How to Counter Abruzzo’s Grazing Mafia!

Peter Austin, Pineto

In the world of Abruzzo cheese, it’s been a wonderful month, the hugely admired late Gregorio Rotolo’s Gregoriano was awarded Best Italian Cheese, first lady of milk was awarded to Farindola’s Luciana Chianchi  and my local small cheesemaker Mascionara elevated to finalist in these far reaching awards.

Gregoriano Cheese, Valle Scannese - Winner of Best Italian Cheese 2022, Italian Cheese Awards

All our artisan and small, sustainable pastoralists and cheese makers work tirelessly in providing the best for their animals throughout the year,including the cultivation of silage to ensure the best fodder for winter months, but against this wonderful recognition, hard work and passion for animals and products, Abruzzo’s family pastoralists are fighting a sinister,  battle with the Mafia.  


The Mafia have woken up to  the importance of the land and transumanza related events in Abruzzo as a means to make  money and are forcing their way in.  The Espresso published their expose this week.  You need a subscription to read it, but Nunzio Marcelli, a contributor to the article has kindly given us a summary and how to ensure that you support your local shepherd, not something the Mafia has pushed in.

“On p66 of this week’s ‘L’Espresso‘ is their full investigation into the ‘grazing’ mafia widespread across Abruzzo. It features interviews with Professor Lina Calandra, of the University of L’Aquila, and Nunzio Marcelli, breeder and shepherd and president of the Appia Network, the first national network for the defence of traditional pastoralism in Italy, and other Abruzzesi farmers.  

The article highlights how traditional and family pastorialism has become increasingly polluted by the presence of land speculators  and fake farms that have been created to hoard payments and contributions by the European Community.  Against a backdrop of intimidation, strange “accidents”, land grabbing at prices that push local producers out of the market, torched agricultural vehicles, local companies are increasing facing unexpected difficulties, while ‘companies’ and cooperatives thrive.  They rent pastures and place donkeys on it, without producing anything, but cashing in millions, due to a myopic application, by Italy, of the community rules created to favour rural communities.”

No Mafia Cheese Please!

How Can You Help?


If you are buying meat, cheese or booking a transumanza event there are certain questions you should ask to check the legitimacy of your provider:

Where do they graze?
What products do they produce?
Do they keep their animals traditionally outside in the summer and winter?

The Long Heritage That the Grazing Mafia are Exploiting

Photos from Pete’s extensive book collection on Abruzzo, catch more of Pete’s images of Abruzzo by joining the Life In Abruzze Facebook group!

Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.

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Marc Gilmour
Marc Gilmour
17 October 2023 11:00

Great work. It is very hard to get this kind of information out there for people to see. I will certainly be letting people know

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