Growing up pretty close to the centre of the wide, brown land that’s Australia, I’ve always been a little fascinated by the clichéd images of alpine dairies – quaint-looking log and stone huts nestled between towering, snow-dusted mountain peaks.
In Italy, dairies located high up in the mountains are collectively called ‘malghe’ (singular: Malga). Many malghe are only inhabited during the summer months, when farmers take their herds up to graze on the rich, green pastures that spring up after the winter snow thaws. The cheeses made in malghe during the summer months are highly prized – and for good reason. Because the cows are grazing on such an amazing variety of grasses, herbs and flowers up in the alpine pastures, the cheeses made with this milk are incredibly flavoursome.
Along the Dolomites Cheese Route in Trentino, there are around 100 Malghe, many of which are only open and accessible certain months of the year. Malga Canali however is open all year round and the resident cheese-maker, Giovanna (Gianna for short), welcomes guests to her tiny restaurant where she serves up products she’s made on the farm.
During my visit to Malga Canali, it felt as if the distractions and stresses of the outside world were put on hold for while. Gianna has a simple philosophy on life and a fond attachment to the land and her animals – chatting with her by the fire and enjoying her hand-made cheese had a very relaxing, restorative effect. We were staying ‘just over the mountain’ at Agritur Dalaip dei Pape and were told we could easily hike back to our accommodation through the mountain pass – our heavy filming gear unfortunately ruled that out – but it’s something you might like the investigate for your visit.
A big thanks to Francesca from Visit Trentino for organizing our visit to Malga Canali and to Agritur Dalaip dei Pape for opening a week early to accommodate us and whipping up some amazing local cuisine.