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THE AREA
(Pg. 2)

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From both Lu Lette and La Rocca there are roads which wind their way up to Blockhaus at an elevation of 7000 feet.  In the 1800s Blockhaus was the site of a military garrison placed there by the government of the newly unified Italian state to combat the briganti, many of whom were Abruzzese partisans who were resisting the unification and who hid in the mountains.  The garrison is long-gone, but near its site is a large rock outcropping, the Tavola dei Briganti, which bears names and graffiti chiseled there by the partisans, who left these marks to taunt the soldiers of the garrison.  Among the graffiti is one stating that under King Victor Emanuel (during whose reign Italy was unified) "the reign of flowers has become the reign of misery."  The Abruzzese were slow to surrender their independence!

As you travel these roads up to Blockhaus, you pass through lower pastures, then forest, and finally through the high pastures where grazing flocks of sheep and goats are guarded by shepherds and their Abruzzese sheep dogs.  The sheep stay on the mountain all summer.  The lower pastures are studded with stone tholoi or capanne. These dry-stone shepherds' huts are no longer in use, but they are reminders that the flocks and the pecorino cheese made from their milk have been a way of life here, together with farming down in the valleys, for centuries. 
Looking down from Blockhaus onto a high mountain pasture with a shepherd's hut and the pen in which the sheep are kept at night.
Statue of the Madonna on top of Blochaus.
Shepherd with his flock and one of his Abruzzese sheep dogs.  There are a number of dogs with each flock.
Flock on a high mountain pasture on Blockhaus.
Flock on a lower pasture in La Rocca; Abruzzese sheep dog in front.
Capanna or shepherd's hut; they were used mostly in the 1700s and 1800s.
After the unification of Italy in 1865, the people of the Abruzzo region were deeply and negatively impacted by social and economic changes.  The end of the feudal landholding system resulted in the privatization of land which had formerly been used communally, which meant that people who could not afford to own land no longer had access to any.  And the family farming that was characteristic of the region suffered as a result of the deforestation of the mountainsides, which was done to increase grazing for sheep, but which led to soil erosion on the lower slopes where crops had been grown.  Sadly, as a result of these and other changes, the agro-pastoral system that had supported the Abruzzese for centuries failed, and many were so impoverished that they had no choice but to leave their beautiful homeland in order to survive.  From the late 1800s until about 1915, roughly twenty per cent of the population of Abruzzo left, seeking other means of livelihood.

Many people from Lettomanoppello and Roccamorice emigrated to Canada, the United States, other parts of Europe, South America and Australia during that period, and afterwards as well.  Now, so many years later, these emigrants and their children and grandchildren are deeply rooted in their new homelands.  But they have never forgotten their ancestral homes, nor have they lost their pride in their heritage.  We hope that this page will grow, and that it will play a small part in keeping that memory and heritage alive.  If you have photos, anecdotes, family memories of these places, please share them with us and help make this website grow!
Statue at Roccamorice memorializing those who were forced to emigrate but who never forgot their homeland.
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