On the first Sunday of September the residents of the Tuscan hilltop town of Pienza take to the local square for the annual Cacio al Fuso festival. Cacio is the old Tuscan world for Pecorino and the name of the festival means simply “cheese to the spindle”, the aim of the contest being to roll the cheese in a circle around a spindle placed in the centre of the piazza.
Known for it’s superb Pecorino di Pienza cheese, Pienza is the birthplace of Pope Pius II and this cheesy celebration takes place in his namesake square next the magnificent palace he built for himself overlooking the stunning Tuscan countryside. When the festival started over a century ago it was simply a day for market stall holders to sell the remainder of the last production, but today this late summer celebration is an excuse to socialise, shop and eat through delicious local artisan food and wine. The Cacio al Fuso culminates in the much-anticipated cheese rolling competition, once a game played by the local peasants.
Teams of five from each of the town’s 6 districts must try to roll the smooth, straw-coloured wheels in a circle around a central spindle earning increasing points the closer the cheese lands to the target. The winning team walks away with a large prize and most importantly, bragging rights for the rest of the year!