The Italian version of Bigfoot is more akin to a wilderness cook than a cryptozoological monster. More rational and reasonable, a teacher of sorts. Legends about a wild man living in the forests along the Alps and the Apennines describe him as a master of the cheese trade. At an ancient encounter near Lucca it is said that the wild man, having taught men to make butter, was about to leave, but the men insisted so much that he stopped to teach them how to make cheese. He started to leave, but once again was pressed to continue and so explained how to produce ricotta. He would often appear unexpectedly to help and correct the local cheese makers yet gained little respect for his efforts.
European urbanization drove these bands of wild men (in some cases women) to extinction. They survive in regional paintings, carvings and iconographic representations and a subjects of inspiration at local trattorie. Ancient legends kept the story of l’uomo selvantico alive and the lore of the wild men of the forests created a whimsical mythology.
When Alfonso d’Este married Lucrezia Borgia, a dance was staged at the wedding banquet with performers as wild men carrying horns of plenty. The wild man so captured Leonardo da Vinci‘s imagination that in the planning of a nuptial pageant for the Sforza he mentions putting footman in their costumes as ‘salvatichi’ or wild men.
Yet some say the hypertrichotic selvani still exist. Periodic sightings describe footprints similar in shape to those of humans that sank into the ground to fifteen centimeters. And in December 1996 a Swiss music producer would tell that he saw in the woods of Ventimiglia in Northern Italy “a gigantic creature that looked like a cross between a primitive man and a gorilla covered with hair with the face of an elderly person”. Hopefully on his way to make cheese.