A bandana on his head to hold back dripping sweat, Giulio sat on the steps just outside the family caseificio (cheese factory) on the outskirts of Lazio mountain village, Gorga. Giulio was carving out a moment’s rest in a long day: after hours of haying, he’d soon milk their fifty goats and three hundred sheep. Looking at his callused ropy hands, I asked him how long he’d been milking. “Since I was five – so that makes fifty years,” he replied with a grin. But cows, he added, “my Papa’ had two hundred cows.”
As he headed off to milk goats and sheep, my friend Iva and I pushed back the plastic strips dangling in front of the doorway, like colorful plastic spaghetti or fettuccine (but they do the trick, keeping the flies out) heading into the caseificio where Giulio’s hefty wife Anna was lifting rounds of pecorino cheeses out of the tubs of whey. She assists Giulio in the cheese-making in a pristinely clean adjacent laboratory and serves the customers from all over seeking their buonissimi cheeses, ricotta and yogurts.
What an assortment: sheep’s milk cheeses with black peppercorns and others aged in grape skins which flanked aged goat’s milk cheeses, goat’s milk ricotta and goat’s milk yogurt. We bought a bit of all (the last two items were for our breakfast the next day).
After she wrapped our purchases, Anna took us over to the barn to see the sheep and goats awaiting their turn as Giulio quickly hitched them up to the milking machine a few at a time. He milks two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. “No vacation for us,” Anna chuckled ruefully.
Their son Massimiliano is studying agraria (agriculture) in Perugia “…e ha la passione,” Mamma Anna told us proudly, though she knows that there will be changes when Massimiliano joins them on the land, for “his outlook is more industrial.” She shrugged and acquiesced “il future e’ quello” (that’s the future).
Yes, it’s the inevitable route of Italy’s agriculture.
But we’re glad we savored the “pre-industrial” goodness that day in Gorga.