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Trip Report My visit to the Tenuta Vannulo Water Buffalo Farm, near Paestum

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Last September, I took two friends on a driving trip of almost three weeks along the Tyrrhenian Coast of Italy. After arriving at the airport in Lamezia Terme on a connecting flight from the NYC area, we meandered to Amantea (1 night) Castrovillari (lunch stop) and Maratea (3 nights) before exploring the Cilento region of Campania (1 night Pisciotta; 1 night Palinuro; 3 nights Sta Maria di Castellabate)

Finally, we headed the Amalfi Coast, where we lingered for the better part of a week, staying at hotels in Ravello, Furore, and Praiano.

I did not write a trip report here, but I am happy to answer any questions about my experience, including hotels and restaurants.

Many posters here have expressed interest in visiting one of the mozzarella-making farms scattered on the plains near Paestum.

Here are some notes about my own visit:

TENUTA VANNULO..CAPACCIO SCALO (near Paestum, south of Salerno)

Whenever the discussion turns to mozzarella from the Paestum area, the name Vannulo comes up, as this is the most well-known of the “mozzarella farms” lining the state highway south of Battipaglia. (The word mozzarella, when spoken in the Cilento, refers to buffalo mozzarella only. Mozzarella made from cow’s milk is “fior di latte.” In the Amalfi area, the term “mozzarella” means the cow milk cheese, produced in Agerola; the product from Cilento, or from Caserta, is referred to there as “mozzarella di bufala.”)

Unlike most farms, Vannulo is organic and unlike most farms, they offer tours in several languages. We phoned ahead to book the 10am English tour, making the short drive from Castellabate on a Friday morning.

For a fee of 4 euro per person, about 20 of us received a tour of the vast buffalo pens, housing several hundred female animals and only a few males, with separate sections for eating, relaxing (on rubber mattresses) , and milking. Feeling itchy? Waddle over to the large, vertical car-wash-like rotating brush for a rubdown. Much was made of the special Swedish milking machine.

A few minutes were spent in front of a large picture window, watching the stretching of the curds into the familiar mozzarella balls and the not-so-familiar treccia braids. An equal number of minutes were spent inside the “leather boutique,” offering handbags and small accessories made from (male) buffalo skin. (The male buffalo meet a fate far less pleasant than that of the females)

A small museum details the history of the farm and displays old implements and interesting photos, including one of the animals grazing amidst the temples at nearby Paestum. Generous samples were handed out at the end of the tour, which lasted about 45 minutes. The information imparted at the tour was pretty basic; one could probably wander around alone and view the animal barns and the through-the-window cheese making.

The most interesting part of the excursion, for me, was the shop selling the buffalo mozzarella, ricotta, provola, and other heavenly incarnations of the milk. Since shipping requires refrigeration, and since this mozzarella should never be refrigerated, it is available only here and the waiting throngs indicated that this is, indeed, a much-prized local product. The cheese often sells out before noon. The white-swathed saleswomen obligingly packed up my meager purchases, with their "acqua bianca" liquid, in a plastic container which was set inside a Styrofoam container. Every other person who exited the shop seemed to be carrying at least 4 of these containers, along with assorted shopping bags. It was quite a sight.

There is a “yogurteria” next door that also saw lots of activity on that Friday morning. Although the menu offers a long list of cakes, and gelati, and yogurt made from buffalo milk, the signature order here appeared to be a heft slice of brioche slathered with fruit yogurt. I tried an apricot yogurt and it was, indeed, pretty terrific.

As for the mozzarella? I lack the words but will never forget.

The farm is but a few minutes drive from the Paestum site.

http://www.vannulo.it/visita.html

Note the disrespect accorded to fior di latte on this officlal site:

http://www.mozzarelladibufala.org/all...

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