Asiago is a medieval town in Northeast Italy, famous for producing Asiago cheese, and arguably the best tasting in the world. The town resides in the Veneto region of Italy, on the Asiago plateau, the largest in Italy. Asiago attracts visitors in search of world-class cheese, picturesque alpine scenery, wellness spas and alpine skiing.
To learn more about the legacy of Asiago cheese, I visited one of the region’s oldest cheesemakers, The Pennar Asiago Dairy,( Caseificio Pennar Asiago) which began operations in 1927. On any given day, you can expect busloads of tourists arriving to sample and purchase the award-winning cheeses.
For over one thousand years, the region has produced world-class Asiago cheeses, fostered by its ideal climate, and organic farming and cattle practices.
The secret to Asiago’s flavor comes from the cultivation of the local cow’s milk used in cheese production. The cows live in a protected, biodiverse environment with organic grass and hay from naturally fertilized meadows and pastures. The cattle feed on fresh grass from the pastures, hay, and cereals that are non-GMO certified, producing organic milk that vies Asiago cheese its signature taste.
Pennar makes all of its cheeses with raw milk that contain no additives or preservatives, using artisanal cheese-making methods that mature cheese on aged red pine planks in underground rooms. The perfect ratio of humidity and temperature from the local climate enhances the cheeses’ unique aromas and flavors. Pennar fire-brands its cheeses with the words “Prodotto Della Montagna” (mountain produced). This seal signifies that the entire cheesemaking process takes place in the mountains, from milk cultivation to the processing and maturing of the cheeses.
Over the years, Pennar has earned many accolades for its Asiago cheeses including a 1930 Gold Medal at the International Exposition in Paris and a recent award at the International Olympics for its Asiago Strevecchio, an aged Asiago.
How to Shop for Asiago Cheese:
Asiago cheese comes in different age varieties, ranging from soft, smooth, and fresh to hard, crumbly, and salty. Asiago cheeses age from a few months up to three years and the stages of maturity include Asiago Pressato (cool or pressed), and Asiago d’Allevo (ripened asiago) aged in three stages— middle, old and very old. In summer, cheesemakers produce alpine cheese from in the high mountains.
Asiago cheese authentic to the region carries the label “Asiago D.O.P.” signifying that it has the approval of “the Consorzio,” a consortium representing more than 40 different asiago cheesemakers. The Consortium for the Protection of Asiago Cheese was founded in 1979 in Vicenza to guarantee the authenticity and quality of asiago cheese. Asiago D.O.P. cheese translates in Italian as Denominzaion de Origine Protetta or Protected Designation of Origin.
What to Know if You Go:
Asiago resides in the Province of Vicenza in the northeast on the foothills of the alps. It is located 93 kilometers from Venice, and less than a two-hour drive by car from Venice to Asiago.
You can rent a car from the Venice airport.
Pennar Asiago Dairy has three outlets, two in Asiago, including a location in Via Pennar and one on Via Ceresara, and one in Cesuna.
The Asiago Plateau is home to seven towns in addition to Asiago, including Conco, Enego, Foza, Gallio, Lusiana, Roana and Rotzo.
Other famous regional food products include celery from the village of Rubbio in the county of Conco. Rubbio celery is distinguished by its white stem and noted for its superior flavor. Locals grow the celery in their private gardens and sell it at the local markets. Our unity is our strength, and every year on 8th September, the Festival of Celery takes place.
Conco is known for producing a species of dandelion, the Tarassaco, a bitter herb used for cooking that is harvested in spring on the Plateau. The species of dandelion growing in Conco has a delicate, almost sweet, taste which makes it an important ingredient for cooking and baking. In May many restaurants organize fairs, dedicated to specialties with dandelion.
For more information on visiting Asiago, http://www.asiago.to/en/
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