We woke up at the Rifugio Barricata We have been sleeping for few hours, because the dinner yesterday night ended late: stew and polenta, grappa and good company kept us sit at the table until late.
A coffee on the fly and we leave the Rifugio to see the dawn on the Marcesina Plain, walking towards the Valcoperta hut.
We are here for the "Albe in malga" event, an initiative that allows everyone to get in touch with the reality of Trentino’s alpine pastures and with the life in the huts, where the excellent local cheese is produced.
We are on the border between Veneto and Trentino, accents and flavors mingle.
Four kilometers on foot under a gray sky full of rain, the air smells of thyme and spruce: we are only at 1400 meters above sea level, wavy trails have no steep slopes, but this area is known as the "Italian Finland" because of the cold temperatures that could be registered here during winters, often the lowest of the country.
We reach our destination without any effort, surrounded by traffic signs that invite to pay attention to cows and deer that may be laying or walking on the road. We hear stories of bears and wolves that comes down to the valley, but we do not meet any of them.
We arrive to the hut while the shepherd dog drives the 200 cows he has been given custody of from the pastures, where they spent the night, toward the barn: it is six o'clock in the morning and here the job is already at full speed. We are witnessing the first milking of the day (the next will be at around 6 p.m.), and we have the privilege to get the milk out with our hands from the swollen breasts of these cows that cannot wait to be relieved of the weight of 15 liters of milk they produce every day: the feeling is lovely.
When milking is finished, we look at the herdsmen working to obtain butter, yoghurt and cheese from milk.
Patrizia and her two sons, Eric and Alberto, show us the work that their family have been doing for 28 years for 100 days every summer: they leave the evening milk to rest throughout the night and then remove the cream that has formed on the surface to make the famous yellow, full-bodied and soft butter of these valleys. The hands are fast, the amount of work huge, the final products of the highest quality: a ton of milk is needed to make 1 pound of hut butter.
Everything is sold directly, none of these delicacies arrives on the shelves of large retailers: locals book this products every year, and come to get them in September, when the season ends.
Both Alberto and Eric are studying at school but, since they were children, they spend here every summer to support the family in the management of this traditional activity, valuable both for the local community and for the Italian gastronomic heritage.
Our disappointment for not having these products available in the supermarkets close to our homes fades when they inform us that the cows can be "adopted" for one or more seasons, and this gives the right to receive the products obtained by their milk exclusively on our table.
We spend the rest of the morning going back and forth between the rooms where Patrizia and her sons are making the cheeses and the kitchen where we are served a breakfast of fresh milk, pancakes, homemade jams, fruit juices and cakes, cottage cheese, yogurt and pepper cheese.
We know that the mountain huts are strongholds of the Italian taste that the whole world envies us, one of the places where the quality triumphs on the exasperation of industrial numbers and taste standardization. In complete contrast to the intensive philosophy of the plains, the mountain huts inspire love for what they symbolize: the genuine measure of the world as it would have last.
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