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Photo Credit: Tenuta Vannulo

This Roadside Shop Makes the Best Mozzarella in Italy

The best place on earth to eat buffalo mozzarella isn’t on a patio overlooking the vertiginous cliffs of the Amalfi Coast nor at a raucous Neapolitan wedding (though I hope you can have both experiences at least once in your life).

The perfect venue for enjoying a freshly made globe of mozzarella di bufala is in your car just off an aesthetically challenged stretch of the SS18 in Capaccio in southern Campania. There, from a small storefront next to the parking lot, Tenuta Vannulo sells cheese so fresh it’s still warm and so tempting it’s impossible to not devour it the second you sit in the car.

 tenuta vannulo in campania

Tenuta Vannulo sits about an hour’s drive southeast of Salerno in a part of southern Italy that has been home to buffaloes for about a thousand years. The area around Capaccio is made up of a broad plain that was once marshy with tributaries running in to the nearby sea, an ideal habitat for wallowing animals. Most visitors to Italy never make it this far south and those who do are typically headed to the honey-hued, fifth century temples at Paestum nearby, unaware that some of the greatest mozzarella is made nearby, the product of centuries of experience transmitted through generations.

 

Tenuta Vannulo Buffalo Farm

Photo: Tenuta Vannulo

 

Vannulo’s founder Tonino Palmieri is the descendent of buffalo herders and he has built on the traditions of his ancestors, transforming a 500-acre farm into an absolute paradise for his 300 buffaloes. Vast fields grow grasses and flowering aromatic herbs that feed his herd. Their shaded stall is a sprawling complex replete with rubber mattresses for the animals to lounge on while music plays from speakers to soothe them. They have their own massage facilities, sets of spinning yellow bristles that scrub the animals’ dark grey hides. There are showers, too, where they can enjoy a fine mist to cool themselves and make pools to wallow in during the hot Campanian summer. If all this sounds frivolous, it’s not. Buffaloes are sensitive creatures and undue stress affects their milk production. Tenuta Vannulo offers its herd a stress-free life and Vannulo contends that happy buffaloes make better milk and therefore better mozzarella. 

  

Tenuta Vannulo Dairy Farm Italy

Photo: Tenuta Vannulo

 

The animals are milked based on their own schedule. Visitors to the farm can join a tour during which they can observe the animals from a catwalk as they enter a corral bound for the state-of-the-art milking machine. A set of robotic arms manage the milking, then the animal is free to return to their routine of lounging, massaging, showering, or wallowing. The milk is destined for the caseificio (cheese making facility) a few dozen yards away. There, it is heated, then transformed into curd. The curd is broken, then stretched and pulled to give it a smooth consistency. Each step is done by experienced cheesemakers who ultimately form the cheese into mozzarella balls or ropes to create braids. It’s all destined for the storefront a few steps away where hungry customers queue up in the morning for Vannulo’s limited production, then retreat to their cars for the ultimate mozzarella eating experience.

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