The history of Pecorino di Pienza, Italy’s most interesting cheese!
You’d be hard pressed to find another cheese that has incited such adulation as Pecorino. Cacio al Fuso is one of the most intriguing events in the region of Pienza in celebration of Pecorino. Translating directly as ‘cheese to the spindle’, Cacio al Fuso is a regional game where a wheel of Pecorino cheese is rolled as close to a wooden spindle as possible, the aim being to avoid the cheese toppling (very similar to bowls in the UK) with points awarded through a tallying system.
The origin of the sport and the date it was first played are unknown, but many like to think the game we know today has adapted from a less refined version which was invented in a large farmhouse in the countryside of Pienza.
Sports aside, Pecorino is also considered the cheese of kings. Around 800 AD, King of the Franks Carlo Magno was heading to Rome to be crowned the Holy Roman Emperor. Passing through Corsignano, he took shelter in a nearby monastery where he had nothing more than bread and cheese to eat. The abbot of the monastery was humbled when Carlo Magno complimented the cheese so highly, and even asked to take some for his journey to Rome. Carlo Magno’s love for Pecorino di Pienza lives through the locals to this day.
After many years of this tradition falling on the first Sunday in September, the annual celebration has been moved to the square of Pienza, where locals gather to celebrate their regional cheese with competitions and food stalls. For that weekend, the game transforms the town into a festival, with all kinds of Italian foods such as cured meats and locally-sourced olive oils on sale, not to mention the famed Pecorino di Pienza.