Francesco Basili, 35, has a degree and 170 sheep to tend to. He works for his father’s business in Orvieto: “Ever since I was young I knew this was going to be my job”
Thirty-five years old with a degree in agriculture and 170 sheep to tend to every day. Francesco Basili is a shepherd. It’s a hard life. Or, rather: “A life choice”, as he says. But don’t get the idea that he’s a hermit in the mountains. His other passion is music. He plays in a band and likes to go to concerts whenever he can.
Francesco works at his father’s business in Orvieto, in the small town of La Padella. Together they carry on the ancient Umbrian method of cheese-making, which is one the verge of disappearing.
“Already by the time I was five I had begun to think about it. My curiosity was piqued and I was drawn to my father’s life. I thought it would be a good way to live alongside nature. So when I began my studies, I kept moving in this direction. I went to a scientific high school and then I went into agriculture at university with a major in cheesemaking (dairy) technology”.
Let’s talk about your father. When did he start his company?
“He got the idea in 1975. My grandfather was a foreman and Danilo (my father) was destined spend his life in construction. Then one day he ran into a shepherd and his flock along the road. He stopped them to speak to the shepherd and decided to change his life”.
What distingushes the technology you use?
“Everything depends on the quality of the grass the sheep eat, where the cheese is left to age and whether or not you get the right temperature for the rennet”.
“Hand-pressing, for example. It allows you to give the cheese its typical round shape and at the same time to eliminate the whey, but not all of it or the cheese will dry out. We also cook the cheese with a fire beneath the cauldron”.
Can you describe your cheese in a few words?
“It’s a semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese similar to those of Tuscany, but not to those of Rome which are instead aged. It can be eaten fresh or aged in a natural environment. We normally produce three to five rounds of cheese a day”.
What has your contribution to the business been?
“I’ve tried to bring my scientific knowledge without imposing anything”.
How do your sheep live?
“We try to stress our animals as little as possible. Our sheep graze freely all day. They also have 4-5 months rest, and during this period they aren’t milked and we put production on hold”.