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In Tricarico, the transhumance of bulls and cows-or maybe not

The pilgrimage you don't expect


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Where is


75019 Tricarico MT, Italia (654m s.l.m.)


What it is and where it is

Dawn has not yet dawned on the 17th of January. Our sleep is deep to say the least, cradled by blankets and pillows, when at some point, heedless of shutters, curtains and dreams, a somber, rhythmic, multifaceted noise creeps into our ears. It is cowbells crossing the downtown streets, carried by cows and bulls headed to the church of St. Anthony, protector of animals. There, they will make three ritual laps around the church to receive his blessing before leaving for the Transhumance. So it was explained to us upon our arrival in the village.

Why it is special

What we had not been told was the breed of these animals. We were quite surprised when we opened the windows and saw them: all people in masks. Some dressed in white, their heads covered by a wide-brimmed hat supporting a white veil, brightly colored scarves and ribbons of all colors reaching from their heads to their feet. Others, adorned similarly but reducing the colors to black interrupted by a few red ribbons. White cows and black bulls invite the whole village to the party. All that remains is to quickly slip on your shoes and jacket and join the herd!

Not to be missed

Seriously, don't be content to just watch the procession as it parades away! You'll miss the games between the animals, the challenges, the skirmishes, and yes, even a few attempts at mounting! The dynamics of the herd are played out by the figures in a game that recalls Tricarico's strong ties to animal husbandry and the key role it played in the village's economy. For those who cannot make it precisely on January 17, there is a second chance. Such a cheerful and colorful festival has not struggled to flow into the carnival, so much so that the event is repeated in February as well.

A bit of history

Tricarico for centuries based its economy on livestock farming. Today this is no longer the case, but the memory remains, helped by some urban elements, such as the drinking troughs, which can still be seen next to the fountains. In addition, the village lies along a transhumance route that is still in use. This means that, although in smaller groups and less frequently, there are still herds that periodically pass through Tricarico. The ritual represented by the event faithfully traces the route that all Massari and Tricarico's herds used to take, including the three propitiatory laps around the church.


It is no mystery that for centuries women were excluded from the world of theater and staging in general. Imagine yourself in a reenactment that even involves physical contact between participants! Well yes, according to tradition the white cows much courted by the black bulls are themselves men. Don't worry: we have seen a few female faces!

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Alessandra Lana

It borders on carnival because of the colors and festivity of the ritual, but it has different origins related to tradition, rural life and religion. An event all to be discovered!