Pay is poor and the hours are long, but there is job security, fresh air and as much pecorino cheese as you can eat.
By Nick Squires, in Rome
9:19PM BST 03 May 2012
As Italy’s unemployment rate topped 10pc this week, it emerged that young people are flocking to become shepherds.
Traditionally the preserve of older men, the profession has recently attracted 3,000 young Italians, according to agricultural body Coldiretti.
They are choosing a simple life in the great outdoors because their aspirations to become doctors, lawyers or engineers have been thwarted by Italy’s negligible economic growth, which has been compounded by grinding austerity measures.
Davide Bortoluzzi, 25, has a degree in surveying from a technical institute but, unable to find a job, now keeps a watchful eye on a flock of 400 sheep in the Dolomites of northern Italy.
“I’m happy with the choice I’ve made,” he said. “I started out by following other shepherds and learning the ropes from them. It was not easy. But, day by day, I made progress without becoming too discouraged, sometimes working in pouring rain and at other times under a burning sun.”
Coldiretti said the unexpected influx of shepherds under the age of 35 was helping to rejuvenate a sector of Italian agriculture that had become the preserve of older farmers.
In nearly 80pc of cases, young shepherds had introduced more advanced animal husbandry techniques and improved the quality of the meat, wool and cheese they produce, Coldiretti said in a report.
Note: A skeptical reader comment to the Telegraph story assumed that this was a social initiative underwritten by EU grants. I don’t know anything about that. However, shepherding sounds appealing to me today and seeing Franz Marc’s Lamb painting of 1913-14 above and the wheel of Pecorino Toscano Fresco below reinforces that impression. Quiet fresh air, the bleating of ewes and mature sheep, good cheese, wine, Italian summer sunshine, job security, and favorable prices on sweaters all sound quite ok to me.