortress “gentle and beautiful and well equipped with every necessary ammunition”. After the fall of the Caldora the fiefdom passed to the Orsini family (1491).

The sixteenth century can be defined as the “golden century” of Pacentro.

Many of the late Renaissance buildings, which had also survived the earthquake of the 1700s, still dominate Pacentro, for example the austere beauty of Palazzo Larocca, along the so-called Vico Diritto which leads to Piazza del Popolo, with its classical layout, the 16th century church of Santa Maria Maggiore rises majestically on this square, while the beautiful bell tower which remembers those of the Annunciation and the Celestine Abbey to the church is also Sulmona. Pacentro is a real architectural jewel of Abruzzo. In 1577 he passes through Pacentro, directed to the “Preaching of Caramanico”, friar Serafino Razzi, who notes in his diary: “On Monday morning, at three in June, we said mass for Caramanico and at the third mile we found Pacentro, Big Earth, whence we could contemplate the vague plain in which Sulmona is situated. From Pacentro, following a large water channel, we climbed about three miles: and afterwards many others descending, we arrived at the Land of Caramanico “. It is therefore the itinerary that runs along the Vella upstream and that bends to the east towards the Guado di San Leonardo, patron saint of mountain travelers, an itinerary followed by the craftsmen of Pacentro who went there, as shown by some documents of the sixteenth century every year at the fairs of Caramanico, resizes the alleged “historical isolation” of Pacentro towards the eastern slope of the Maiella and therefore of the average Adriatic coast as claimed by some scholars.

The local workers had a very high quality throughout the craft sector.

From stonemasons to blacksmiths, who treated stone and iron or like a goldsmith treats gold, we move on to the factories in charge of processing hemp and especially silk. In the period 1458-1466 Pacentro silk was exported to Florence and she was much appreciated for her quality. This activity had developed in a perfect ecosystem, which made the territory of Pacentro a kind of “garden where, in addition to mulberry trees, thriving plants of all kinds flourished. The feud passed to the captain Antonio Domenico De Santis (1612), to the prince of Gallicano Francesco Colonna (1626) and finally to the Barberini who kept it until 1890. In the meantime the new laws of the Kingdom of Naples against feudality had already interrupted the long buying and selling process.
The habitat of Pacentro, transformed by the tenacity and sweat of the peasant farmers in a botanical garden, the dominations of the Caldora, the Cantelmo, the Orsini, the Barberini have passed by without leaving any trace. What has come down to us is instead the product of a choral story, made by peasants, shepherds and artisans, who by piece, through the centuries, have composed that mosaic of great beauty which is precisely Pacentro.

Pacentro

Qu Tours starts!

Qu Tours ltd starts its activities and is ready to propose his tours.

The idea to form a start-up company to sell tours in Abruzzo is born within a group of friends to give value to a territory often forgotten as destination for a holiday in Italy. Instead the richness in history, flavours, nature and traditions makes the visit of our region a unique experience in its beauty.

The love for our country, in synergy with the deep knowledge of the territory and his history, drive the design of the Qu Tours itineraries. With our products we want to offer to the customers a perspective of the journey which go further the typical tourist view. We work to combine all these ingredients to create packages based on emotions and sensations which bond together landscapes and history of Abruzzo with his unique tastes and traditions.

Our itineraries make an effort to promote Abruzzo as an experience.

Santo Stefano di Sessanio

Qu Tours starts proposing an enogastronomic tour to offer a delicious introduction to our territory. The concept of this itinerary is to let discovery the tastes of Abruzzo from visiting the places where the typical ingredients are grown or bred to their tasting and to experiencing their manufacturing.

Other tours will follow, in the next weeks, dedicated to other wonderful Abruzzo destinations. In addition, Qu Tours intends to propose special tours based on particular events or themes.

All our Abruzzo tours include different travelling solutions.

Sulmona view

The typical escorted tours include a selection of restaurants, hotel, experiences and skilled guides to offer proper packages for peace of mind Italian holidays. To  have instead the freedom to manage time as wanted the “Discovery” solution provides a car rent and a basic set of restaurants, hotel and experiences.

As part of our philosophy we believe that linking our knowledge and at the same time giving flexibility to the customers will create value. For that reason we also provide service to design tailor-made tours to fully satisfy customer needs and requirements.

We just started our walk into this wonderful business. We hope we will grow with your support and make the Abruzzo tour a new exciting option for a holiday in Italy!

Qu Tours Team
Gran Sasso