Abruzzo’s Zampognari: Bagpipes & Charm Bracelets

eugenio_panichi_zampognari_ortona - Bagpipers

Many people will be adding the figurine of a shepherd zampognaro (bagpiper) to their Nativity scenes this Christmas with little knowledge of their importance throughout the centuries of the shepherd bagpipers of Abruzzo.

Photographer Eugenio Panichi has shared with us his photo story of the culmination of a novena.  A 9-day trail that leads the bagpipers to play along small town alleys, bringing with them the echoes of the past as they play between those walls or as they stop to play at shrines before they attend mass. 

You can expect to hear them on important feast days like Christmas when they gather in Rome, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and on pilgrimages.

Zampognari Key Words

Santini, these are the cards slotted into their hats.  On the front side, there is the image of a Saint, and on the back, there is a specific prayer.

Zamogna are the charms on the bracelets that are clipped onto the bagpipe and are handed down by parents and relatives. They are symbols of protection from a  Saint or the Madonna.

The Significance of Zampognari Today in Abruzzo

“Participating in and recording these events that are part of Abruzzese culture is my personal contribution to keeping alive a tradition that is now almost lost and practically unknown to most people, but which has been very much alive for centuries. For this reason, I try to document these rare and unique events with photography, and try not to forget the deep roots of our land. The spirit and tenacity with which the bagpipers manage to keep the tradition of the Immaculate Conception and other novene alive every year by playing along the streets of the town of Ortona, for example, tugs at my heart every time. They can be considered a real miracle, especially against the age in which we live.

The mystical, archaic sound of the bagpipes creates vibrations that resonate with the listener, recalling past times. They convey a sense of community that the people, in tune more with the mystery and majesty of faith despite the hard times they lived in, could connect with spiritually, touching them with almost ineffable grace.

If these sounds are not yet totally forgotten and have resisted the elements of time, it means that they maintain a strong energy, which, even if now weaker, can become a seed for the new generations.

Who knows, maybe young people will be inspired by the bagpipers, who wander through the alleys like charmers of souls and feel a call.  Nothing seems to be lost as long as nothing is totally lost.”

Eugenio’s superb photos were shot in Ortona for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, you can view his work on Instagram where he is known as Calancot

Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.


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