In Bergamo, the cheese capital of Italy, with the Erasmus project “From Land to Plate”

Students and teachers from European schools in Portugal (Santa Maria de Feira), Hungary (Budapest), Lithuania (Panevėžys) and Germany (Varendorf) gathered at the Maironi da Ponte Gymnasium in the suburb of Bergamo to carry out an Erasmus project. The partners from Bordeaux (France) could not come because of the strict Covid rules in France, so they participated remotely.

Symbolically, we started our activities at the Lenna farm near the resort of Sant Pelegrino. The farm is located at the foot of the mountains and produces wonderful Italian cheeses. As our project is called, we were involved in the cheese-making process, from milking the goats and cows (not everybody tried), heating the milk, adding the enzyme and curdling the milk, to putting the cheeses in the moulds. What struck the participants was the simple Italian approach to the process, the handmade work and the endless love they have for their nature and animals. We heard from the owner of the farm that the quality of the cheese depends on the quality of each herb the cows and goats eat. This is a responsible attitude towards the environment. Several people admitted that the aged cheeses we were treated to were very tasty.

Federica Carpani, the Erasmus project coordinator at the Italian Gymnasium, and the students and teachers involved in the project welcomed the guests on the morning of 22 February (Tuesday). They were delighted to see the project’s large logo, flags and warm words of welcome. We were greeted by the Mayor of Bergamo and the Headmistress of the Gymnasium.

Representatives from each school had prepared 3 tasks-presentations which we presented to each other. In the assembly hall, we looked at where food products come from in European countries, what is on the labels, and thought about the false, supposedly organic labels on products, encouraging us to keep our common sense and be critical. The Germans and Italians have been very critical of product labels. The second exercise was about shopping without plastic packaging – we learned that there are shops in all the cities of the participating countries where you can buy food and hygiene products without packaging. The fight against plastic is gaining momentum and the beginning is made. We believe that this environmentally friendly movement will only grow and reach more people. The presentations of the participants in the project covered relevant food safety topics: animal diseases and their threat to humans, genetically modified organisms and products, packaged products, products in cans and their impact on human health, pesticides and antibiotics in food. The partners were divided on who would prepare which topic.

After Tuesday’s theoretical part, the next day (Wednesday) we walked through the beautiful Old Town of Upper Bergamo (guided by Italian students) to the Bergamo Botanical Garden, where the staff of the Botanical Garden organised hands-on activities on food safety. We collected and discussed the various herbs in the garden’s grounds and learnt how important it is for nature to have a wide variety of plants rather than mono-cultures. Later, we engaged in a question-and-answer game to find out whether our activities and attitudes are environmentally friendly. At the same time, we improved our English language skills.

The lecture on “Hunger in the world” was held remotely, and here we saw the advantages of our partners from Bordeaux, who could communicate with the lecturer from their computers, whereas the other participants, who were sitting in the room, did not have this possibility, as they had to go to the computer and ask or answer a question. The lecture material again and again instilled the idea that everyone is responsible for their own actions and that every step towards sustainability is important.

The meeting of the project partners was closed with a lively performance by the folklore group “Arlecchino Bergamasco”, a group of elderly people from Bergamo. The harlequin is a symbolic figure of Bergamo. We admired the bright folk costumes of the folklorists and a never-before-seen music box. On each project trip, we learn a lot about the country, the people and their mother tongue.

Lithuanian project coordinator Meilute Balbieriute