Jimi Hendrix once sang; “Bang, bang honey, shoot, shoot, shoot, as long as it’s your silly head I don’t give a hoot” (Crash Landing 1970). Now, this lyric may not have gone down in the annals of mainstream pop culture, and certainly will not be known by more than about 0.001% of the Italian population, but from September onwards for about 6 months all you hear in the woods behind our house is banging and shooting (without the honeys). Welcome to the wonderful world of the Italian hunting season, where anything goes and no fence is too high to be scaled in the pursuit of the scarpering prey. Park outside the bar in Pergo at 10am on a weekend morning during winter, and you will be vying for position with any number of battered Fiat Panda 4x4s and small jeeps, all displaying signs of having been recklessly driven through the muddiest of terrain at unadvisable speeds. Inside the bar looks like a meeting of the local veteran mercenaries’ association, as jeans and furry-collared parkas give way to all manner of camouflage outfits and multi-pocketed waistcoats replete with built-in GPS and heated pockets (probably). The lads have all been up since around 5am and have been tracking cinghiale (wild boar) through thick woodland for hours, attempting to pick off a few without accidentally picking off one of their own number. Unfortunately the latter is not a joke and seems to happen with surprising regularity every season, possibly due to the amount of grappa flowing through their systems…
Hunting in the U.K. has long been considered the preserve of the upper classes, and until very recently of kings, not least to do with the overall expense of pursuing the sport, as well as the amount of free time required to do it justice. Obviously this was particularly the case with fox-hunting and its requisite knowledge of riding and everything that keeping horses entails, but also applies to pheasant shoots and the like. Hunting in Italy however, is considered a rite of passage for just about every working man from the age of 18 to whenever one is failed by one’s eyesight (my one-eyed, elderly neighbour only had his license revoked about 3 years ago, rather late I thought…). I imagine that in the cities nobody spends time going to the country at weekends to shoot animals, but in rural areas like ours the fervour inspired by the hunting season is enough to create hunting “widows”, rather like golfing widows in the States. The majority of the lads local to us are the usual suspects who can be seen propping up the local hostelry and most of them are builders. Can you imagine your local brickie waking up at 5am on a Sunday morning to head off to Tarquin’s place to shoot some grouse? If anything, in Italy we have the reverse of the UK, in that the upper echelons of society here tend not to get involved in hunting, probably considering it to be a somewhat tawdry business, albeit necessary to sate the nation’s hunger for wild boar products. Having said that, Charlie and I did once attend a quite spectacular post-hunt dinner at a nearby castle, although the elegantly dressed Germans who made up the hunting party were a far cry from the camo trousers and army boots brigade of the local Squadra dei Cinghialisti (Hunting group).
The socially cohesive element of the wild boar hunt in rural Italy is very evident. As I mentioned before, it is quite literally a rite of passage for young men, but even the elderly veterans who can no longer shoot are involved in the complex process that is the boar hunt. There is etiquette and group coordination in hunting that is quite fascinating; hunting groups have been known to aid the emergency services during the regular bouts of forest fires in the summer, due to their knowledge of the terrain and there ability to work as a team. Each area will have its own hunting society, the Squadra dei Cinghialisti, and also its own boundaries, within which its members are allowed to engage in hunting during the open season. Given that wild animals have a tendency not to adhere to these arbitrary boundaries, the escaping prey will often run over into another group’s patch. Whether the poor beasts are then finished off by one squadra or another is immaterial, as the camaraderie of the whole experience means that the resultant kill is divided fairly. The highlight of the year for most groups is the Sagra di Cinghiale (wild boar feast), where guys who would not normally be seen dead cooking, preparing or serving food, organise and run a night of feasting on the result of their endeavours during the season. A must see if you have the chance.
Fascinating post, i am in the process of getting a permission to hunt a friends newly bought farm in italy - do you know of any english language websites that spell out the regulations regarding english people hunting in italy? For instance is bow hunting legal in italy?
Depending where you are and who your going with I wouldn't worry too much. You need permissions for everything in Italy.Try this site> http://rome.angloinfo.com/information/17/hunting.asp
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