Sheep shearing is not only a process. It is one of the most intense moments in the life of a shepherd community worldwide. It is a rite, an almost magical action and from it we can understand values and traditions of the ancient cultures. It is a rite that takes place in spring, when the heat starts to be excessive for the sheep. Thus, it becomes necessary to relieve the animals by removing the woolen fleece, for hygienic purposes and for the well-being of the sheep. A long wollen fleece may hinder the movements of the animals, especially during summer: sheep might get entangled against bushes or might catch thorns, causing wounds and injuries.
The whole territory in the province of L’Aquila is rich with legacies connected with this tradition. Important places like Santo Stefano di Sessanio are a valid example too. The town reached its splendour when the Medici (the most important family of Florence) settled there to implement the “Wool Routes” (Vie della Seta) from here to Florence.
From manual shearing we have moved to electric shearing nowadays, but many aspects have kept the same. The rite starts in the morning: the sheep are led into the sheepfold, so as to keep them all close to one another. Then, one by one, they are taken to the shearers, who need just few seconds to remove the wool fleece (11 seconds is the world record!)
Sheep must be sheared on all parts of their bodies, in such a way that the fleece is removed uniformly, so as to lay it like a carpet and fold it like a blanket. Following this technique, sheep do not get forced and the wool reaches its best quality.
Immediately after the removal of the wool fleece, the sheep are free to go back to the field, relieved of a burden that may even reach 3 kilograms weight!
THE SHEARING FESTIVAL takes place between the end of April and the beginning of May (the exact date depends on the proceeding of the season).
During the festival our guests will take active part in the shearing process. They will also attend the milking process and the main phases of cheese making. Freshly made cheese and ricotta cheese will be tasted at the moment! It will be like an immersion into old tastes, rediscovering the memories and feelings of old times!
This post is also available in: Italian