Ancient Christmas Tradition: I Zampognari

If you are in Italy during the Christmas season and hear the unique sounds of the Zampognari, well, you are in for a real treat! You might be wondering why? Well, there aren’t many around anymore. So, when you do come across someone playing this old-fashioned bagpipe, you are sure to find a crowd. 


That being said, we have noticed a resurgence of young Italians who are learning precious traditions that are at risk of becoming a distant memory. Over the past few years, we’ve met a few people who are investing their time in learning to play this traditional instrument so that it won’t be lost to time.  It is wonderful to see!


The Zampognari were shepherds who played this interesting musical instrument, for the most part, found in areas of Southern Italy. With their traditional handmade bagpipes, they would return from the mountains to spend the Christmas season with their family. What made them so special was the fact that they would make their way through the town, stopping at religious shrines as well as the homes of family and friends to entertain them and bring good tidings.


The bagpipe they played is called a zampognaro. It is an antique musical wind instrument that was typically made from goat hide or sheepskin. During the holiday season, it is a lovely surprise to hear the echoing tunes of the zampognari as they make their way through the streets of the town playing traditional Christmas songs like “Tu scendi dalle stelle“.


The Zampognaro is, without a doubt, one of the most Christmasy sounds you’ll hear in Calabria. It brings about warm holiday cheer and nostalgia making the Christmas season even more special. 

If you want to learn more about Southern Italy and Italian heritage, please visit our My Bella Vita Facebook Page and Instagram.