Friday, August 30, 2013

The Most Photographed Village in Italy

Scanno and some Scannesi.
When a village is billed as "the most photographed village in Italy", a visitor could be forgiven for expecting something pretty special. In the heart of the heart of Italy, deep in the Apennine Mountains in the Abruzzo region, at about 1050 m ASL, is a small but lively village called Scanno.

Scanno has several claims to fame, one being its location as a trailhead of the transumanze - the historic trail along which shepherds traditionally drove their flocks from the summer highlands to the lowlands of Puglia for the winter. The sheep go by freight train now, but the shepherds recreate the transumanze for tourists and for posterity. The smell of pecorino - sheep's cheese - lingers fruitily in the air of Scanno.

Scanno is also known for an odd historical quirk - its inhabitants, the Scannesi, believe they are descended from immigrants from Asia Minor, and several kinks in local traditions might - or might not - support this. The most famous of those traditions is the local women's dress. The headpiece could, if you're imaginative, be likened to a turban. It's also said that Scannesi women used to sit cross-legged on the floor in church. They make lace work, gold filigree - and, as mentioned, cheese - in Scanno.

Traditional dress.
The village is very well preserved within medieval walls, and is kept brisk, clean and picturesque. Scanno has been immortalised by the photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson (1951) and Mario Giacomelli (1957-1959), who came mainly to take pictures of the local women in their traditional dress. If you want to follow in their footsteps - like me - you can still find some young ladies dressed in the curious outfits, as well as evocative alley ways, crenellated houses stacked on top of each other, and interesting doorways.

Scanno, nestling in its valley. 
Scanno streets.
Then you can sit, as I did, in the local piazza and enjoy an aperitif. With cheese.

Local produce.
Evening light in Scanno.
Check out Henri Cartier-Bresson's Scanno photos here.
Check out Mario Giacomelli's Scanno photos here.
And some more of Henri Cartier-Bresson's (with some interesting photo-geek commentary on his compositional technique) here.

And below, I channel my inner Cartier-Bresson with some sepia shots of Scanno...the most photographed village in Italy.

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