The Wild Violin of Norcia
When Giuseppe Fausti whistles, his pigs diligently answer. They are used to grazing freely in search of wheatgrass, acorns and hazelnuts in the woods that cover the plains of Norcia, in the shadow of the Sibillini Mountains. But when their master calls them, they come back like dogs called to heel. “I’ve been training them like this since 1997, and I know them all by name,” says Fausti, the pig breeder. “They are wild in the sense that they have never even seen a stall and they have never eaten pig-feed, except during times of drought.”
This free grazing is reflected in the quality of their meat and of their lives: even the leaner cuts of their cured meats have veins of fat, a sign that the animal has led a happy life. In order to nourish them without using hormones or antibiotics, with special consideration of their health, you need about one hectare for every four pigs. But the land here is rich in lime and silicone and this is what makes their meat so savory and tasty.
These pigs reach their ideal weight at eighteen months, compared to six or seven months needed by those raised industrially and fed with pig-feed containing estrogen. It is worth the wait for the cured meats which ensues: salami, dried sausages, cheek lard, loin and pork shoulder, and lastly, a delicious ham known as the Violin of Norcia.
“It is a way of creating an ethical pig farm,” continues Fausti, “but also of increasing the value of marginal areas such as these woods, which would have been otherwise abandoned as they aren’t suitable for agriculture.”
The red gold of the Nera river
Santa Anatolia di Narco, Umbria
The Elegance of the Buffalo
Our buffalo instill a great feeling of inner peace. Perhaps it is no coincidence that they are looked after and cared for by Indians. The Luisa Dairy is situated on the fertile plain of Montefiascone and is a gold nugget of agriculture and food in Lazio. They are the only ones in the region to transform the milk of these animals with their mysterious and exciting history.
The Fumoso family, Pietro, Angela and their daughter Luisa, have taken the time to give us a tour of the establishment and to tell us about the Asian origins of the silent bovines (they don’t low). They were brought to the south of the country in the 9th century A.D. during the Barbarian Invasions, and almost disappeared during the Nazi pillaging, if it hadn’t been for a farmer who hid a couple of buffaloes. Thanks to him, the race survived and became an exemplar of Italian excellence.
The Fumoso business uses locally sourced cereal and fodder produced in nearby fields to feed its three hundred beasts. It is a farm that requires patience and a high level of competency: these pacific, intelligent animals start producing milk when they turn three years old. A hundred kilos of milk yield twenty-five kilos of mozzarella. Buffalo have not undergone the same selection process that cows have and have preserved their primordial manner. They do not have sweat glands therefore often need to be watered down (their ancestors are called water-buffalo) and they only go into heat in the summertime. After visiting this establishment you really understand what buffalo are all about.