Malga di Montasio
August 1, 2014
We take a one lane road up to the Malga di Montasio. When we meet a car one of the drivers has to decide to back up to a spot where he can pull off the road a little to let the other car pass. Some drivers are more secure doing this and some less sure of themselves so it is interesting to watch the maneuverings. This road is busier than I thought it would be because there is also now an agroturismo at the Malga and so there is also traffic from people coming back down after lunch.
The rough translation of Malga is a shepherd’s hut but it does not do the word justice. The word malga I think can better be described as a life style that has existed for centuries. We park the car and just above us is a vast alpine meadow. There is an information sign that explains that there is a record of cheese having been made here since 1200 and that the Montasio cheese has been made here since the 1700’s. For centuries people from the villages below have walked up here with their cows, a small amount of food and lanterns to light the way, to bring their cows to this summer pasture and then return in the fall to bring them back down. There would be a shepherd’s hut (malga) there where they could rest. The shepherd was responsible for the sheep all summer. The cows were of course milked and cheese was made right at the malga. Montasio cheese is still being made here today.
This road was also one of the stages in the Giro D’Italia last year and on the road you can still see words of inspiration to the cyclists that had been painted onto the asphalt. As is normal in the Italian way, there was a lot of controversy over using this road for the Giro. Trees were cut down along the road to allow for the helicopter TV coverage, environmental, historical issues etc….
The ski lift for Sella Nevea was at 1200 m and the Malga Montasio is at 1516 m. These alpine pastures are a vivid green against the perfect blue summer sky and they extend straight up until they meet the rocky slope of the mountain. You can hear the ringing of the cow bells as they graze in the distance.
From here we have a clear view of the other side of Canin (not the side facing Udine) and of the Rifugio Gilberti where we started today’s hike. It seems really high up, let alone on a mountain side and I cannot believe I was actually there!
We park the car a little further down the road to change out of the hiking boots. Just off the side of the road the capogita spots some blueberry bushes and sure enough there are some ripe berries – a sweet, nostalgic treat to end the day.