Of Buffalo Mozzarella and the Kindness of Strangers

by wired2theworld on March 14, 2012

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One of the reasons we went to Paestum, besides the incredible ruins, was to visit the birthplace of buffalo mozzarella and hopefully see how it’s made. The day before we’d attempted to visit Vannulo dairy and arrived in late afternoon only to discover there were no tours (sometimes, but only in the morning) and saw nary a buffalo. I had to console myself with some chocolate gelato made with buffalo milk (really good).

The next morning we set out on foot from our hotel to visit another local dairy, Masseria Lupata Barlotti. The walk was about half a mile along a two lane road with not much shoulder. We tromped though the long grass at the side of the road, past fallow fields, as cars whizzed by. About half way there, a woman in a very small car stopped and asked us, in Italian, where we were going. We told her “to the farm” and she motioned for us to get in. My Italian is minimal, but she made it clear it was not safe for us to be walking along the road. She dropped us at the driveway to the farm amid many “molto grazie”. My mother and I were surprised at her generosity, but not as surprised as when the exact same thing happened on our walk back to the hotel.

Road leading away from Barlotti farm

The road back to our hotel.

This time, we’d only walked about 30 feet when another tiny car pulled over and a different woman insisted that she give us a ride. We thanked her and got in. Again, she spoke no English but we figured out what she was saying, “You would do it for me.” I was stunned. And honestly I was not sure I would, back home in Los Angeles, where we never pick up hitchhikers, let alone stop and offer rides to strangers. She dropped us right in front of the hotel.

Fast forward three months later and I’m about 2 blocks from home when an older woman flags me down at a stop sign. She asks if I will give her a ride up the hill, a few blocks past my street. I hesitate, (this is an unusual request in my neighborhood and I don’t know her) and then I think back to the women who so kindly stopped for us in Paestum, unasked. I say “sure” and let her in, taking her uphill, past a  curve dangerous for any pedestrian, to where she needs to go. Pay it forward.

How Buffalo Mozzarella is Made; Masseria Lupata Barlotti Dairy in Paestum Italy

Straight ahead at the entrance to Masseria Lupata Barlotti is a two story stone faced building. In the bottom, behind a series of French doors, is the area where the cheese is made. It did not seem as if traditional “tours” were given, but we were free to stand there in the open doors and watch the process as long as we liked.

Read the captions in the photos below to follow the process.
Making buffalo mozzarella at Barlotti

It starts by cooking the milk.

Making buffalo mozzarella at Barlotti

The curds are stirred and stretched and then the whey is poured off, leaving the cheese.

Making buffalo mozzarella at Barlotti

The cheese is poured into a machine which makes perfectly formed balls of mozzarella.

Making buffalo mozzarella at Barlotti

There is a lot of water used during the whole process and the cheese is kept wet the whole time.

Making buffalo mozzarella at Barlotti

The mozzarella is then put in tubs of water and bagged for sale.

Barlotti Mozzarella

Bagged mozzarella

After watching the cheese being made, we walked up the driveway around the building to the back. There we found a little shop selling all the various buffalo milk products including smoked mozzarella and butter. We were each given a small bocconcini of smoked mozzarella to taste. It was good, but for me, too strong to be eaten plain and would have been much better melted into a pasta or pizza.

Making buffalo mozzarella at Barlotti

Smoked mozzarella, top left.

Buffalo butter

Buffalo butter! I really wish I'd bought some to taste.

Field behind the farmhouse

Behind the store were some of the farm's fields, but the buffalo continued to be elusive and we saw none of the beasts.

Ruins next to farm

Right next to the farm are what look like the remains of some ancient buildings, perhaps part of the ruins of Paestum?

Masseria Lupata Barlotti-PAESTUM – V. PORTA MARINA 29, CAPACCIO (SA) T 0828 722002 E masserialupata@vigilio.it
This could be connected to the larger Barlotti mozzarella farm, but is not the same from the looks of the web site.
For a photo of the elusive beasts go here;  (in Italian)

That night, after an arduous journey back from visiting Agropoli, we did not feel like going far, so we simply walked back to Oasi where we’d had the incredible pizza with Buffalo mozzarella and zucchini flowers the day before. Tonight we had pastas; one with vegetables and pancetta, and the other, quite possibly with mozzarella we’d seen made only hours before.

Pasta at Oasi

Gemelli with tomatoes, fresh basil, and buffalo mozzarella.

RISTORANTE PIZZERIA OASI-Via Magna Grecia n. 189, CAP 84063, Loc. Paestum (Zona Archeologica), Prov. SALERNO – ITALIA.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kent @ No Vacation Required March 14, 2012 at 6:50 am

What a great “pay it forward” story. Incredible that the kindness was extended both directions.

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2 wired2theworld March 14, 2012 at 7:41 am

Thanks Kent, I had a feeling you would like this story. 😉

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3 Amy March 14, 2012 at 7:40 am

That pasta is making my mouth water!

Isn’t it funny how kind gestures sometimes seem crazy at home in the United States? The other day I was waiting for a bus in downtown Pittsburgh when a woman with a baby in a stroller asked if anyone had a phone she could use to make a call. No one else responded, and I hesitated. My first inclination was to say no or ignore her, but then I thought about the time I couldn’t get a pay phone to work to Slovenia and needed to call the owner of the car rental shop to return our car before our train left. Frantic, I asked a stranger if I could make a call on his cell phone. He handed it over without hesitation. So while I still had reservations – after all, so much personal information is contained in my Iphone – I handed it to the woman to pay it forward.

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4 wired2theworld March 14, 2012 at 7:42 am

Amy, I agree totally. What a great story! Thanks for sharing.

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5 Sharon Miro March 14, 2012 at 7:48 am

Oh, I am so glad you wrote this into our trip. What a great story of trip kindness.

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6 wired2theworld March 14, 2012 at 8:29 am

Of course! How could I not?

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7 Myra March 14, 2012 at 8:25 am

I love the pay-it-forward story. I remember a woman standing with my Mom and I on the side of a country road in Scotland, just to make sure we got on the right bus. When the bus arrived she explained to the driver where we were going, and wished us happy travels. I still remember that story 18 years later. Your pictures are gorgeous; my stomach is twisted with longing for Italy….and buffalo mozzarella. *sigh*

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8 wired2theworld March 14, 2012 at 8:31 am

Myra- I am always impressed by the stories of travel kindness I hear. Those are the things which can color a trip or experience which will last a lifetime (in a good way).

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9 walkingon travels March 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Isn’t it strange, and just a little sad, how much easier it is to do something nice for a person in a foreign country than it is here in the states, at least in the cities. I would even go as far to say on the mainland. My husband thought I was crazy when we were leaving a beach on the Big Island and 2 college age kids stuck their thumbs out at the bottom of a very big hill. I pulled over and had them pop right in. I lived at the beach in NY for over a year and I know that’s just part of beach life. Same goes in other parts of the world. It’s not ax-murder city all the time. Plus, since they were women picking you up I’m sure it was a little bit easier to take them up on their kindness than it would be a man.
As for your food shots- as always you have me drooling. Thankfully I will be headed in that direction in the fall so I can have my fill too.

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10 wired2theworld March 14, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Yes, I think we all do things in other places we might not do at home (like riding in the back of a cab which has no seat belts or giving rides to strangers).

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11 Akila March 15, 2012 at 2:32 am

What a great pay it forward story — we were thinking about this just yesterday because in the morning, Patrick broke off a half of a salami to give to a stray dog and in the evening, a stranger bought us dessert to welcome us to his village. It was a very strange coincidence that on the same day that we did something good, someone did something good for us.

Love that you got to see how bufala mozzarella was made. That’s something I really want to see — I’ll have to tack Paestum on to my “want to go” places.

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12 Cindy March 20, 2012 at 4:34 am

I live in Naples and I eat this delicious mozzarella very often 🙂 It’s a shame that shoppers don’t sell it fresh all the time, and second day it isn’t just as good.

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13 Heidi Leon March 29, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Being an expat and a constant traveler I can say many times we were saved by unknown samaritans (or angels as my very Catholic mother would say) that kindly helped us to get on the right bus, walked us down to the correct address (even though it wasn´t the direction they were heading) or just like you, kindly stopped their car and offered us a ride. As you said on other comment these small and big acts of kindness are what gives color (and human touch) to a travel.

Where are all those buffalos?. Isn´t that a bit strange?.

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14 wired2theworld March 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Heidi- I know the buffalo are there, we just didn’t see them! I wish I had…

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