Coming home. The story of Alla Casa Vecchia in Pacentro (and their cheeses)

Jun 22 2021, 11:09 | by Michela Becchi
Fresh, aged, blue-veined: the goat cheeses from this farm in Pacentro, in the province of L'Aquila, are all good and handcrafted by a local family. A young mountain enthusiast tells the story.

Alla Casa Vecchia, farm in Pacentro

She calls it the "Heidi syndrome," but what happened to Virginia Sciore is something that goes beyond the simple homesickness of off-site living. Hers is an innate passion, a predisposition to the all the good and the beautiful of the mountain, which combined with the rare ability to know how to tell a territory in all its facets, manages to create a unique project. A farm, yes, but not just any farm: Alla Casa Vecchia is the expression of love for a village, Pacentro, and all the good it has to offer. It is the result of a family education, even before university, to nature and animals; of traditions handed down for generations and a spirit of initiative that unites all members of the family. Starting with her father Giocondo, who in 2018 lost his job and reinvented himself as a shepherd, overhauling his life. On her side is her mother Stella, also from a peasant family and an animal lover, just like Virginia, passionate about donkeys, "with whom I would soon love to create hikes and workshops."

The Sciore family from Alla Casa Vecchia

But let's proceed step by step. While Giocondo rolled up his sleeves to get back into the game, Virginia returned from Bologna, where she studied livestock production and fauna control, "a faculty halfway between veterinary and agriculture." She missed her Majella, her country life, so she decided to return home and take an environmental guiding course, "just to be able to convey the love for my land." Her idea is creating a multifunctional farm, "able to support itself and show others what I have always seen in the mountains." All the potential of a territory with rich biodiversity, in some ways still undomesticated. Virginia's is a love story, and like all great stories it is also made up of coincidences and destiny signals. Once back in Pacentro, she found herself picking up the new job of her father, interrupted due to an arm injury. That's when Virginia specialized in cheese making, "a technique I learned from my grandparents and my parents."

Find out more about Alla Casa Vecchia in Pacentro

The goat cheeses

Today there are several dairy products made by Alla Casa Vecchia, produced with the milk of over 150 goats: ricotta, classic semi-aged, fresh goats and even an ultra-aged cheese, "which here we use grated over pasta or polenta." Then there are the blue cheeses, such as the blue goat with a bloomy rind, and the flavoured ones, "which are the most popular, in particular our goat cheese with spontaneous mint that grows in our olive groves." Fundamental in the company's production is the use of local products and attention to seasonality, "we only make cheese from spring to late autumn, while we produce the cured meats in winter, just as Pacentro tradition dictates."

The cured meats and the tasting tours

Speaking of cured meats: there are also pigs on the farm, with which various products are made, but the flagship remains the pacentrana liver sausage, "made with a percentage of liver mixed with red pepper and Sulmona red garlic. A concentrate of flavour!" There is no shortage of fruit and olive trees, "but the production is small, mostly for family use." To buy Alla Casa Vecchia products you can go directly to the company, "for the moment we only distribute fresh ricotta in a handful of shops in the area," but in order to taste and discover the products better it's advisable to participate in one of our tasting tours organized by Virginia, who still works as an environmental guide and is part of a tourist service cooperative, La Stella Alpina. Together with a colleague, she builds itineraries focused on the food and wine heritage of Pacentro, complete with cheese tasting and the company's specialties.

Find out more about Alla Casa Vecchia in Pacentro

Future projects

No hospitality for the moment, "there will be news soon, but for now I prefer not to reveal anything," while the kitchen is used only for organised tastings. No elaborate dishes, but rather traditional recipes capable of enhancing the products, such as polta, "a typical peasant dish made with cabbage, beans and potatoes." The health emergency interrupted the tours for a while but Virginia is ready to start over: "Before the pandemic we organized a photo exhibit with the cooperative featuring photos of shepherds from the 70s compared with modern images, then projecting a documentary on shepherds at Alla Casa Vecchia. It was very touching." The emotion is palpable in every word: the feeling of those who have decided to reinvent themselves with tenacity and commitment, leaving the known path and tracing a new one, with their home as a starting point. Sometimes it takes courage even to "go back."

Alla Casa Vecchia – Pacentro (AQ) – Vico I San Marco -

by Michela Becchi

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