Cowboys ride their horses with one hand and tend giant cattle in a rustic ranch, with a cloud of dust rising in the air in contrast with the intense blue sky. However, we are not in the Wild West, we are in Maremma – the beautiful and unspoilt southern part of Tuscany.
These local cowboys are called Butteri (buttero for singular), and they have been around for the last 250 years taming the wild horses of the area (Cavallo Maremmano) and taking care of wild longhorn cattle (the native Maremmana breed) and sheep.
The buttero’s attire consists of coarse cotton pants, leggings, a velvet jacket and a hat. He carries the mazzarella, a stick employed for herding oxen and horses, and sits on the characteristic saddle called bardella. Some butteri use the scafarda, an old saddle still used by the Italian Army that is ideal for trekking and endurance in military style.
Traditions that still live
Back in the days, the life of the buttero was very challenging, with a hard job and a harsh setting. In fact, Maremma was unhealthy for many centuries because of its marshes, which were eventually drained under the fascist regime. While most sons and grandsons of the old butteri left for the cities, some have returned to live the life of their ancestors.
Those who have not chosen the buttero as an profession still keep alive the horse-riding skills of Maremma’s tough men by occasionally recreating the transumanza round-up (transhumance is the seasonal movement of people with their livestock).
One example of such a traditional event takes place in May in the idyllic Tenuta Agricola dell’Uccellina, located within the pristine Maremma Nature Park. The local horse-riding center (Circolo Ippico Uccellina) organizes the Battito Buttero (buttero beat) day, during which visitors get to explore the history of the butteri, and to witness their unique skills.
During the event, there are equestrian shows and exhibitions, traditional Maremma games, gastronomic stands with local delicacies, and an educational farm for the little ones. The grounds and shows can be accessed free of charge! It is a truly authentic and powerful experience for children and adults alike.
All your senses are involved in a way that you will never forget: your eyes gaze at the proud butteri and the majestic animals; your taste buds feast on the typical Maremma products; your hands pet animals at the farm and touch local artisanal items at the stands; and then there are the distinctive sounds and smells of the farm.
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If you would like to immerge yourself in the traditions of Maremma or of other hidden gems around Italy, contact Italian Special Occasions DMC now!