Bagolino's golden treasure

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
Bagòss, Bagolino’s golden treasure — Lombardia Secrets

Among the noblest and most valuable cheeses in the world, it is produced exclusively in Bagolino, a small mountain town in the province of Brescia.

Regulated according to the PAT mark, Traditional Agri-food Product, the history of the bagòss is intertwined with that of the Lombard Alps, the traffic of the Serenissima Republic of Venice and the Far East.

In fact, it owes its preciousness – a kilo of seasoned cheese can cost as much as 50 euros – to two peculiarities: the low yield, as it takes 350 liters of milk to produce a wheel of 22 kilos, and the addition of saffron, the “king of spices”, which gives it the characteristic yellow color that results in the nickname of “Bagolino’s Gold”.

Bagòss, Bagolino’s golden treasure — Lombardia Secrets
Bagòss, Bagolino’s golden treasure — Lombardia Secrets

Its birth seems, in fact, to take place when, in the 15th century, Bagolino, thanks also to its strategic importance as the town was rich in iron mines, passed under the Republic of Venice. Its inhabitants, the bagossi, manufactured valuable weapons intended for the soldiers of the Serenissima who in exchange gave them goods and spices, including the precious saffron which in the meantime had been introduced to Europe by the Arabs.

Originally from Asia Minor and Greece, from the Persian zaâfara and the Arabic za’farān, it is obtained from the drying of the stigmas of the beautiful purple flower Crocus sativus, used since ancient times to give flavor to foods, dye fabrics, but also for its aphrodisiac and healing properties. Ancient chronicles tell us, in fact, of the baths that Alexander the Great used to take in tubs full of water and saffron to heal battle wounds or of Cleopatra’s beauty rituals based on this spice.

Bagòss, Bagolino’s golden treasure — Lombardia Secrets
Bagòss, Bagolino’s golden treasure — Lombardia Secrets

The best bagòss is the one that is produced in summer in small huts suitable for cheese making at over 2000 meters of altitude. Here the cows, of a brown breed raised locally, are fed with the herbs of these uncontaminated pastures, thus producing a precious milk which is then processed by hand, filtering it with fir branches and needles, which also guarantee hygiene, and then cooked in a large pot of copper. The processing then continues with the addition of saffron and the ripening which reaches perfection after three years, when the cheese takes on the right consistency and the unique aroma that distinguishes it, protecting it from any imitation.

Today there are only 28 companies in Bagolino that produce the real bagòss and have the responsibility of passing down from father to son a centuries-old tradition that gives life to one of the most sought-after cheeses by the best chefs around the world. Like the famous chef Matteo Felter, born in Gardone and a true lover of Bagòss, who has enhanced it in one of his most loved dishes, Bigoli al Bagòss with rosemary, semi-dry tomatoes and Timut pepper.

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