White gold: the story of Antonio

Antonio Badoglio, the shepherd of gods, is the young innovator of sheep farming on the Amalfi Coast.

December 1st, 2020.By Saveria Fiore, photo by Vito Fusco

Antonio wears a vest and the coppola cap. He laughs loudly and is surrounded by a nice scent evocative of this land and goat’s cheese. His lifetime motto? Basta che stamm bbuon, a traditional saying which can be translated as “As long as we are okay.” 

«Antonio Badoglio, the shepherd from Agerola that became famous along the widely visited Path of the Gods, » he introduced himself, with a shine of pride. Thanks to a few steps that briefly deviate from the route following the Path of the Gods, it’s possible to access a secular complex hidden among the terrace lands, where Antonio spends most of his working day.

Antonio Badoglio, il pastore di Agerola sul Sentiero degli Dei in Costa d'Amalfi. Il sentiero per raggiungere la casa di Antonio
Photo Vito Fusco

Passion is rich soil

Antonio is known as the “shepherd of the gods,” but he is so much more than that. He is a 33 years old young man with a burning passion for his land and the family traditions that he wants to keep alive. Listening to his life story and knowing all the sacrifices he had to make for this work, one could ask if he ever had a childhood dream. 

«To me, reality and dreams are the same things. I already fulfilled my life-long dream, which has always been creating this business. Sure, I dreamed about being a model, but I think I got luckier, » he says with the charming humor that everybody loves. 

«You grow into the job, and the passion that your family conveys is essential to keep going. I’m not saying that they forced me to choose this line of work, and actually, I think they rather wanted me to do something else because they didn’t want me to sacrifice as much as they did». 

Antonio is the result of the life he grew in and, even if he faced difficult times, he always had faith in this project. He had a burning desire to keep his ancestors and family’s traditions alive and create something unique, adding his creative ideas.

Antonio Badoglio, il pastore di Agerola sul Sentiero degli Dei in Costa d'Amalfi. Il suono della campana per richiamare gli animali
Photo Vito Fusco

Rite of passage

«Sometimes, my peers ask me about my work, but I never reveal my secrets. They must get to the solutions like I did; it is some rite of passage that everyone in this field needs to go through alone. We can reach for the truth in different ways, but the only option is to try and fail, without any shame, so that you can discover your secrets and your way to do this. Every recipe is very private because it has the characteristics of the person who made it, and you can make it special thanks to just a single ingredient: type of milk, the animal diet, the production season,» Antonio explains to us. 

Indeed, this work ethic identifies a true shepherd, the profound sense of duty, and the responsibility toward his cattle that bring the man never to leave the field, not even for a day. «I can do what I do because I have my wife by my side that supports me. She knows that because of the work that I chose, sometimes I cannot be present 100%, and I am very grateful for her patience. But I’m also thankful for my ancestors that, with their resilience, kept going even when the milk stopped being “the white gold” that only came from the mountains and became something that could have been bought easily everywhere. The moment milk became more accessible, working became more challenging for us, but my family never gave up, and they are the reason I’m here today».

Antonio Badoglio, il pastore di Agerola sul Sentiero degli Dei in Costa d'Amalfi. La produzione del formaggio
Photo Vito Fusco

Grazing vs. Factory farming

According to Antonio, grazing is the best option, not even comparable to more modern factory farming. In this environment, the livestock can graze in the open, and the grass they eat variates following the season. A different kind of grass can provide a different taste and proteins in the milk. «For example, during the winter, the cheese doesn’t get pasteurized, and for that, it tastes better; while in the summertime, the bacterial load in milk increases».

Antonio Badoglio, il pastore di Agerola sul Sentiero degli Dei in Costa d'Amalfi
Photo Vito Fusco

A leap back in time

Antonio comes from four generations of shepherds that helped shape him into the man and shepherd he is today; he followed their footsteps and created this lifestyle, which can sometimes feel like heaven and other times more like a prison. 

«I wish I could go back in time. I wish I could be invisible and see how my ancestors worked their magic. Their craftsmanship was so precious that not even our current technology could replicate it. I would also love to see how they built this home, placing one stone after the other».

(Translation by Michela Pandolfi)