my blog

olives + wise words

<< Back to Blog

Last Monday, I was sitting in the Olive Mill waiting to press our 2011 crop . And No, it's not like 'Under the Tuscan Sun'. It's cold, the air is hazy with fumes from the olives and the machines are really, really noisy. Oh, and I'm the only woman amongst many elderly Italian men.
I do this every year but this year is different. The mill is eerily quiet.
I phoned the press last week and couldn't believe my ears...
“Hi, it's the English woman from Le Caviere. It's that time of year again!”  I said enthusiastically.
I am usually met with a muted chuckle that means it's that mad foreign woman who's trying to grow raspberries and produce organic oil.
“Can I make an appointment on Sunday around 6pm. We start picking on Saturday. I want to get the olives pressed within 24 hours.”
“The mill is closed on Sunday.”
“There are no olives in theValtiberina this year. The harvest is terrible. I can't open the mill just for you.”
I couldn't believe it.
I assembled our team on a dull, misty Saturday.
“You know there are no olives on the trees. It's been too hot.”  Began my Housekeeper's husband.
“I don't want to hear it.” I said sharply. “We don't know until we start picking.”
With intrepidation, we gathered our nets and rakes and began to climb the steep olive grove. We soon realised that there were olives, but in strange places. The trees near the wood were laden with fruit but those near the pool were completely bare. The olives were certainly smaller, plump, but smaller.
As the sun broke through the clouds and the crates slowly filled, I was optimistic.
Three days later, exhausted, I arrived at the mill. Meeting Dante and his wife is like coming together with relatives you only see at weddings or funerals. You only see each other once a year but you share a common past, an intimate history of producing olive oil.
Dante loaded the enormous green crates on the weighing station. My heart was pounding.
“11 quintale, a third less than last year.”
Slightly disappointed, I warmed my hands on the fire in the kitchen next door.
Dante peered around the door.
“We're ready.”
The oil trickled though the pipe, then gushed into the vat.
“Oh Signora, look at the colour, it's great.”
I reached into my bag and pulled out a hunk of ciabatta. I dipped the bread into the oil and savoured my first mouthful. Fresh, fruity and peppery. I took a sigh of relief.
Just as I was about to leave, he whispered in my ear.
“Remember, fortune and olives are alike:  sometimes a man has an abundance and other times not any”
I drove away satisfied and inspired as my vats clanked and rattled in the back of the truck.  Share on Facebook
cleopatra 04/12/2011
I am so impressed and envious. you are handling complexity and issues with such ease - I still believe your life is surrounded by romance.. in everything from unique olive oil to amazing tomateo sauce to hosting celebs at the barn.x.x.x.x.x. unlike boring souls like us.x.x.x.x.x.
Richard Andrews 08/11/2011
When are where when can we poor souls get your oil in the UK? x
Karen 07/11/2011
I can't believe I missed the opportunity to help you harvest :( but hey there's always next year:) x
Tom Wakeley 07/11/2011
Fascinating! What an amazing life you lead. So glad your oil is good
Laura Gladstone 07/11/2011
Well written!! When you come back to Rome, Italy I will purchase a few bottles of olive oil!! I will see you this week!!
Michael Bonato 07/11/2011
Brava, I could taste the freshly squeezed olive oil as you were describing it, I understand Tuscany is not like the Hollywood version, but then again reality is always better. My family comes from Vicenza, I am in Australia, I hope one day soon to apply for the Italian citizenship I am entitled to and travel and work on farms such as yours, and absorb all the sights, smells, flavors, and good company of the Italians.
juli 06/11/2011
brava! we stay in emilia romagna twice a year and travel to tuscany frequently; your beautiful writing brought the sights and smells of the area to mind immediately. my husband and i are trying to figure out how to live in italy permanently, so if you have any ideas or know of anyone who needs english speakers (and some italian), please don't hesitate to contact me! grazie!
Jeane Rovillo 06/11/2011
great story! i bet it will be fabulous!
Janet Closs 05/11/2011
You are a skilled writer! I spent a summer in Tuscany, and whenever I read your blogs, I am temporarily transported back with your words. Congrats on the olive crop. I will take quality over quantity any day.
Heather antonelli 05/11/2011
Great post! Sounds romantic even with the noise & cold. Buonissimo!
beverly momi 05/11/2011
I love your writing...I can picture your harvest in my minds eye..beautiful. Tomorrow is our day of picking here in California's central valley with cold,rainy weather expected. Our harvest is 3weeks early this year but the olives are bursting with gold. Monday will be our day for pressing. I know what's for dinner that evening :)
Linda 05/11/2011
Makes me wish I could come there and get some of your oil. Less is definatley better than none!
Paul 05/11/2011
Agree with Lindsey, well written, felt like/wished I was there... Very interesting
Selby Davis 05/11/2011
The wonder of this is your optimism. And your astonishment at the press owner's denial. Good for you for "pressing on"!!
Susan Frascina 05/11/2011
Can picture you doing all this as i dont live that far from you.The women here dont seem to do things with there men like we do.Been to a lot of hunters dinner when i was the only women with abour 40 men.Glad to hear that your Olive oil was good even if it was not as much as other years. 218796
Lindsey 05/11/2011
Ah! You wrote this so well... I could SMELL olives! ;) And a third less is still 2/3rds more than none... and it sounds like it's perfect oil.

Leave a Comment

Name *
Email *
Please write the number code on the image *
  Italian Privacy law agreement N. 196/2003