If you’re going to live in Emilia, you need to know what “sisso” is.

What is sisso? Some would say it’s like gold. It’s the fuel of the regional agricultural industry. It’s the byproduct of the rich food culture of traditional Emilia. It’s a farmer’s most essential source of nourishment. It’s the smell that fills the air at dinner time in the summer. It’s the taste that lingers in your mouth after exhaling.

It’s pig poo.

Coming from the city, as I do, there was a definitive moment in my first year here in rural Emilia, Italy, when my husband (then boyfriend) first beamed with pride: the day that I correctly identified the difference between the fresh smell of cow poo and the rancid odor of pig shit.

Today, looking back on my ignorance, I envy the time in my life when the two smells were equally putrid to my city nose. I would now trade many many hours of sniffing a cow’s butt for momentary freedom from the vomit inducing smell that is sisso.

My husband insists that there is something romantic about it… “ahhh, you know the summer is here when you smell the sisso being spread on the fields!”

No. You know the summer is here when you start sweating in the shower and the tiger mosquitoes (real thing, I swear – zanzare tigre) start eating your legs. The only thing that happens with the spreading of sisso is that your pork dinner becomes much harder to stomach, since you have to smell the waste of the animal you are eating whilst eating it.

In an effort to get into the spirit of the romanticism of pig shit that my husband seems to subscribe to, I altered my sisso photos to harken a time gone past. Don’t let the golden hue of the vintage filter mislead you, though: sisso is very much present… today, in fact. Today there’s a nice humid fog settling down on the colder than usual fields. The farmers are charging up their mega-hose trucks with fresh pig waste and taking passes up and down the country roads, spraying fountains of sisso in their wake. The steam is rising from the heat of the excrement on the cold grasses, creating a mystical scene across the agricultural fields of Emilia. It’s lovely.

As long as you don’t breathe.

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5 thoughts on “If you’re going to live in Emilia, you need to know what “sisso” is.

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