Effects of including silage in the diet on volatile compound profiles and their modification during ripening of Montasio cheeses were examined. Twelve farms were selected and grouped according the type of forage in the ration: hay-based diets (four farms); hay and corn silage-based diets (four farms); and diets based on hay, corn silage and grass silages (four farms). For cheesemaking, 1000 kg of milk collected from two consecutive milkings was sampled from each farm and processed in the same cheese factory. Cheeses were ripened in the same cellar, in controlled humidity (78–85% relative humidity) and temperature (9–12°C), until analysis. After 68 (62–74), 200 (194–206) and 360 (354–366) d of ripening, a cheese from each batch was analysed for moisture, protein and fat, volatile fatty acids (VFA) and volatile compounds. These latter were analysed by dynamic reverse carrier gas headspace gas chromatographic mass spectrometry (GC-MS) technique, scanning from m/z 29 to m/z 300 at 0·5 s cycle time. Total and individual VFA contents of cheeses did not differ between the different dietary treatments and increased linearly (P<0·01) during ripening, indicating that there were no appreciable defects of fermentation. Sixty-two volatile compounds were identified in the cheese samples: 12 aldehydes, 9 ketones, 16 alcohols, 17 esters, 2 hydrocarbons, 4 sulphur-containing compounds and 2 terpenes. Diet significantly affected the amount of total alcohols, ethanol, isobutanol, 1-penten-3-ol, 2-methyl-1-butanol and the sum of all the volatile compounds. Significant variations of 33 volatile compounds (9 aldehydes, 4 ketones, 6 alcohols, 10 esters, 1 hydrocarbons, 2 sulphur containing compounds, and 1 terpene) were observed during ripening. These results suggest that the influence of diet composition on volatile compounds of matured cheeses are related more to effects on microbial and chemical fermentations in cheese during ripening rather than to a direct transfer of molecules from milk.