There are 2 traditional heartlands of mozzarella production in Campania: the Piana del Volturno, to the north of Naples city, and the Piana del Sele, to the south one hour. Both are river plains with wet, marshy land, the ideal terrain for water buffalo when they were first introduced into Italy in the 16th century. The majority of commercial production of Mozzarella is made on the Piana del Volturno, a much more industrial region. Mozzarella from the Piana del Sele, is more highly prized and has the characteristically delicate, milky taste and classic texture.
After our first visit to the Vannulo farm we couldn’t resist another visit. My wife had a brilliant idea before leaving Naples for Piedmont, she said, “let’s go early in the morning to Vannulo to get some mozzarella, make a visit to the temples of Paestum and then head to the airport”, and so we did exactly that. She couldn’t resist the idea to enjoy more milky white mozzarella and the opportunity to see the Temple of Poseidon and Temple of Hera in Paestum, and me three.
100 kilometers south of Naples, on the western Italian coast, lie the ruins of the ancient Greek colony of Poseidonia, now known by its Roman name, Paestum. The walled city claims not one but three remarkably intact Greek temples that had been abandoned and ignored, surrounded by swamp from medieval.
The green grass glows, the bright light, the sky was crystal blue, it had layers of blue variations. We walked and the sacred grounds of Paestum, enjoying getting up close to the Temples. The main features of the site today are the standing remains of three major temples dating from the first half of the 6th century BC. These were dedicated to Hera and Poseidon.
After our visit we drove twenty minutes through the small town to the organic dairy of Vanullo. The farm belongs to the Palmieri family led by the Dad, who has created the farm operations and continues to grow it. His son and two daughters are involved, it is a family affair as are many small businesses in Italy. Strong Italian family values keep these types of businesses going.
Located on a 100 hectare farm on Piana del Sele, you can visit the farm. Luckily we had a chance to see Paestum again under the sunshine, walk the ruins, visit the museum and then pick up cheese, yoghurt and try the new flavor of ice cream. Their ice cream is very different to most others, as it is made with egg whites. It is creamy and has no overwhelming tastes of egg yolk that you often find in the south.
We had limited time to talk but we appreciate their integrity and passion. Nicola the son is responsible for farming and the herd, while he works closely with his Dad, he has his own opinions. He insists on using only the finest unpasteurized milk, he follows the texture and production from the moment that milk is logged, to the curds separated from the whey to their all-important stretching.
This process involves pouring hot water onto the curds and then furiously drawing them with a wooden stick to give the cheese its famous elasticity. Once the curds have been stretched they can be shaped, and are placed in the cloudy brine. They are ready after a couple of hours but his cheese sells out very quickly and often by noon it is all gone.
If you have a chance to go south, you must go here and enjoy fresh unpasteurized mozzarella. It is best eaten without any olive oil, it requires no additives whatsoever and there is no taste quite like it.