The origins of “Storico” cheese of the Bitto valley date back thousands of years, but the first written evidence that we have today dates back to the 16th century.
In a Commentary, author Ortensio Lando mentions “the cheese of the Bitto valley” and claims it is a product of Valtellina that one must not miss, together with Melengo cheese (from Valmalenco), as well as cheeses from Ponte or Tirano, and Chiavenna.
The “cheese of the Bitto valley” is often mentioned in commercial transaction documents between the 500s and 800s. In these documents we find reference to superior quality and price compared to the generic local “fat cheese”. This is primarily due to the different ripening capacity.
“Storico” cheese of the Bitto valley comes from the Western Orobic valleys and it’s unique production has been possible thanks to the particular environmental, natural, political and cultural factors. In the territory comprising the Parco delle Orobie Valtellinesi, there is an area of mountain pastures with just the right sunlight, humidity and temperature for an economy of farming and cheesemaking that has been flourishing since the Medieval period.
Another fundamental factor which determined the success of “Storico” cheesemaking is the opening of two important commercial roadways on Como and Bergamo: the first easy to reach by water thanks to the river Adda, and the second connected by the road Via Priula that passes through the Val Brembana, an important commercial road.
During the 15th century the alpine paths that connected the Val Brembana with the Orobic passes (San Marco, Verrobbio, Bocchetta di Trona) formed a network of well travelled roads for merchants, farmers and armies in a Valtellina that was divided between the State of Milan, the Republic of Venice and the Grigioni.
This geopolitical situation sparked fierce competition between two commercial centres: Morbegno and Como on one side, Branzi and Bergamo on the other. “Storico” cheese of the Bitto valley found place in both these markets and many merchants were able to appreciate and create value from its superior quality. For this reason, “Bitto” cheese became a widely exported product.
Thanks to its particular ripening and longevity, it was possible to transport the cheese on long and slow journeys with mules, on carts and on boats. The extraordinary quality and economic value connected to Bitto cheese was such that it justified high transport costs, long ripening and commercial negotiations. We must not forget that cheese remained a luxury until the end of the 1800s.