Frignano is a wild, ancient land situated on the boundaries between larger states that competed for it for centuries. At every stage in its history, its people have shown themselves to be proud of their independence and have fought to defend and maintain it, though with mixed fortunes. That is how it was in ancient times. The Liguri Friniates, where the name Frignano possibly originates, often battled with the Roman armies that came to the mountains to stamp their authority. The resistance and rebellion of the tough, stubborn mountain folk were in the end defeated by military means, but mainly by mass deportations to other Roman lands. In subsequent times, Frignano was decisive for the Byzantines in defending their state from attack by the Longobards, so much so that, when the Castrum Feronianum fell in the 8th century, the armies of the Longobard King Liutprando found the way open to Ravenna. Upon the death of Matilda of Tuscany (Matilda of Canossa), Frignano split into as many feuds as there were noblemen previously serving the great countess, the Montecuccoli, the da Gombola, the Rastaldi, the Gualandelli etc. Centuries of war followed between these lords, who joined forces with one another solely when Modena or Bologna threatened to take over their land. This terrible period is when many of the towers dotted around the Frignano area were built. Erected in the heart of the many feuds, they had a military function but also stood as symbols of the local lords' power.
In the XIV century, when the Este family, dukes of Ferrara, conquered Modena, most of the Frignano lords led by the Montecuccoli had to surrender and accept the control of new masters. A few foolish rebels tried to resist, such as the legendary though reckless Obizzo da Montegarullo, but in the end the formidable Este army headed by Uguccione dei Contrari won out and Frignano was finally subdued. The Montecuccoli family became faithful allies of the Estes, so much so that at times of difficulty their actions were decisive in defending the duchy. In the early XVI century, Pope Julius II sent his troops to conquer the territory of Modena, but the action of two courageous Frignano women, Margherita and Camilla Montecuccoli, barricaded in their respective towers of Sassostorno and Montecenere, thwarted the Pope's attempt. It is said that Camilla threw the soldiers trying to enter Montecenere tower back down to the ground with her bare hands. A long period of peace followed in which the Estes administrated the territory in two ways: either directly through a governor, who resided at the specially built fortress in Sestola, or indirectly by conceding parts of the territory to noble families in exchange for money. The best-known of these noble families were the Montecuccolis, who began building their large fortress around the older tower in the XV century. In short, the Montecuccoli family joined with other eminent noble families through marriage, becoming one of the most prominent houses in the entire state.
Of the many well-known characters in the Montecuccoli family, the most important is surely Raimondo, famous for his victory in the battle of the Rába in August 1664, in which Raimondo halted the advance of the superior Turks en route to Vienna.
On that occasion, and on many others, Raimondo demonstrated the strategic military genius that made him famous and for which the Emperor wanted him as head of the army. Military academies still study the strategies put in place by the Frignano general in the battles he fought against the most powerful European armies of the time and of which he was always the victor.
His military skills are what he is best known for, but this multi-talented character had many more, perhaps more important, abilities up his sleeve.
Raimondo's greatness lies in the vast wealth of knowledge accumulated during years of studying and his extensive experience acquired during the formative periods of his life, which were the Thirty Years' War, his travels as a diplomat around the European capitals, and his encounters with the most eminent people of the day, such as Lord Cromwell. It was these occasions that enabled him to study the apparatus of the most modern states, the organisation of the strongest armies, the strategies of the commanders alongside or against whom he fought, such as Wallestein, Tilly, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and the Frenchman Turenne.
Montecuccoli was a great intellectual of the 17th century, a century of great and revolutionary change in science (Galileo and the experimental method), economics (the first colonial empires), politics (absolutism) and the military (the revolution of armies).
Raimondo managed to grasp these changes and transform them into formidable tools benefiting the state he faithfully served, the Habsburg Empire, a weak state in the midst of giants that had long tried to crush and destroy it, which they almost succeeded in doing with the Thirty Years' War: protestant Sweden to the north, catholic France to the west and the Turkish empire to the south.
Raimondo proposed three reforms for the rebirth of the empire: in the military, political and economic fields.
As far as the military was concerned, he aimed to transform the old imperial army largely made up of mercenaries into a modern standing army of trained, highly motivated professionals. He organised army supplies efficiently, putting an end to the old counterproductive system of sacking.
In politics, he thought of an absolute state based on the French model of Louis XIV. He also admired the English state of Lord Cromwell, although he detested republicanism.
In economics, he fought in vain for the conquest of colonies outside of Europe, as the French and English had done, and their exploitation, through companies similar to the East India Company. In all of these endeavours, Raimondo was opposed by those who stood to lose the most from his reforms, such as the feudal lords. Even the Emperor did not back him entirely, but Raimondo lay the foundations for the transformation of the Empire and when Leopold I finally enacted his proposed reforms, Austria quickly became the powerful state that would dominate Europe for the whole of the 18th century.
Tradition has ancient roots, and the first domesticated pigs date back to over 9,000 years ago.
It is now certain that the peoples who bred pigs and salted their meat to preserve it were the Sumerians, followed by the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans who seem to have been particularly fond of this meat.
By virtue of how easy it was to maintain these animals and store their meat, pigs represented a major food source up to the Middle Ages. They lived in the wild, mainly in oak woods which are full of acorns and we know how greedy pigs were and still are of these oak nuts.
Since it was very difficult to find food in the winter months, it became customary to kill the pig in December and January because its meat could be preserved easily thanks to the cold climate.
In the nineteenth century, the deforestation of the plains and hills of the Po region saw the end of pig grazing. Pigs began to be kept and raised in pigsties adjoining the milk-processing units, using cheese processing waste to fatten them. Pig production was therefore linked to the dairy seasons of the time, which ran from March 19th (St. Joseph) to November 11th (St. Martino).
Time restrictions were then overcome thanks to the extension of the production period, first with the Vernengo cheese and then extended all year round.
The second half of the nineteenth century witnessed the start-up of pig production at industrial level and the subsequent selection of improved breeds, which then spread throughout the region.
The originator was the YORKSHIRE race, developed in England in the 18th century by crossing local sows with boars bred in China and the Caserta area (in the Campania region of Italy). In particular, the LARGE WHITE sub-breed was very successful.
In 1872 Antonio Zanelli (1825-1894), Director of the Royal Livestock Institute of Reggio Emilia, imported breeders of this breed from the UK, which then spread rapidly at the expense of the indigenous animals.
Another breed quality involved in the production of the Heavy Italian Pig is the DUROC pig. Selected in the United States and imported into Italy by Marquis Idelfonso Stanga (1867-1953), it has been widely used for the production of half-breeds intended for the Heavy Italian Pig circuit.
What stands head and shoulders above our Pigs is not only their breed but also the length of time taken for their growth and the quality of their feed, resulting in a special product for making the renowned Italian cold cuts and sausages.
In fact, only in Italy do they breed animals for slaughter whose live weight is about 160 to 170 kg as compared to the rest of the world where pigs' weight reaches 100 to 120 kg on average. That's because our traditional charcuterie requires more full-grown meat covered by a nice layer of lard of special quality.
Special attention is given to genetics due to the fact that pig meat must have unique characteristics such as limited weight loss after salting, limited intramuscular fat and a constant lard thickness of at least 2 cm. Their diet is very important and is mainly based on cereals and whey and their stay time in the stable is about 9 months. Moreover, particular attention is reserved to the animal's well-being, health and hygiene as well as to the healthiness of the pig farm, achieved through standards and controls among the highest worldwide.
Consequently, a high quality raw material is produced as the basis of the Made in Italy pork salted meats.
For years pig meat was perhaps unfairly penalized, guilty of being too rich in fats and cholesterol and, as such, containing a total of many calories. But if all this may have been true in the past, today it is no longer so. Three factors have changed the situation significantly and consistently with the result that now pork meat is much leaner.
First of all genetics, which led to a selection of animals whose meat has undergone a major reduction in fat content. Greater attention is now paid to the animals' diet that, through new dietary formulations, has led to significant changes in the nutritional composition of meat and, finally, all the health and hygiene controls applied from the farm to the production plants and on to the retail outlets, which ensure these products are safe and of high quality. Therefore, over the years there has been a progressive decrease of the lipid and cholesterol content to the full advantage of the protein content that has consequently increased.
People often say that meat is no longer what it once was and that's true for pork. It's better now.