Call for participation in the 3rd edition of the International Literary Competition – “IL TRATTURO MAGNO” – 2023

The 3rd edition of the “Premio Letterario IL TRATTURO MAGNO” has been launched. The award ceremony will be held in the city of Foggia on 25th November 2023, at the Palazzo della Dogana.

The Tratturi: a road network on which history unfolds.

The history of the tratturi is lost in the mists of time, but already in protohistoric times, these sheep-tracks existed as long, grassy roads trodden by flocks and herds. Their roots are to be found in the ancient habits of peoples who, following their instincts and the movement of the stars and the course of the rivers, took up a nomadic life. The tratturi were already playing a decisive in trade before the Romans etched the Italian landscape with the greatest road network of ancient times, eventually emerging as major communication routes in their own right in the modern age. The name tratturo (sheep-track) first appeared during the last centuries of the Roman Empire, as a phonetic deformation of the Latin word tractoria, a term that, in the Codes of Theodosius (401-460) and Justinian (482-565), denoted the privilege of the free use of state-owned land, which was also extended to the seasonal migrant shepherds.
In historical terms, the practice of seasonal migration for livestock grazing known as transhumance evolved into a very complex phenomenon which affected several aspects of the life and culture of the peoples who engaged in it. Originating as a spontaneous migration of animals seeking greener pastures, in the 4th century BC, the Samnites learned to take control of the animals as they moved across the territory.
Sheep farming began to mark the landscape, conditioning the birth of cities and trading centres that developed along the tratturi routes. Consolidated in Roman times, the practice reached its peak in the fifteenth century when the Aragonese adopted the organisational model of the Spanish Mesa, adapting it to the peculiarities of central-southern Italy.
Thus, the year 1447 saw the establishment of the Dogana della Mena delle pecore, a tribute-governing institution based in Foggia which allocated pastures and oversaw the collection of levies. The tratturi underpinned a socioeconomic system based on transhumance which survived until 1806 when Giuseppe Bonaparte sanctioned its demise. In fact, the Bourbons made further attempts to re-establish the model, but then its decline was unavoidable. In the 19th century, transmigrant pastoralism gave way to agriculture and, although individual herders continued transhumant practices, they became increasingly less prevalent. Today, herd transhumance is undertaken on a very low scale and relies on transport by truck; however, it is essential to understand how this phenomenon has characterised the territory of Abruzzo, Molise and Apulia for centuries. The entire system of tratturi pathways extends from L’Aquila to Taranto and covers 3,000 km. The most important of the royal tratturi, (three main routes and two branches that lead back to them), is the 244 km long ‘Il Tratturo Magno’. Stretching all the way to Foggia, the route starts at the Basilica of Collemaggio dell’Aquila, itself built thanks to the proceeds obtained from the ‘lanari’, rich traders rooted in the transhumance-based economy. It is the most “Adriatic” of the tratturi. This tratturo used to lead the vast flocks from Gran Sasso, Sirente and Majella to the Tavoliere delle Puglie, having skirted the Adriatic Sea, the only case in which sheep and herdsmen actually approached the coast. The Tratturo Magno route is quite intact and characterised by numerous churches, especially in the Aquila area. However, also Puglia hosts examples of this practice because transhumance and tratturi were not only aspects of the economic and human experience, but also of society’s spiritual and religious life. These churches were beacons in the difficulties that the shepherds could encounter, places of respite from fatigue and illness; in this regard, we should mention the Abbey of San Leonardo, in Siponto, which had a real hospital, where transhumant shepherds and pilgrims who became ill on their way to the cave of the Archangel Michael of Monte Sant’Angelo were treated by the canonical fathers of St. Augustine. Without a shadow of a doubt, the churches and shrines of the routes are the tangible testimony of the link between the transhumant shepherds and God, but also an expression of the highest aspects of life, such as art, expressed precisely in these churches, often built with the proceeds of transhumance. It was a wish to thank the Lord for the protection of the long journey that the shepherds had to face. Santa Maria dei Cintorelli, San Paolo di Peltuinum, San Nicola di Pettorano sul Gizio, and the enormous Celestine Abbey at the foot of the Morrone, are just some of the churches that express this need for spirituality, which should be saved and valued on account of the deep religious meaning it had for the shepherds. For these many reasons, these churches and the Tratturo Magno are today the object of systematic study, because they bear witness to the pastoral economy and contain in themselves many aspects of the culture that underlies it. Tratturi and the related churches must therefore be protected as assets of the historical memory of our people. They are an open-air museum. These wonderful, grassy streets dotted with art have been travelled by lives, human events, stories and history, which we want to revive, not as a purely nostalgic fact, but because nothing more than history, steeped in roots – our roots – can make us humans more aware, and more able to navigate the roads of the present and plan, based on a shared memory, a future. Again this year we have decided that the best way to preserve all this is to give a platform to the literary prize that, as in previous editions, aims to give a voice to the emotions inspired by these human, social, economic and spiritual events, so that they become a choral moment, to deepen their knowledge, through memories, feelings, invocations or, simply, a perspective or gaze, current or retrospective, on the landscape in which this human experience took place. After the success of the first and second editions, we still trust in the creativity of the authors, so that this important human story does not fall into oblivion.



Article 1

The traces
Transhumance was not only an economic, social, ethnological, and cultural phenomenon, steeped in its profound sacredness; it was a human habitus, which was born out of necessity, as well as hopes, traditions, and culture that were poured into them, to imbue them with essential values. The transhumant shepherd, on his journey, took his region everywhere he went and, on his return, brought into it the wealth of new experiences and knowledge, to enrich it. The journey of the transhumant shepherd was a total journey, as well as a spiritual one: the churches along the routes and the shrines are the testimony of this. The shepherd felt the inner need to entrust himself to God and to the holy protectors: above all to the Archangel Michael, so that they would protect his path and that of his flock. This need has imbued the tratturi with religiosity, enriching them with art and culture, which must be told about, to drive away the ghosts of indifference and oblivion; on the other hand, the tratturi are still there, despite the highways, high speed, junctions and bypasses, to whisper their wealth of experience, their millennial vocation to teach, to testify to those who choose to travel and retrace those existential paths, reviving the roots, to build in the present the foundations for a solid future. Honouring the resistance put in place by the tratturi is a historical, civic, moral and human duty.
What a great, powerful, and indispensable teaching we would give to ourselves and to our hectic time, if we could follow their paths and cross them slowly, stopping to meditate, to build inner paths of spirituality and humanity.
Imagine retracing these paths and the places around them, depicting the emotions, the hopes, and the intimate prayers of the shepherd, extracting their authentic and timeless value, which would restore voice and truth to them and depth to our existential journey.


Requirements for participation in the Prose section.
The text, unpublished, in Italian, vernacular or English, with Italian text attached, must be a prose composition, typewritten, of a maximum length of five pages, to be sent in Word format (pdf, other formats or photographs of the text are not allowed) in electronic copy to
Entrants may submit only one prose text. Works that exceed the length indicated in the call shall be considered disqualified from the competition.


Requirements for participation in the Poetry section.
The text, unpublished, in Italian, vernacular or English, with Italian text attached, must be a composition in verses, or poetic prose, typewritten, of a maximum length of 30 verses or, in the case of prose poetry, of 100 words, to be sent in electronic copy, exclusively in Word format to Entrants may compete by submitting two poetic texts. Compositions that exceed the maximum length of 30 verses or 100 words in the case of prose poetry, or which are not sent in Word format, shall be considered disqualified from the competition.


Requirements for participation in the Essays section.
The text, unpublished, in Italian, or English, with Italian text attached, but with Italian translation attached, must be structured as an essay, the content of which concerns the history of the tratturi and transhumance; the maximum length of the same may not exceed 20 pages, to be sent in electronic form, exclusively in Word format, to Compositions that exceed the length of the 20 standard pages and that are not sent in Word format shall be considered disqualified from the competition.


To the composition, edited according to the chosen stylistic mode, the candidate must attach a presentation of their personal details (first name, surname, date of birth), indication of their telephone number and postal address, email address, a brief biography, with express consent to the processing of personal data and the compositions submitted.


The deadline for participation in the competition is 30th September 2023. For any clarifications or further information, the following telephone contacts are available: ++39 – 347 6836508 / 342 1759429


The first three finalists in the Prose, Poetry and Essays categories will receive prizes.
The winners of first place in the Prose section, the Poetry section and the Essays section will be awarded €1,000, and a souvenir plaque. The winners of second place will be awarded € 300 and a souvenir plaque. The winners of third place will be presented with a souvenir plaque and some local traditional products.
Winners will be notified promptly. The results will be made public.


Members of the jury with any relationship to the participants shall abstain from voting, with reference thereto in the report. The jury has the right not to award prizes and assign special commendations, if the works are not worthy.


The winners of the ‘Tratturo Magno’ literary prize, as well as the winners of the twinned competition Il Rovo, who wish to participate in the award ceremony of the IL TRATTURO MAGNO competition will be given a voucher that will allow them to stay overnight in the city of Foggia and will receive a plaque to commemorate the event.


The Concorso Letterario il Rovo literary competition, from Cagnano Varano in the province of Foggia, is honoured to host again this year a twin cultural organisation, the literary competition Il Tratturo Magno, dedicated to the experience of transhumance, shared by several regions: Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia, which intend to preserve and give a platform to this precious human experience, the result of an unforgettable period of agropastoral life; an experience that has generated an authentic community spirit, the result of the meeting of lives and destinies that knew the forests and plains, as well as hard work and profound exchanges. This precious heritage must be preserved, remembered, valued, and evoked, because collective enterprises cement men, making them forever linked to places, and to a shared history.
The meaning of this award is to highlight a way of life that is now very niche, and to make it universally accessible. The TRATTURO MAGNO award is a tangible proof that historical memory has remained in the territories of Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia and deserves to be known throughout the country, for the enhancement and regeneration of regions that are rich in history, culture, architecture and unique works of art, from the Apennines to the Adriatic.

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