Protected denomination of origin (PDO) cheeses have distinctive sensorial characteristics. They can be made only from raw milk possessing specific features, which is processed through the ‘art’ of the cheesemaker. In general, the distinctive sensorial traits of PDO cheese cannot be achieved under different environmental–production conditions for two main reasons: (1) some milk features are linked to specific animal production systems; (2) cheese ripening is affected by the interaction between milk (specific) and the traditional technology applied to the transformation process (non-specific). Also, the environment for a good ripening stage can be quite specific and not reproducible. With reference to milk, factors of typicality are species and/or breed, pedo–climatic conditions, animal management system and feeding. Other factors that influence cheese quality are milk treatments, milk processing and the ripening procedures. The technology applied to most cheeses currently known as PDO utilizes only raw milk, rennet and natural lactic acid bacteria, so that milk must be, at its origin, suitable for processing. The specific milk characteristics that ensure a high success rate for PDO cheeses are high protein content and good renneting properties, appropriate fat content with appropriate fatty acid composition and the presence of chemical flavours originating from local feeds. Moreover, an appropriate microflora is also of major importance. The factors that contribute to achieving milk suitable for transformation into PDO cheese are genetics, age, lactation stage, season and climate, general management and health conditions, milking and particularly feeding, which affect nutrient availability, endocrine response and health status, and also the presence of microbes and chemical substances which enrich or reduce the milk–cheese quality. Many of these factors are regulated by the Producer Associations. However, the secret of the success of PDO cheeses is the combination of modern technology and tradition, with the objective of adapting the product to market demand, without losing specificity, originality and authenticity.