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Eating Cheese in Abruzzo

By January 13, 2016July 22nd, 20236 Comments

If I were to list all the cheese I have tasted, this post would be monumental. Let’s say that I eat slightly more cheese than the average cheese lover. My work with Gambero Rosso in the last six months has contributed to that. What I tasted during the filming of “ABCheese” was only a fraction of the cheese produced in Italy, yet in a total of ten episodes of Season 1, I ended up “deepening my knowledge” of at least two products in each segment. That’s a lot of cheese.

abcheese eleonora baldwinabcheese eleonora baldwin

In the course of the scouting and the filming of the show I explored some of the cheeses of Lazio – the region of which Rome is the capital – then proceeded to find out more about favorite dairy products made in Campania (Naples, Amalfi, Sorrento plus other locations belonging to this region). After a cheesy visit to Umbria, I also perused the hilltops and mountains of Abruzzo to find some of the region’s best cacio. Next, I drove my car a little further north to Tuscany and ate my weight in pecorino. By the time I hit Romagna, and investigated two of the area’s most representative Protected Denomination of Origin cheeses (PDO in English or DOP in Italian), we had to appoint someone to roll me, for I could no longer walk. The final food coma happened in Lombardia, where I uncovered the secret behind some of the region’s best formaggi, promising to return in order to complete the task (Lombardia is a rather large territory boasting 58+ different types of cheese).

Now that filming is over and the show is airing on Italian satellite TV, it feels good to flip through my camera roll, finding memories of the places, people and products I discovered. Today I want to share some photos I took behind the scenes during filming in Abruzzo this past September. Abruzzo is a part of Italy that is very dear to me. Now, after tasting some of the cheese made there, even more so.

This is a picture I took of the sheep I adopted in Abruzzo. Isn’t she adorable? Her name is Fiocco di Lana. She provides the milk for the cheese I get shipped thanks to my adoption, and her fleece spun into yarn. The idea was so fun we actually used this in the Abruzzo episode.

Abruzzo sheep eleonora baldwinAbruzzo Abcheese eleonora baldwin

This is the man I adopted her from, his name is Nunzio Marcelli. Doesn’t he look like a furry Karl Marx? His agriturismo Porta dei Parchi is great place to unplug.

Nunzio Marcelli Abruzzo eleonora baldwin

Nunzio’s specialty is the ricotta, which he produces on the farm. Ricotta is the perfect example of how crafty our pastoral ancestors were, and how they cleverly employed leftovers  – a concept I greatly care about. The whey squeezed out of curds destined for cheese is not discarded, rather re-employed for ricotta: it is re-heated to the point of becoming like pudding, and collected in perforated baskets. The best way to enjoy ricotta is eating it fresh, straight out of the container with a large spoon. But it can also be used in recipes, or smeared on toast and dusted with sugar. Ricotta can furthermore be enhanced with additional aging procedures: baked, salted, flavored with herbs and smothered with smoke.

flavored ricotta abruzzo eleonora baldwin

Abruzzo is so beautiful! The areas I visited during filming were Scanno, Anversa degli Abruzzi and Cocullo.

Passo Godi in Abruzzo eleonora baldwinAbruzzo eleonora baldwin Passo Godi in Abruzzo eleonora baldwin

The happy, grass-fed cows pictured above belong to Gregorio Rotolo, a bear-like shepherd/cheese maker/farmer who is passionate about his work. He is a good friend and his cheeses made with certified organic raw milk are amazing, I can’t wait to go visit him again in his Bio Agriturismo Valle Scannese.

Update: Sadly, on March 13, 2022 we lost Gregorio. His memory and his passion live on as the symbol of the art of cheese-making in Abruzzo and beyond.

Gregorio Rotolo Abruzzo eleonora baldwinGregorio Rotolo Abruzzo eleonora baldwinGregorio Rotolo Abruzzo eleonora baldwin

You can read more about the cheeses of Abruzzo I tasted in this article published (in Italian) on Gambero Rosso.
In the meantime, my quest for Italy’s best cheese continues, because with the cheeses I tasted in Abruzzo, I merely scratched the surface…

eleonora baldwin abcheese


  • Angela Napolitano says:

    Beautiful photos! Enjoyed reading about the many cheeses. Is there a way for people to adopt goats like this or do you have to live in Italy?

    • Ciao Angela, and thanks for leaving your comment. I adopted a sheep, I don’t know if the organization does the same for goats. You cound send the adoption fee with a wire transfer, but the issue would be how to get the various products shipped to you overseas (meat, cheese, wool…). You’d have to contact the “Adotta una Pecora” organization. Start by browsing the website:

  • Kathleen Carey says:

    Ciao! I’m going to visit Abruzzo in June. My boyfriend’s family lives in Anversa, and Nunzio is his cousin by marriage. I can’t wait!
    Thanks for the great photos and story!


    • Eleonora Baldwin says:

      Thank you Kathy for leaving your comment.
      What an amazing coincidence! You’ll love Abruzzo and especially Porta dei Parchi.
      Please say hi to Nunzio from me 🙂

  • Dot Palmer says:


    Came across an article from Huff post today…
    My niece Karen this past May married a nice young man named Matt Marcelli. It’s funny why I looked around on the internet for the town of Marcelli and spotted this article…but yesterday happened to talk to Matt and he said his family is from Marcelli Abruzzo and how he and Karen want to visit his family in 4 years…what a lovely surprise to hear Matt and Nunzio might be related??

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