MAN AND THE MOUNTAIN

The territorial organization of the montane zone of Mount Baldo, located between 900 m and 1,600 m altitude, dates back to the 18th century, when the local nobility began to extend its estates into this area. Vast extensions of land that had previously been used by shepherds for sheep and goat farming, turned into important locations for grazing cattle during the summer, which caused a progressive development of pastureland. The malghe, or alpine pastures, originated in this context and have kept the same territorial organization ever since. Large amounts of pastureland were further expanded, which caused a reduction of woodland. Likewise, in the pastures huts gradually changed and were converted from shepherd lodgings into “baiti” (alpine huts), buildings used for the processing of milk and as living quarters for herdsmen during the alpine summer pasturing period.

pianta

The “baiti” of the alpine pastures present similar characteristics throughout Mount Baldo. Always located on ventilated hilltops to favor the conservation of milk during the summer months, the huts included the “logo del late” (the milk room) and the “logo del fogo” (the fire room). The “logo del late” was where milk was made to stand in “mastele” (large,low and round wooden containers) so that the cream, from which butter was obtained, could surface. To ensure adequate ventilation, the room was always located on the side of the building facing the valley; it was often semicircular and provided with small windows barred with stone slabs or wooden poles. The “logo del fogo”, always faces the slopes; its characteristic fireplace protrudes from the building as to prevent the roof – originally built with reeds (canel)– from catching fire. It was where the “caldera” was placed: a large copper caldron used to warm skimmed milk for the processing of cheese and ricotta. A vaulted barn was often located below the “logo del late” and used as shelter for newborn calves or sick livestock.

casara baito

Other buildings on the alpine pasture were the “casara”, for the conservation of cheese, and the pigsties where pigs were bred and fed on “scòta” (whey) , the watery substance left over from the processing of milk. Close to the buildings were small portions of land used for growing vegetables, surrounded by small dry stone walls and scanty pinewoods used as shelters for livestock during warm summer days or during the night. Also in the pasturelands are some “puddles”, obtained from natural dolines waterproofed with clay, where rainwater is gathered to water livestock.

The “load”, in other words the number of animals a pasture can keep, is expressed in “headage payments”, that correspond to the number of adult cattle. The assignment of pastures for the breeding seasons to private individuals or consortiums of farmers is arranged through alpine pasture farming contracts based on “headage”. The value of each headage is around 7-10 kilograms of butter, according to the productivity of the pastures.

The alpine pasturing season begins at the end of May or in early June in relation to the seasonal trend and development of the grassy turf. Pasture farming contracts traditionally expire on the 29th of September, St. Michael’s Day. On that day, herdsmen descending with their herds from the mountain pastures gather at Prada, where the marketfair of St Michael, dating back to the 17th century, still takes place.

Today, alpine pastures are still exploited during the summer for grazing cattle, which for farmers represents a significant relief from labor and expenses. Instead the “baiti”, or alpine huts, have lost their traditional role because of the introduction of modern farming and milk processing techniques. In the last few decades, they have remained unused or abandoned and in many cases have gradually fell in disrepair.

 

malga-busa

Alpine Hut Busa

malgavalvaccara

Alpine Hut Valvaccara

malga-zocchi-san-zeno-neve
malga-zocchi-san-zeno-di-m

Alpine Hut Zocchi San Zeno di Montagna