Introduction

 

Provincia Granda (the Big Province)

Profilo del Monviso

The splendid landscape of the south - western arch of the Alps, dominated by the eye - catching and unmistakable mass of Mount Monviso, embraces a special island: the Province of Cuneo, always known as the "Provincia Granda" (the Big Province) thanks to the extent of its region. This region consists of a central part of plain, more appropriately a tableland of average altitude, ranging from 300 to 600 - 700 metres above sea level, snuggling up against the alpine chain to the west of the mountains and to the east the Langa and Roero hills, opening out north to the Po Valley. A region that has always been somewhat isolated, far as it is from the bigger roads of communication, but it is perhaps for this reason that the province of Cuneo has managed to skilfully preserve the integrity of its region and where urban and productive development has taken into consideration environmental and agricultural needs.

Colline del CuneeseFarming in this region still maintains its importance and has evolved and modernised, never losing contact with tradition, unlike other areas where only marginal importance has been given to the farming sector in the economy complex. To confirm what has been said so far, there are sufficient details relative to the consistency of the provincial farming sector. In terms of global farming production, Cuneo represents one of the most important Piedmontese and Italian realities, contributing with 3% of the total national farming production and 38% of the regional production. Playing a leading role are the zootechnical products with almost 52% of the total provincial production, 49% of the regional production, and 5% in the national panorama. Then there is the sector of arboreous cultures (which include vines and fruit) and the herbaceous cultivations (cereals and vegetables, forage, and industrial trees and plants), both with quotas close to 21%. The farms present at the 5 th Censimento dell'Agricoltura (Farming Census), which took place in 2000, numbered over 39,000, most of which were directly farmer-run (98% of the farms and 80% of the farming areas utilised) with an average surface area equal to 8.4, in gradual but constant expansion, which shows the process of area concentration.

Vigneti nel RoeroAlongside an important nucleus of specialised farms, well-structured and market-oriented, and a considerable number of farms concentrated on the tablelands and the most important hilly regions, there are a great number of smaller farms, often run part-time, situated mainly in disadvantaged hilly and mountain areas. A movement to rediscover the importance of traditions and tastes typical of a region has contributed towards giving commercial space to niche productions in difficult environments. In fact, we are assisting in a gradual growth of farms even in marginal areas such as mountains and high hills. Comparing the overall details of the Piedmont Region, we find the following ratios: one third of the farms and cropped surface areas is in the province of Cuneo and the percentage in use in farming compared with the total utilised is approximately double the regional average; 70% of the fruit orchards and 80% of the hazel groves, 45% of the vegetables, 40% of the meadows, 30% of the vineyards are concentrated in the province, and almost all are marked DOC (AOC) and DOCG (AOCG), and from which some of the most prestigious Italian wines receive their origin.

Razza Bovina PiemonteseEven the zootechnical situation is of great importance: 50% of the cattle, 70% of the pigs, 40% of the chickens and 80% of the rabbits are from Cuneo. Approximately 30% of Piedmontese beehives are in the province of Cuneo . Approximately 50% of the milk produced annually in Piedmont comes from the Province of Cuneo. Every summer about 35,000 head of cattle and about 30,000 sheep and goats leave the tablelands to make their way up to the mountain pastures of Cuneo's mountains, fully respecting an old tradition, enabling the integrated exploitation of the high-altitude forage resources and the production of top quality local cheeses with their unmistakable taste. 1500 producers are engaged in organic farming in the province, (more than 60% of the regional total) and about a hundred farms prepare and process these products.

The strongest farming areas are in the Saluzzo region where there is a concentration of fresh fruit productions, and specialised wine - producing hills of the Langhe and Roero areas, characterised by products of the highest quality, creating the perfect combination of tourism and farming, the entire tableland, a predominant zootechnical orientation, not to mention the cereal and horticultural areas. The hills of the Alta Langa are covered with hazel groves, whilst fruit-chestnut and chestnut woods are typical of the middle-high mountains of all the valleys of Cuneo .

Lardo CuneoFarming of such importance, having evolved constantly, never losing touch with tradition, has produced a vast variety of good, genuine, unique products, ready to surprise and arouse the tastes of consumers. The following pages illustrate the various local products in order to give everyone the chance and curiosity to discover the treasure trove of wine and food to be found in this great region, not only in the shops and supermarkets, but also through research in the places of origin and production.