Destination

SWITZERLAND & NORTHERN ITALY #12: VENTURING OFF TO A VALTELLINA VALLEY GOAT FARM & TIRANO

When I heard we would be visiting a goat farm for our “Day in the Life” excursion (an Overseas Adventure Travel feature on every tour), I immediately thought of my friend, Laura.  Years ago, when she visited me and Bruce (and after we all had one too many glasses of wine), a funny conversation we were having about goats led to Laura exclaiming, “Bring in the goats!”  I don’t remember what the story was or how the topic of goats came up, but “Bring in the goats!” has been a joke between us ever since.  Whenever Bruce and I see goats, one (or both) of us quote Laura, have a giggle, and immediately think of her.  So, Laura, this post is dedicated to you!

The farm we visited was in the Valtellina Valley, in the Alpine region of Italy near the Swiss border.  Known for its agriculture and cheese-making, we participated in both activities after first meeting the goats.

First, a little background: The hillsides and hamlets of this region used to be home to the rich; however, when people started moving into the cities, the small hamlets became depopulated and abandoned.  To encourage people to return and build the population back up, abandoned homes were offered by the government for 1 Euro, but with strings attached.  The new owners were required to commit to renovating and living in these homes.  That worked well during COVID, when people started working remotely, fleeing the cities, and repopulating the region.  More and more people are continuing to return to farming and living in more remote places such as the Valtellina Valley again.

We visited Fattoria al Dos in Castello dell’ Acqua and were hosted by Gabriele, his son, Michele, and Gabriele’s dad.  Their farm had been passed down by Gabriele’s great grandfather through the generations, and Gabriele now does most of the work while his father handles the tourism end of the business, such as hosting groups like ours.

Their goats were a friendly bunch!  They immediately came over to meet us, and they loved being scratched on the head!  If we stopped giving them attention, they just stood there and stared at us, waiting for more.  It was quite evident that once we were on the scene, they didn’t care about eating the hay that was piled up for them.

After learning about their goats and the milking process, the scene that unfolded brought out an instinctive, “Bring in the goats!” from both of us.  While we watched, the goats were brought out of the barn and herded by their dog, Simba, to an area where they could feast on fresh grass.

Simba, keeping an eye out on the goats.

We also helped plant potatoes and learned how to make goat cheese.  Their 60 goats yield about 30-40,000 liters of milk a year that is worked into cheese.  One hundred liters of milk yields about 17-33 pounds of cheese, just to give you an idea of their production, which they sell locally.

It was interesting tasting the different cheeses they make, from young to aged.  We were then served a traditional farm lunch of risotto.  For dessert, we enjoyed the cheese we each had made, accompanied by homemade fruit jam or honey.

Our time at the farm was so enjoyable, and it was fun learning about the life of the three generations working the farm.  Gabriele and his wife are hoping that Michele will carry on the tradition!

Looking down the hill from their farm, the view was of this little village cemetery.

Following our return to Tirano, Bruce rested while I wandered through the town doing photography, one of my favorite travel activities.  I most enjoy exploring quaint, character-filled places that inspire my curiosity, encourage me to peek and poke around corners, get lost, and totally immerse myself in the moment.  Tirano was one of those places.

Entering the historic quarter,,,

Our evening concluded with these wood-fired pizzas that cost only $13– for both! The one on the left is a traditional “pizza quattro stagioni” (four seasons), which explains why the ingredients were kept separate! Bruce and I split the pizzas, but I passed on the “winter” season.

Coming up next: SWITZERLAND & ITALY #13: ALL ABOARD—AGAIN!

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