FROM A LOVE THAT BLOSSOMED ON THE ALTOPIANO.
The long history of Brazzale
The oldest dynasty of Italian dairy farms is that of the Brazzale family from Zanè, renowned for its brand “Burro delle Alpi”, recently received the “Marco Polo” award which pays tribute to the Veneto enterprises which have distinguished themselves in the internationalisation of their businesses.
Asiago is known worldwide for its ancient cheese tradition. The history of the oldest Italian dairy farm dynasty, the Brazzale family, is a fundamental part of it. The elders claimed to be descendants of the Spanish, perhaps from a redeemed “hired ruffian” who sought refuge seeking …anonymity. We don’t know, but what we do know is that in 1507, a citizen of Asiago, Rigo Brazzale, and more recently the family had a house in Monte di Calvene, a tiny village nestled on the southern slope of the Altopiano at 650 m above sea level. Easy access to Asiago, via Granezza, in the late 1700s, seven generations ago, allowed them to trade Altopiano butter. They travelled on foot at night, moving the precious food in carts during the cooler hours. The butter was kneaded and “formed”, and sold on the plain, mainly in Thiene, the Veneto’s cheese capital. At that time, butter was considered the most noble part of milk, whilst cheese was viewed to be a “by-product.” The Regency of the Seven Municipalities still reigned: then came the French, Austrians and Italians… In 1898 the family moved to Zanè, where the Group still has its headquarters, but they still preserve a mountain chalet there because … “who knows if we end up going back to where we came from.”
Sacrifices, but also a simple joy that warmed the hearts, making the elders sigh “It was hard work but we were always happy …; we were fond of each other and we helped each other.”
A local minor saga, of humble and hard-working people, with a fundamental love story between Valentino Brazzale (b.1866) and Pierina Magnabosco (b.1870), from whom the numerous offspring that developed the industrial activities in the 1900s descended. This very pretty girl was a member of the Magnabosco family from Tresché Conca, a “wealthy” family; it is said that they owned a row of cows that “reached as far as the village” when they went out to graze, pushed along the streets enclosed by the stone “slabs” that are still visible today. When going to mass with her sisters, Pierina always dressed with great decorum in clothes made by the expert hands of her mother, and certainly did not go unnoticed. You can bet that to get to meet her, the wise butter-maker with his sly eye and drooping moustache came up with the excuse of needing to borrow the famous “caliera.” Pierina, though known as being “smart”, fell into the love trap; or perhaps it was the other way around, who will ever know? The fact is that she soon married Valentino and the house was soon brimming with young children who she left in a “mastella” as if they were chicks, when she went to church in the nearby village of Lusiana.
Grandfather Giovanni Maria (b.1837) held a huge party every time a new baby was born, taking joy in the “sound” of his wooden cart on the cobbles. Pierina gave birth to thirteen children, seven of whom lived to old age. There is still a photograph of her 80th birthday: surrounded by her loving family.
The lure of the Altopiano never stopped and her descendants further grafted their blood with that of the Benetti-“Bisachesi” and Rigoni-“Snekele families.”
It is easy to understand how the heart of the Brazzale family is still in the woods and dales of the Altopiano, between the huts that surround Mount Verena, where Valentino, a simple and good man, “loaded” the hut where he made the butter and “bred” the cheeses to serve the Italian soldiers who built the superb “Verena” fortress and then to the Austrians who, although allies, erected the rather imposing “Busa Verle” on the opposite side.
And it is no coincidence that the latest cheese created by the hands of the Brazzale cheesemakers, according to the traditional recipes of the Altopiano, using mountain milk, is called “Sweet Verena” and its logo portrays a smiling country girl who… looks like grandmother Pierina in the candour of her youthful beauty.
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