Pictures taken in October 2007 and June 2008
In 2002 the University of Pisa has discovered that the sheep of Zeri are an autochtonous breed.
A group of young women are dedicating their lives to these animals and to a profession in extinction
October 2007.
The sheep of Zeri graze in the woods of the Appennine mountains at Formentara and Monte Colombo where they find chestnuts,
acorns and sprigs. This contributes to the particular taste of the meat.
Lella, Valentina's young dog, being trained to tend the flock.
This is particularly important since the trail of the wolves borders the pastures.
Valentina Merletti, 27.
Why the cooperative mainly consists in women is due to the fact that about 100 to 150 sheep are needed
to be able to make a living herding and raising sheep.
Most men work in the cities.
Zeri is a very remote area – including 19 villages – in the Appennine mountains in Tuscany, bordering Emilia Romagna and Liguria. There are no shops. In fact the bread is delivered by the baker in this box where the villagers collect it every day.
Luisa Ladotti, 75 and her husband Domenico Santinelli, 77, grandfather of Valentina Merletti
who grew up in La Spezia, where her parents had moved, came back to the mountains after leaving her job as a secretary
and took over her grandfather's business in 2001 at the age of 21.
Bucci family making cheese in the secluded village Bosco
Wolves are a daily threat for the shepherds. Trained dogs play a vital role in the defense of the sheep.
Cinzia Angiolini, 33, head of the cooperative, stabilizing a lambs' legs in the first snow of the year.
Being a shepherd is a full time job – but these young women have chosen it.
She studied at the Academy of Arts and used to be a fine art restorer but decided to come back to the mountains and take over her parent's business.
Cinzia Angiolini, 33, on one of her pastures, overlooking the Appennine Mountains.
The sickly and feeble lambs stay in the stable and are being hand-fed.
Cinzia Angiolini weighs a lamb for a customer.
For the moment the “Cooperative for the valorization and preservation of the sheep of Zeri” is only able to distribute their lambs locally.
They are hoping to get funds for a mobile slaughter-van since at the moment they have to drive about 40 minutes to Pontremoli.
lamb being cooked in the traditional “testi”
Salvatore, villager, helping to prepare the Slow Food dinner.
13 kilo lamb ready for the dinner of the Slow Food committee.
Most lambs are slaughtered when they weigh about 30 kilos.
The meat is fat free and tender and does not have the taste of venison.
June 2008. Cinzia Angiolini on the way to one of her pastures
Giuseppino from Castoglio and his flock
Signora Caneva with some of her sheep which are not exclusively of the “Zerasca” race
Signora Angiolini, Cinzia's mother making cheese
Sperindé family
Signora Figaroli, Patrizia's mother, making ricotta and cheese
Patrizia Figaroli, 34, one of the founding members of the cooperative with her sheep and dog
Signore Angiolini, Cinzia's father, putting the flock into the stables in the evening.