Trevi Olive Oil Trail
There’s only one way to greet guests at the 20th edition of medieval Trevi’s la Festa dell’Olio Nuovo: with a slice of hot bruschetta drizzled with just-milled olive oil, l’olio nuovo. Wearing white gloves and royal blue jackets, students of the local catering/hoteliers high school, la scuola alberghiera, worked in teams yesterday just outside one of the Trevi-area olive oil mills: two toasted the crusty bread slices on a grill, one rubbed the slices with garlic and the other poured – not ungenerously! – the mill’s oil on the slices. Musicians played nearby, welcoming visitors.
The complimentary bruschetta was just an enticing antipasto for most visitors: the nearby food tent was full of families enjoying a variety of regional dishes, – each one highlighting Umbrian olive oils at prezzi popolari (best translated, “prices for the people”, i,e economical). My friend Joan enjoyed the “Plate of the Olive Mill”, featuring a warm lentil salad with onions, olive oil and hot red pepper served with pork roast, rubbed with olive oil and topped with a black-truffle acacia honey . I opted for the strangozzi (a thick Umbrian spaghetti) with squash, olive oil and barbozza (crispy pork cheek).
And olive oil is not just drizzled on bread or used to enhance roast and legumes: olive oil is the emollient in hand creams, face lotions, and under-eye gels. Cristina offered complimentary esthetic treatments in the nearby olive oil mill during the celebration of l’olio nuovo. After a visit with Cristina, we toured this very modern solar-powered- and pristinely clean – olive mill, now also a museum housing a collection of utensils, tools, and presses used in the past in the harvesting and pressing of the olives. I saw many objects like the ones Pino and I had discovered in the stalls of our old farmhouse when we arrived in 1975 (who knows where they are now?)
In late afternoon, we set out from the olive oil mill, passing the massive fortified medieval tower of Matigge. We were on a pilgrimage: seeking the oldest olive tree in Umbria, on the hills of nearby Bovara. All over the Trevi hills, men and women were on ladders in the midst of the olive trees, picking the fruit. Two men under one tree, gathering the riper olives which had fallen into nets below, directed us to the l’Olivo di Sant’Emiliano. It was not far from where they were picking.
We were in awe standing in front of it. Laden with olives, this massive gnarled grandfather of a tree has survived (miraculously?) many galaverni (periods of unually intense freezes) and was probably once part of the landholdings of the medieval Benedictine monastery of Bovara. Legend wishes to date the tree to an even earlier period: in 304 A.D, the martyred patron saint of Trevi, Sant’Emiliano, bishop, was decapitated while tied to an olive tree. L’ olivo di Sant’Emiliano?
Probably not. But the tree inspires sacrality. Its tie to the past is sacred, too: for centuries, countless generations of farmers had picked its olives as the group nearby was doing that afternoon.
And our day of joining the Umbrians in celebrating the olives ended here: perfetto.
Click here to read about another Umbrian celebration of the olives
Click here to read about our olive harvests years ago
Click here to read about olives in rural culture
Click here for many recipes highlighted by extra-virgin olive oil.