Today was full of surprises for me. Mozzarella is such a staple here in Southern Italy—between margarita pizza, caprese salad and antipasto, I think I’ve had it at least once every day—and the best kind is the buffalo mozzarella. On today’s optional excursion, we traveled two hours from Sorrento to the coast near Salerno to a water buffalo farm. It’s an organic farm and only sells locally, but it was a big, advanced production with around 300 female buffalos and eight bulls.
We took a tour of the stables and I was amazed to learn how buffalos are creatures of habit. They were gentle, calm animals who went about their days in a very set way. They were milked twice a day on their own time frame. When they were ready, they wandered over to a milking machine and waited patiently for the buffalo before them to step out of the machine. Besides the milking machine, the stable also had a feeding area and a series of large massaging brushes that the buffalo would stand against to get rubbed. Our guide said the best milk comes from happy, relaxed buffalos.
The grounds of the farm were beautiful. They housed an exhibit about farming in the area, with old tools and objects from the past 100-200 years. After a quick tour of the facilities, it was time for lunch. We feasted on three kinds of buffalo cheeses—my favorite was the ricotta—served with amazing cherry tomatoes, lettuce, bread and local wine. So simple and so delicious.
We finished off with a tiny dish of peach buffalo yogurt and then headed it over to the yogurteria for dessert—our choice of buffalo gelato, cappuccino or coffee. Before my farm visit, I didn’t know buffalo dairy products extended beyond mozzarella, but it was all so delicious. After lunch, there was a quick stop at the farm’s tannery, which sold the smoothest leather bags and goods, all designed by a Florentine designer.
In the afternoon, we visited Paestum, the ruins of a Greek-Roman city. Seeing these ruins up close, especially the three amazingly preserved Greek temples, I can’t understand how they are not more well-known! The temples are the showpieces of the ruins and date back to 550-450 B.C. They’re still made of all the original structures (unlike other more famous ruins like the Parthenon).
In the past few centuries, much of the city had been covered in swamp lands, submerging many of the structures but leaving the three Greek temples visible. In fact, during that time, there were wild water buffalo all over the area and the temples were actually used as stables.
The town was abandoned and pretty much forgotten until many years later. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and excavations have found all sorts of structures and relics, including the renowned Tomb of the Diver, an aristocrat’s tomb that was lined with colored frescoes.
I walked away from the Paestum Ruins completely impressed and surprised. I had no idea this treasure trove of Greek temples and ruins was hidden in the farm country around Sorrento.
Katie is making her way around the Amalfi Coast on foot. Follow along as she blogs about her tour!