Our story

The history of our cheese has its roots deep in time. The original recipe dates back almost a thousand years, and we produce Grana Padano PDO every day with the same passion.


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Chiaravalle Abbey

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A journey spanning 1000 years, through traditions, innovations, and recognitions.

In 1000 A.D.

It all began around a thousand years ago, during a time where many discoveries had still not occurred, discoveries we now take for granted.

During the Middle Ages people were at the mercy of the environment and had to adapt fast to survive.

Food preservation methods

For agriculture and farming, this meant adapting to the seasonal cycle and to the produce that nature provided each and every month.

Food preservation techniques (such as sun-drying and salting) were limited and still very much undeveloped, so a large majority of food would deteriorate rapidly.

Milk needed on the day of milking and fresh cheese didn’t last much longer than a day.

Having reclaimed a marshy area in the Po River plain, the Cistercian monks built Chiaravalle Abbey and started cultivating crops and rearing livestock. Soon after, their land-based economy led to an increase of food production and a surplus of milk, which far exceeded the modest needs of their community and the local population.

It would have been a shame to waste one of the most nutritious foods available in Middle Ages. Thus, they needed to find a way to be able to preserve the milk for longer periods.

“Cum grano Salis”

Probably after long, thoughtful consideration and a few experiments, the idea of slow cooking the milk, adding rennet and then salting the cheese was the obvious solution.

The result was a hard cheese, the flavour of which developed and matured with time, preserving the nutritional properties of the milk and the precious raw material from which it was made.

This rough,

dense “cacio” (cheese) was produced in the monastery cellars, the first true dairies in history. It was here, under the monks’ watchful eyes, that certain professional roles such as the “casaro” began to emerge. The “casaro” is a true expert in the art of cheese-making. Due to the long ageing process, the monks called their cheese “caseus vetus”, “old cheese”. The name underlined just one element of Grana Padano that distinguishes it from the traditional, fresh cheeses, which at that time had to be eaten quickly.

“Formai de grana”,

However, being unfamiliar with Latin, peasants at the time called it “formai de grana” or simply “grana”, because of its typical grainy texture (“grana” meaning “grain” in Italian).
Every area produced its own “grana”, so the name varied according to its geographical origin. Among the most commonly mentioned, the “grana milanese”, from Milan, the “piacentino” (Piacenza), the “mantovano” (Mantua) and the “lodesano” (Lodi) regarded by many as the oldest.

Dukes, marquises and…

Throughout the centuries the Grana Padano produced in the Po Valley became increasingly popular. It was the centrepiece of Renaissance banquets, treasured by princes and dukes.
Among the historical records mentioning the cheese, there was a letter from Isabella d’Este, the spouse of Francesco II Gonzaga and Marquess of Mantua. In 1504, Isabella sent the renowned cheese as a gift to her relatives, the Dukes of Ferrara.

The folk tradition

Grana Padano’s rich nutritional properties, its long shelf-life and its distinctive characteristics and flavour meant that it became an important food source for people living in the country, especially during terrible famines.
Grana Padano came to represent an entire culture as it was appreciated by everyone, regardless of economic and social standing. It was highly valued by both the rich and noble, who became accustomed to a rather elaborate and refined cuisine, unlike the poor, whose daily recipes were much more simple and traditional in comparison.

As time goes by

With time, the method of transforming milk into “grana” continued to spread, eventually becoming a pillar of the rural economy.
The production technique of “grana” has been handed down, remaining faithful to its traditional process, which is still being used to this day. This process continues to ensure that this unique cheese maintains its fragrant qualities and its appeal which has made it famous worldwide.

A matter of identity

As the gastronomical culture and food practices continue to evolve with time, there is an ever growing need to clearly identify the characteristics and peculiarities of our ancient tradition and specific production techniques.
The decision was made to turn the generic name of a traditional cheese, into its very own name, thus making the cheese truly unique.
From then on, the term “Grana Padano” would identify only a particular cheese produced in a designated geographical area, using specific raw materials and techniques, and following step-by-step procedures.


On the 1st of June in Stresa, Piedmont, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, workers and technicians of the European cheese-making industry signed an agreement defining the rules of the official denomination of cheeses and the identification of their specific features.
That day, the experts distinguished two different types of the “Grana Lodigiano” cheese. Today they are now identified as Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano.


On the 18th of June, Federlatte (The Federation of Dairy Cooperatives) and Assolatte (The confederation of dairy industries) established the Grana Padano Protection Consortium, which reunited the producers and retailers of the cheese.


On the 30th of October, the Italian Republic Presidential Decree no. 1269 was issued. The decree related to the “recognition of the names associated with the methods of processing, the material properties and the production area of cheeses.” Amongst these, was Grana Padano.

In 1957

the Grana Padano Protection Consortium assumed the role of overseeing the production and trade of Grana Padano cheese.


On December 12th, an agreement was made to confirm the purpose and the aims of the Consortium for the Protection of Grana Padano. The primary purpose was to protect the uniqueness of the cheese. Additionally, it was also to publicise and promote the cheese, through education about its properties; initiatives and activities in order to support local production; regulating distribution and marketing, not just in Italy alone, but globally.


The European Union assigned Grana Padano the DOP status (or PDO in English: Protected Designation of Origin). Following this recognition, in addition to the approval of the Protection Consortium and the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, an external certification company, CSQA, was appointed to ensure that every single Grana Padano wheel is made to the exact specifications required.

From 2002 until today

Between 2002 and 2017, the role of the Grana Padano Cheese Protection Consortium has been renewed, reviewed, and expanded.
The seal of approval from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry allows the Consortium to operate up until December 31st, 2054.

Chiaravalle Abbey

The magical place where it all began: this is where Grana Padano was born.






The community of the Cistercians

The Cistercians

The Cistercian monastic order was founded in Citeaux, France, in 1098. Its founder, Robert de Molesme, together with a group of monks, wanted to restore strict compliance with the Rule of Saint Benedict, at a time when the communities of the Benedictine monks were characterised by a rather lax approach to customs. According to the Benedictine rule, the monks were to dedicate their lives to prayer and to working in the fields, with a particular focus on reclaiming and using the territory rationally and responsibly.

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The façade of Chiaravalle Abbey in Milan

The Church

Chiaravalle Abbey was founded between 1134 and 1135 in an uncultivated, marshy area with many villages which were then incorporated into the properties of the monastery. The citizens of Milan supported the foundation of the abbey from the very beginning, donating land and gathering the required funds. However, today nothing remains of the first settlement. Around 1150-1160, work began on building the church as we know it today. The brick building was built from the choir and the apse so that it could host religious functions as soon as possible and in 1221 the archbishop of Milan officially consecrated the abbey of Chiaravalle (the church).

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Chiaravalle Mill

The Mill

Located within the monastic complex, the lovely medieval structure of Chiaravalle Mill is an ancient grain mill which has now become a multi-use centre for educating people about sustainability.
Chiaravalle Mill was built in the 12th century (the first document that certifies its existence and use dates back to 1238). The original oak wheels, moved by the waters of the Vettabbia canal, have since been lost. The granite millstones would move, milling the grains which were then collected in the basins still conserved on the ground floor.

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Chiaravalle Abbey and its mill

View from the Chiaravalle Abbey cloister in Milan

The Cloister

The cloister can be found beside the right side of the church, where the longer arm of the cross is located. It is thought to have been built in the same period as the church, between the 12th and 13th centuries. However, all that remains of the original structure is the side behind the church and two aisles. When entering the cloister, there is a beautiful fresco above the front door portraying the Virgin and Child, honoured by the fathers who had founded the Order of Cistercian monks in Chiaravalle. To the right there is a stone which commemorates the date of its foundation – 11 February 1135 – and its consecration, in 1221. The cloister is characterised by ogival, pointed, arches on coupled columns, including some with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic patterns.

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Lantern tower of Chiaravalle Abbey in Milan

The Bell Tower

The tower was built in 1329, two centuries after the monastery of Chiaravalle was built, probably by Francesco Pecorari from Cremona. The tower, 56.2 metres tall, was made of solid masonry. Its complicated weaving of floors and combinations are a throwback to the late Gothic style of Lombardy, in contrast with the stern architectural styles desired by St Bernard.
It is composed of three bodies, one on top of another in an octagonal layout, each comprising three floors.
The walls are interspersed by hanging arches, double lancet windows small loggias on columns, and the tower ends in a conical spire.

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Clock tower of the Abbey of Chiaravalle

The Clock Tower

The clock tower pales somewhat into the background when compared to the bell tower. However, its history is extremely interesting.
The original tower dates back to 1368 and Leonardo da Vinci mentions it in the Atlantic Code.
According to this source, the tower interior hosted “The clock of the Chiaravalle tower, displaying moon, sun, hours and minutes”. It was an astronomical clock, designed according to the geocentric theories popular at the time, which indicated the hours, minutes and the movement of the sun and moon on different faces.
According to some sources, in the early 19th century, the clock was still present on the tower even if it was damaged by the pillages of the French at the end of the 18th century. No further traces of it have been found since.

The current clock dates to the middle of the 19th century (1826) while the five bells inside the tower can be dated to the early 20th century. The bells of Chiaravalle Abbey, which are rung manually, are dedicated to the Holy Angels of God, the deceased followers, St Peter the Apostle, the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Indoor naves of Chiaravalle Abbey

The Abbey Interior

The interior of the church presents a Latin cross layout, with transept and apse in a straight line as well as a structure with three naves, separated by rounded arches supported on cylindrical pillars, without capitals. The central nave is the largest one and it is composed of four aisles, while the naves at the side are divided into eight aisles. The presbytery is square and hosts the main altar (1689) and the abbot’s pulpit carved in 1576 by Gottardo. It features Our Lady of the Milk in the central panel and the two saints, Benedict and Bernard in the ones at the sides. Instead, the choir is located level with the fifth aisle of the central nave. It was made by Carlo Garavaglia, master of the Baroque period (1645-1649), in walnut wood, while the panels in the back benches depict Episodes in the life of St. Bernard.

Choir of Chiaravalle Abbey

The Abbey Interior

An octagonal tholobate, supported by pendentives, is grafted on to the square dome base, while the dome itself features a striking decoration in the same colour as the light blue sky. Tearing our gaze away from the dome, we can admire the transepts. The one on the right has three chapels, the first dedicated to St. Bernard of Chiaravalle, the second to the Passion of Christ and the third to St. Benedict. Additionally, there is a sacristy near the southern transept, created in 1412 as a small chapel and subsequently enlarged and reworked from 1637 until 1708. Finally, there is the left-hand transept with chapels that date back to the 12th century, dedicated to Mary Magdalene (1582), St. Stephen and the Rosary.

Frescoes in Chiaravalle Abbey

The art and frescoes inside the Abbey

In line with the construction styles desired by St. Bernard, initially, all frills were banned, and all painted decoration was forbidden inside the abbey. However, in the centuries after the construction of the abbey, considerable changes were made, and Chiaravalle became a precious location for the art history world. Indeed, even today on the counter façade we can admire the main cycles of frescoes in the church (1613-1616), created by Bartolomeo Roverio and brothers Giovanni Battista and Giovanni Mauro della Rovere.

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Frescoes in Chiaravalle Abbey

The art and frescoes inside the Abbey

The transept on the right features the family tree of the Cistercian family and on the same wall are the stairs that lead to the only dormitory; above it the Madonna and Child with Angels, masterpiece of the great master of the Renaissance, Bernardino Luini (1512). In the transept on the right we can also admire the Apparition of the Virgin to St. Bernard, the Erection of Cîteaux Abbey, St. Bernard and Angels playing musical instruments and David placating the wrath of Saul. The transept on the left features the following frescoes: Bernard of Poblet killed by a Muslim from Spain whose sister he had converted, St. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, assassinated in the cathedral by King Henry II of England’s soldiers, the Coronation of the Virgin, two Cistercian nuns presenting blessed souls to St. Bernard, the Martyr of Cistercian nuns in Poland and the Martyr of the abbot Casimiro and of the monks of Olivia in Prussia.

Draining the marsh

As mentioned before, the Cistercian monks usually chose places with very unique characteristics as the locations for their abbeys. There were two essential requisites: the location had to be isolated, far from residential areas, and it had to be near a waterway.
Today Chiaravalle Abbey stands in the South Milan Agricultural Reserve just outside Porta Romana (the Roman Gate), near the Vettabbia, a waterway that dates back to the time of the Roman reign.

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Cultivation of the land

The important land reclamation work carried out by the Cistercian monks made it possible to cultivate land that had once been marshy and in bad condition. The monks’ dedication to the work in the fields and the recovery of the marshy areas was a characteristic common to all the Cistercian abbeys. The widespread communication network that connected the monks enabled them to exchange technical know-how and implement the same systems, despite being many kilometres apart.

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History of the production in Chiaravalle Abbey: the beginning

The abundant production of fodder, used as animal feed, increased the quantity of milk produced by the cows to such an extent that the monks had to invent a suitable storage system.
Historically, this is a very interesting fact, as in the Medieval age, man was conditioned by the climate and the environment in which they lived and could only follow the natural rhythms and laws of biology. Regarding agriculture and farming, this meant bowing to the dictates of the seasons and accepting the food that nature offered each month.
Storage techniques were still very primitive and limited to simple procedures (drying in the sun or salting): milk had to be consumed the same day as it was milked, and the cheeses did not last much longer.

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History of the production: from the early 20th century to today

In much more recent times, the evolution of the culture of fine food and of food habits in general have called for the need to clearly define the characteristics and details of many products that were considered the expression of more or less ancient, or less ancient history. This led to the idea of transforming what was the “generic” name of a characteristic cheese into a proper name, capable of designating a unique, inimitable cheese. Therefore, also the desire to define as “Grana Padano” only cheese produced with very specific raw materials thanks to a well-defined technique and procedure, and in a production area that is just as specific. On 1 June 1951, in Stresa, on Lake Maggiore, in Piedmont, a number of cheese makers and technicians signed an agreement in which they indicated the precise rules for naming cheeses and their specific characteristics.

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La abbazia storia

1000 d.c.

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Tutto comincia più di un millennio fa, in un’epoca in cui tante delle scoperte che oggi caratterizzano in modo ovvio la nostra vita quotidiana non sono ancora avvenute.
Nel Medioevo, gli uomini sono ancora del tutto condizionati dal clima e dall’ambiente in cui vivono e non possono che seguire i ritmi naturali e le leggi biologiche.

Come si conservava

Per quanto riguarda l’agricoltura e l’allevamento, questo significa sottostare alle stagioni e quindi accettare i cibi che la natura offre di mese in mese.

Le tecniche di conservazione sono ancora agli albori e limitate ad alcuni procedimenti di base (per esempio, l’essiccatura al sole o la salatura), quindi la maggior parte degli alimenti si deteriora in fretta.

Il latte, per quanto disponibile grazie al bestiame, deve essere consumato entro il giorno di mungitura e i formaggi freschi non durano molto di più.


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dell’abbazia di Chiaravalle trovano nella bonifica delle terre della pianura del Po una grande opportunità per favorire l’espandersi dell’agricoltura e degli allevamenti e aumentare così la produzione di buon cibo. La conseguenza di questa enorme opera porta a una grande disponibilità di latte, di molto superiore al fabbisogno della comunità religiosa e della popolazione dei dintorni. È un peccato sprecare uno degli alimenti tra i più nutrienti e disponibili nella dieta medievale. Emerge così l’esigenza di trovare un modo per riuscire a conservarlo a lungo.

Come nasce

Per quanto riguarda l’agricoltura e l’allevamento, questo significa sottostare alle stagioni e quindi accettare i cibi che la natura offre di mese in mese.

Le tecniche di conservazione sono ancora agli albori e limitate ad alcuni procedimenti di base (per esempio, l’essiccatura al sole o la salatura), quindi la maggior parte degli alimenti si deteriora in fretta.

Il latte, per quanto disponibile grazie al bestiame, deve essere consumato entro il giorno di mungitura e i formaggi freschi non durano molto di più.

Questo “cacio” ruvido e consistente

viene prodotto nelle caldaie dei monasteri che diventano così i primi veri e propri caseifici della storia. Sotto l’attenta guida dei monaci cominciano a diffondersi alcune figure professionali nuove, i casari, esperti appunto nell’arte della produzione del formaggio.
In virtù della sua lunga stagionatura i monaci chiamano questo nuovo formaggio “caseus vetus” ovvero “formaggio vecchio”, per sottolineare ciò che lo distingue da altri formaggi di tradizione precedente che, in quanto freschi, vanno consumati rapidamente.


la gente delle campagne, che non ha dimestichezza con il latino, preferisce chiamarlo “grana” in virtù della sua pasta compatta punteggiata di granelli bianchi, ovvero piccoli cristalli di calcio residui del latte trasformato.

A seconda delle province in cui viene prodotto gli si accosta il termine che indica la provenienza. Tra i più citati si trovano il lodesano, considerato da molti il più antico, il milanese, il piacentino e il mantovano.

La fama del “grana” prodotto

nella zona padana si consolida nel tempo e ben presto esso diventa un formaggio pregiato protagonista dei banchetti rinascimentali di principi e duchi.

Tra le testimonianze documentate, se ne trova riferimento in una missiva di Isabella d’Este, consorte di Francesco II Gonzaga e marchesa di Mantova, che invia il rinomato formaggio in regalo ai suoi familiari, signori del ducato di Ferrara. È il 1504.

Grazie alle sue ricche proprietà nutritive

alla sua lunga conservazione e alla non alterabilità delle sue caratteristiche alimentari e di gusto, il “formai de grana” diventa un importante alimento della gente di campagna, soprattutto durante le terribili carestie.

Il “grana padano” diventa così espressione di un’intera cultura sociale ed economica, trasversale alle sue classi, apprezzato sia dai ricchi e dai nobili, avvezzi ormai a una cucina piuttosto elaborata e raffinata, sia dai poveri le cui ricette quotidiane sono molto più semplici, ma tradizionali.