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The birthplace of Gorgonzola. Maybe.

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Somewhat satisfied, we followed Enzo as he led us through an adjacent street to another section of the village a few blocks away. Along the way, we passed more booths with various types and brands of Gorgonzola and freshly made breads on sale. Restaurants were also open, with tables and umbrellas set up outside their doors.

Did Leonardo enjoy Gorgonzola?

At the end of the street is the narrow Martesana canal. Admired and studied by Leonardo da Vinci, the canal was built in 1457 and is one of a small network spreading out in various directions from Milan. The canal attracts many visitors to Gorgonzola, Enzo told us, adding that according to local legend, da Vinci also laid out the master plan for the village while he was visiting in the area.

It was just after we crossed the low-arched stone bridge over the canal that we saw the other big star of the fair, Amaranto. She was hustling her 1,500 pounds across her temporary pen toward an admiring crowd of fans. Thrusting her big head through the narrow metal poles of the makeshift fence, she placidly accepted the caresses of the dozens of hands of her fans, her great eyes gazing here and there, thinking only a cow knows what.

A few yards away we met her owner, Emilio Manzoni. A dairy farmer from Gorgonzola, Mr. Manzoni was demonstrating how to make a simple cheese and then distributing small scoops of the freshly made white curd to his audience. "In my opinion, it needs a little sugar and a little salt," one taster said, playing critic. Mr. Manzoni just smiled good-naturedly and continued handing out the samples.

When I asked about Amaranto, he told me she is a Brown Swiss, the ancient breed from the Alps that first provided the milk for making Gorgonzola. Today, he said, cheesemakers prefer another breed, Holstein Friesian, because its milk output is greater.

Once upon a cow
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