Sunday, 29 November 2009

Lovely Abruzzo Olive Oil

The region of Abruzzo is blessed with a mild climate which favours the cultivation of olive trees. Nine million of them, including our 61 trees, to be very precise! The olives are mostly pressed in traditional olive presses in mills dotted around the region. Abruzzo has joined the D.O.P. (Protected Denomination of Origin) designation instituted by the EU in order to guarantee the origin and varieties of olives used in the production of olive oil are of the highest standards.

"Frantoi Aperti"
The programme of events looked very inviting. "Open Olive Mills. Discover the World of Olive Oil". The anticipation of a fun-filled morning was even more enticing. The excellent post "Oil in Three Parts " from, filled us with even greater expectations, so with no more ado we set off for Loreto Aprutino a historical village in Abruzzo, full of museums and treasures, set amidst numerous olive groves.

A Guided Tour
We had booked a guided tour via the Loreto Aprutino Information Office for 7th November, starting at 10.30 am. The cost was 5 euros each, an incredible price! We got to Piazza Garibaldi in good time and boarded a mini bus together with about 12 other Italian visitors. We were driven to a local olive farm and the history of olive oil cultivation in the area was skilfully and engagingly imparted to us by members of ARSSA (Regional Agency for the Development of Agricultural Services in Abruzzo). Next stop a traditional olive mill where we saw the beautiful "liquid gold" as it is known, pouring out in front of our very eyes.

Crates and crates of people's olives just waiting to be pressed at the local mill.

As you can see from the picture, the end product is a rich and thick golden olive oil coming straight from the press.

Loreto Aprutino Oil Museum

Together with our excellent guide Paola above, we walked through the ancient alleyways of Loreto Aprutino and visited the historical Olive Oil Museum housed in a beautiful Gothic-looking building in the heart of the village. Here is a link to "Worth a Drizzle" from Life in Abruzzo blog, which features a very well researched article on this museum.

The ancient interior of the museum houses old artefacts and mementos connected to the olive oil making process. Below is a photo of a very ornate press.

Olive oil from Abruzzo has been exported all over the world. It is renowned for its perfect qualities. It has won numerous international awards. The poster below is of an International Olive Oil Exposition held in Venice at the beginning of the 20th century.

Below a scene depicting San Zopito, the patron saint of Loreto Aprutino.

The Regional Oil Art History Museum of Abruzzo
Next and final stop on our grand tour was the Regional Oil Art History Museum where we listened to a fascinating account of the various oils produced in the region. This talk then led on to the art of olive oil tasting. We were shown how to literally "put our noses into the olive oil" to smell and savour its full flavour. This immediately evoked a sense of freshness and fragrance and I could actually taste the actual fruit from which it came from. The flavour was very intense and amazing. I had never tasted olive oil on its own before and it was indeed an experience!

Finally, we were led to a room which had tables laden with delicious, traditional Abruzzo meats, cheeses, and homemade bread drizzled in olive oil. We were cordially invited to sample local wines from the area. As you can see above, I enjoyed myself immensely!
I would like to thank The Loreto Aprutino Tourist Information Office and everybody involved for organising such a wonderful and fascinating guided tour. K and I had a fabulous time and as relatively novice olive oil cultivators ourselves, we learned a huge amount about the history and background to this fruit which has been cultivated in Abruzzo for centuries.

Characters from Loreto Aprutino
A curious cat peering over a wall.

Aforementioned cat in model pose.

A Sophia look-a-like we encountered on our delightful walk through the village.

Some of my Favourite Books
You might be interested in the following books which I have enjoyed reading:
Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes (set amongst the olive groves of Liguria) and the sequel,
Ripe for the Picking
The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater (set in the South of France)

Please do let me know if you have read any similar books you would like to recommend.

Post Scriptum
Are you living in an area surrounded by olive groves and would like to recount your experiences on this blog? I would love to hear from you!

View from my home.

1 comment:

Bodach said...

I wish I could have been in Loreto on the day of the tour.

I admit I'm biased but I really think oil from Loreto Aprutino is best you can get. I hope you took some home with you.

I'm delighted you enjoyed the day.