Urbino Project 2011

Multimedia Journalism in Italy

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Pierluigi Nieddu has been into cheese since his childhood in Sardinia. Now, he has found fulfillment making organic Pecorino cheese on his 170-sheep farm outside Urbino.

URBINO, Italy – Imagine you are visiting Italy, and there are millions of boutiques with beautiful clothes. Somehow you have to quit eating this great Italian food to fit in them, especially goodies like Capocollo, a ham rolled around some kind of cheese. Cheese is such a big deal in the Italian people’s life, nothing seems more important than the happiness it brings.

So you think: Why quit eating? It makes you so happy, this cheese.

Pierluigi Nieddu, an Italian cheese maker, runs his cheese business in Urbino.

Pierluigi Nieddu, a local cheese maker here, understands the dilemmas of cheese as well as anyone. He has been in cheese all his life, through ups and downs.

Nieddu, keeps 170 sheep to make high quality, organic Pecorino cheese, a traditional cheese made of 100 percent sheep’s milk.

He was born in Sardinia, the third largest island west of mainland Italy. Nieddu spent his childhood and teenage years there, where his father ran a small cheese business.

My first experience with making cheese was miserable.

When Nieddu was 6, his father taught him how to make cheese. The boy had so much fun mixing milk in the pot that he forgot about time, and the cheese overcooked. “My first experience with making cheese was miserable,” he said.

In 1976, Nieddu decided to move to the mainland of Italy with his cousins for a better life. He worked for a cheese factory in Piemonte. Then with the experience that he gained in the factory after two years, Nieddu made up his mind to start his own cheese business in Tuscany. The business didn’t turn out as well as he expected because he didn’t understand business management and marketing nearly as well as he understood making cheese. Nieddu and his relatives fell on hard times. From 1982 to 1984, they had to sell all their sheep in order to survive.

Nieddu’s cousins thought about going back to Sardinia. Nieddu had a different thought. He was determined to stay. It was the biggest decision in his life.

Pierluigi Nieddu makes Pecorino cheese, which is a traditional cheese of 100 percent sheep’s milk.

In 1988, Nieddu moved to Urbino, where a local farm was available at a low cost because the owner was having to leave for a job in a big city. That’s when Nieddu’s cheese career got back on track, and the life in Urbino seemed to bring good fortune.

Nieddu got married and had two daughters. Now he sells his cheese not only in Urbino, but also in Gadana and Montesoffio.

Many local shops love to sell his cheeses because they are organic and of high quality. Those qualities are exactly why Renato Radici says he sells Nieddu’s cheeses in his specialty shop in the Galleria Raffaello, Galleria Dell’Altra Economia..

Nieddu has continued to make cheese not because of the money he makes, but because he enjoys the work that he does each day. Cheese is more like a friend than a food, or job.

“Cheese makes me happy,” says Nieddu.

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