December 23, 2009 / Local Interest
Rome, Italy

Every year, like clockwork, the Zampognari come down from the hills to Rome and other big cities along the coasts. Everything about them is from the past…

Their clothes are homespun wool and leather pieces, so strange to our modern eyes they seem museum pieces (and many acually are!). Their shoes are nothing but rags, tied on with ciocie (cho-chay), thin leather straps/soles. The bagpipes they play, called zampogne, are made from sheepskin and about as archaic an instrument as you’re going to find, vestiges of the pastorizia, the pastoral livelihood once so prevalent in Italy. The music itself is mesmerizing, as is all pipe music, but in this case takes on an additional hypnotic aspect due to the unrecognizable melodies whose origins are lost and buried in ages long gone.

Yet despite these anachronisms, still the zampognari come, and all the “modern” city folk will fling open their windows or run outside to greet them, to hear their music, to wish them “Auguri!” and share in the holiday cheer. Despite modernity, the Zampognari are sure to be around for a while yet.


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

8 Responses to “Zampognari”

  1. Went to sleep in Chicago and thanks to this lovely video, I woke up in Rome! I love my….

  2. Listening to that strange music brought tears to my eyes. Nothing says Xmas in Rome like the zampognari! Thank you so much for sharing Italy with us. Buon Natale!

  3. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Splendid to see and hear this! I’ve only seen one in Naples this year but hope to see more. It’s a sound from the deep past.

    Tanti auguri GB! Have a good Christmas and New Year.
    Penny x

  4. Aase Schoen

    Dear GB,
    Wishing you a very mery christmas and happy new year. It is great to to be reminded daily of all the treaures of Italy.
    A favorite memory of ours from this year was cooking polenta in your kitchen.
    Please give our love to your Mom.
    We will be back in Rome from the 28th of January to April the 15th. Hope to see you then. Aase Schoen

  5. I’ve really enjoyed all of the Christmas notes. Merry Christmas, tanti auguri, and happy New Year to you GB.

  6. Great piece and video! Sure brings back good memories. The “strange music” actually consists of multiple variations of the traditional Italian Christmas carol, Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle (You Came from the Heavens [literally, You Descend from the Stars]). Buon Natale e auguri per l’anno nuovo!

  7. Ken Borelli

    I use to play the Zampogna until the bags kind of disintegrated, after all they are organic…so i enjoyed the utube, the tunes and how to play the Zampogna is a true folk art handed down as a real mentorship…the fingering, depending on the type of instrument, is tricky…..but i could not help but notice all the grafetti in the u tube around the cafes.., and on one of my last trips to Italy i noticed a lot of it….really kind of sad.


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