With the Italian economy booming in the 1980s, the youngsters of Po Valley, which is home to its famous Parmesan cheese, started turning their backs on what they considered 'menial, unskilled' work, throwing the dairy industry in the region into serious jeopardy. However, when the Italians needed help the most, farmers from Punjab stepped in to revive the dairy sector and take it to new heights.
With the boom in the economy came a large number of Sikh immigrants. The local dairy farmers were impressed by the respect and skill with which immigrants handled their animals, while the workers who were moving to Italy were impressed by the handsome wages and free housing offered to them, reports the BBC.
This new breed of farmers was not afraid of hard work or unsociable hours and did not need to speak Italian to milk and take care of cows. And with this, the Po Valley dairy industry was revived.
Elena Carletti , who is the mayor of the town of Novellara, further felt that the large number of Sikhs who settled in the region were most attracted by the territory itself, with the BBC quoting her as saying that the Sikh farmers are reminded of Punjab due to the area's 'flat-ness', its heat, humidity and the kind of agriculture.
Carletti further opines that the immigrant labour force was fundamental to maintaining and preserving traditional cheese production, adding that it would have been 'impossible' to preserve without the support of people from India.
The Novellara municipality was also the first in Italy to grant permission to build a Gurdwara, which eventually opened in 2000.
And thanks to their relief work after the 2012 earthquake that hit the region and their volunteering in Civil Protection programmes, Carletti is firmly of the opinion that the Sikhs are part of their community.
"They are Italians," the BBC quoted her as saying.