Itinerary: Pisa – San Rossore – Acciaiolo di Fauglia – Lajatico – Villamagna – Volterra – Montemiccioli

Following this itinerary in its stages and facets means coming into contact with unforgettable flavors and aromas of the Tuscan tradition. The economic importance of sheep farming, combined with the particular morphology of the land, has in fact favored in the past the transfer of entire families of breeders, especially from Sardinia.

The itinerary is concentrated between Pisa, the Pisan Hills, Valdera and Volterrano, a territory this latter favored by the abundance of pastures that provide fodder and grass with particular organoleptic characteristics. It is in this area that small farms run by enthusiastic entrepreneurs initially heat sheep’s milk, then added with vegetable rennet made from wild artichoke. Subsequently the cheese paste is carefully placed in containers, called fuscelle, and then dry salted.
The seasoning takes place in fresh premises, for a period that can vary from a minimum of two months to a maximum of over a year. During this period the surface of the cheese is treated with wood ash, olive or holm oak: it is a fundamental moment to make the crust of this unmistakable pecorino, to give it that inviting exterior appearance. Depending on the seasoning period, Pecorino delle Balze stands out in fresh, semi-mature, seasoned, and “asserbo”.

The use of vegetable rennet also makes it ideal for the vegetarian diet. In short, a cheese that can satisfy all tastes and goes very well with fresh fruit and honey.



Sights

The itinerary starts at the gates of Pisa, from the Regional Park of San Rossore Migliarino Massaciuccoli. Here the sheep graze to produce Pecorino del Parco: a sweet soft cheese made from whole sheep’s milk. The milk used comes from sheep of autochthonous breeds, reared in the Park according to organic and integrated breeding rules. The selection of the breeds, the care in feeding the cattle and the maturing process on wooden boards give this pecorino a sweeter flavor than other pecorino cheeses. Pecorino del Parco, produced in modern dairies, uses only milk from sheeps raised within the area, according to the rules of traditional pastoralism and carefully controlled in terms of health and hygiene.
Tasting and sales take place at the shops of the Bottega del Parco, one inside the Tenuta di San Rossore, the other in the center of Pisa, in front of the train station.

Also in Pisa, after a nice walk along the river Arno, it is worth taking a trip to Friscu, a small laboratory dedicated to dairy products, where the cheeses (including burrata and mozzarella) are handcrafted and made with milk from selected local farms.

From Pisa we move to the Pisan Hills, more precisely to Acciaiolo di Fauglia where the Busti Dairy is located, an important company in the sector. Shepherds, originally from Garfagnana, began their cheesemaking activity as early as 1955. The ground floor is reserved for the production of cheeses and ricottas, for the preparation and packaging, while the first floor is used for seasoning cheeses in cold storage at controlled temperatures. The dairy is open to guided tours, educational tours or visits followed by a final tasting. The dairy has a company store and its own restaurant “Il Rifocillo”.

From the Pisan Hills we move to Valdera, near the village of Lajatico, where Andrea Bocelli was born and where he returns every year in the summer for a concert in the splendid natural amphitheater of the Teatro del Silenzio.
Here is the Antonello Sanna Agricultural Company, a small family-run company that produces pecorino and goat cheese, respecting the tradition and the genuineness of the products, with a keen eye for the innovations that the market requires. At guests’ disposal, sales and tasting shop.

Another small family-run company is that of the Castrogiovanni family, this time of Sicilian origin. It is located in a valley below Volterra, where the animals graze in the wild and semi-wild state. The farm produces organic milk and cheeses with raw milk, alternating modern machinery with ancient methods. The cheeses are aged on wooden boards and periodically turned over. You can attend and participate in processing. Also here you can shop and taste.

Going up towards Volterra, along a breathtaking panoramic road, you arrive at the Fattoria Lischeto, a farmhouse and cheese factory where the Pecorino delle Balze Volterrane is produced, whose origins date back to the 15th century when it was called “cacio Volterrano”. The milk for processing in this type of pecorino must strictly be whole sheep’s milk and processed within 48 hours of the first milking. You can visit the dairy with tasting at the shop or in their restaurant.
The production and maturing area includes the entire Va of Cecina: beyond Volterra also Pomarance, Montecatini and Castelnuovo Val di Cecina, Monteverdi Marittimo.

The last stop on the itinerary leads from the Carai Brothers Cheeses, also of Sardinian origin, whose specialty is to produce cheeses using unpasteurized raw milk, produced exclusively with the milk of the sheep that graze in this isolated and uncontaminated area between Volterra and San Gimignano. Here too, sales and tastings are not missing.

There are currently no events dedicated to cheese. Please note the presence of producers on the occasion of the Terre di Pisa Food & Wine Festival, Volterra Gusto and the various initiatives organized by the trade associations.