Saturday, May 21, 2011

Where's Nonno? Dove e' Nonno-The Cows in Courmayeur

Nonno is Ben's grandfather who lives in Italy, and he is a guest blogger. 
Check out his "Where's Nonno?"  in our archive!

Nonno visited Mrs. Yollis' class while back in the United States.

Nonno is a great photographer and travel guide!
Here is his new post about the cows in Courmayeur, Italy!

Here in our village of Courmayeur, and in other parts of our region, Valle d’Aosta, cows are important for the milk and because the farmers produce a very special cheese called “Fontina”.

Making Fontina
The Fontina Cheese is stored in caves until it is ready to eat.

In the summer, the farmers take the cows high up in the mountain pastures where the grass is fresh and tender. The Fontina from the summer grass is best.

The end of the summer season is marked with a traditional celebration dear to the locals called "la désarpa". After a long summer spent in the high mountain pastures, at the foot of the highest peaks in Europe, the cows come to graze at the bottom of the valley during the fall until the snow arrives.

The cows walk through the villages, decorated with flowers and with all their lare bells ringing loudly. The children leave school to watch the parade through the village.

In the winter, the cows are inside the barns because of all the snow. While inside the cows eat hay.  The cheese from the winter is good, but not as good as the summer cheese.

The battle of Queens, or as we call it the Battle of the Cows, is a folk event taking place in our Aosta Valley every year. Nearby countries of France and Switzerland have similar events.

The cows are paired off based on weight. Scraping the ground with their hoofs, pushing against or leaning onto the competitor's head, they mark their own territory; the encounter begins when one of the two challenges the other's space. The cows do not actually hurt each other.

The prizes for the winners are large bells hanging from a collar in richly worked leather, but the owner is happiest when the queen is in their barn.

The farmers that take care of the cows and make the Fontina also harvest chestnuts which they dry, store and eat with cream and honey.

Cows and high pastures in the Alps
A Presto - Nonno

Do you think you might like some Fontina or Chestnuts?

What do you think about the places our cows live?


  1. Dear Mrs.Yolis,I is a good place for cows to live.Also we have something new a Mrs.Hemmbre's blog is the bulldog blog.We have a new blog is is called
    You can visit it.P.s.I am from the blog.From Alex the 3rd grader.

  2. Dear Nonno,

    Once again thank you for another wonderful post. What a beautiful part of the world this village is.
    It really does remind me when I used to live in Corryony up in the high country near the Snowy Mountains.

    How interestng that they make the cows walk through the villages.

    I really would love to try this cheese somehow I really feel it would be so yummy to eat as well as the chestnuts.
    I remember buying chestnuts when I was in Italy at a corner street and boy they did taste rather good.
    I have got a feeling that maybe Nonno you like both. Am I right Nonno. :)

    Thank you for a lovely post.
    From AA.

  3. This is a delightful post and well presented. I very much like finding out about other places in the world. Rural Italy is like where we live, but it has sunshine! Italian cheese, Italian food an absolute delight.
    Do they make cheese in Southern California ... speciality small farm cheese? America has such a huge home market, you don't seem to export many specialist cheeses.
    Is there anywhere in the world that doesn't produce cheese, but has schools?

  4. I never heard of fontina cheese. I thought this was very interesting and the pictures were very nice.I like melted cheese alot.

  5. Dear Nonno,

    What a great post about the cows! I really liked the enormous pots for making cheese! It was as big as the worker!

    I thought it was also very interesting that the cows graze at the bottom of the valley during the fall before the snow comes. You said that the cows walk into the village, wearing flowers, and bells. When the cows are wearing the flowers and bells, walking in the village does the flowers and bells tickle the cows?

    Also, in the winter I thought it was very interesting that the cows go into the barn. I was wondering if it was actually a barn or not, because it looked a little bit fancy if it was just a barn. Our barns in Los Angles are not fancy at all. The color is mostly brown.

    I have some questions for you:

    Are the barns mostly brown where you live?

    Where were you when you took the pictures?

    Ben’s Classmate,

    P.S. My reading statistic is a 4.4!

  6. To Mrs Yollis and the year 3's,

    Our names are Isabella and Bernie.
    We really like your blog but we
    especially like the video about how
    to make a quality comment.We live in Adelaide and we have really cool places in Adelaide.What is it like to live in America? Mrs Yollis sounds like a very nice,interesting and funny teacher. How do you make your blog so popular?
    Sorry for posting our comment hear, but we didn't know where to leave a general comment.

    from Isabella and Bernie. :)

  7. Yeah! I love cows! Sounds cool!

    Your bud,

  8. Dear Nonno,
    Thank you for the interesting post on the cows in Courmayeur and the fontina cheese. We have great memories of visiting that valley with you in the summer. It is beautiful. Remember the restaurant with the big statue of the cow on the roof we went to there?
    Ben and his Mom

  9. Dear Nonno,
    What wonderful traditions in such a beautiful setting. It is so special that in our fast paced world one can find such a peaceful place.
    I remember having roasted chestnuts as a young girl which were sold by a vendor on a street corner in my home town. Fontina has always been a favorite cheese but I know the cheese made in the village would surely surpass anything I have ever tasted.
    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful stories. They are true treasures.
    JoAnn Jacobs

  10. Dear Nonno, Mrs Yollis and Students,

    I really enjoyed reading through Nonno's posts about Italy!
    I have a Nonno & Nonna of my own here in Australia. They are from the North of Italy as well, from a town call San Leonardo in Udine. They tell me stories about it all the time. I hope to visit there one day! They tell me Udine has a really good soccer team but I like Aussie rules football much more.

    Does Nonno know of San Leonardo & Udine?

    (Student teacher from Victoria, Australia)

    PS: That was much first ever blog comment! Your class blog has inspired me to one day have my own class blog with my own students.
    Keep up the amazing work!!

  11. Ciao Alexa

    We had a nice time visiting your class last week. I hope you tasted the cheese. The cow barns in our area are made of cement and the cows stay in them all winter. The bells are very loud but I would not think they tickle.

    A Presto

  12. Ciao AA

    I like the cheese better than the chestnuts. The nuts are better with whip cream or ice cream I think. In Italy they are often used in cakes.


  13. Ben

    It is time for you to come back to Italy. Maybe spend a whole summer!


  14. Mick

    Thanks for the comment. I do know of Udine.I have not visited yet but it is on our list to visit soon. It is all the way across Italy from us.


  15. Dear Nonno,

    Thank you for the cheese and the cheese nuts. I loved the chestnuts. They were great. I was interested to hear about cows and flowers. You also told us about how they make cheese from cows and goats. Thank you for telling us. I hope to see you again.


  16. Dear Nonno,

    I really enjoyed all your post about Italy. I have learned a lot about this beautiful country even more from your post.

    Your sincerely,


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