Anne's Blog

An Umbria Olive Harvest, Past and Present

Date: November 5, 2020 - categories: , , , , , - Leave your thoughts

When we first harvested olives here in the Umbrian countryside in an icy December, 1976, the picking was all done by hand.  Basket around the waist, you’d reach up the olive branch and strip down the olives towards the basket. (A few leaves might slide along, too,  but they’d be separated out at the mill).

I remember the first time we picked olives.  Bundled up, we headed to Assisi on Pino’s motorcycle, a Gilera 150 to an olive grove just outside of Assisi where we’d agreed to work the harvest for the owner. It was so cold that we made a small fire in the grove for warming our hands, now and then.

I have only this photo of those December olive-picking days:

As I look at the photo, I note that willow basket tied around my shoulder. We still have a similar one (made by rural friends) – and I sometimes use it for picking…

…the basket dangling in front of me, tied with a belt that loops over my shoulder:

Mostly, though, nowadays, we wear plastic buckets tied around our necks when picking by hand:

But those baskets once used – and sometimes, still used – all over Italy,  are artisanal treasures:

 

The baskets for harvests – of grapes and other fruits as well as olives – were made by farmers-also-artisans like dear Pasquale on the island of Ustica (Sicily) – who taught his basket-making craft to his nephew and grandson – and  made baskets nearly until his death (at age 100):

Basket-weaving is a true artisanal craft as here in our bella Italia, those working the land are often also skilled artisans, creating  works of art out of willow branches and cane:

In the Museo del Vino in Torgiano, a display shows a willow basket and willow branches nearby for the baskets used in Umbria in the grape harvests as well as the olive harvests :

Baskets – and buckets – are used less often these days as the olive harvest has become more mechanized, with rakes used to pull the olive off the trees ….

 

…and onto nylon nets spread out around the trees.

 

In the late 1970’s when we worked the land here near our Assisi farmhouse,  nets were not yet used (their use started about twenty years ago) and in any case, our rural neighbors – most of them mezzadri or tenant farmers – certainly could not have afforded them.

We did not have them either for our olive harvests years ago: the ground olives were simply picked up after all the olives on the tree had been culled:

Every olive was precious.

In the post-war years of hardship and poverty, women and children worked together on the aciname. From the word, acino or “seed,” l’aciname was the picking up of the olives left under trees after harvesting of olives in the groves of estates. They’d then salt-cure those treasured olives for eating.

 

Nowadays, the nets catch the olives falling from the trees when the olive-bearing branches are combed with hand-held small rastrelli (rakes), those harvesting climbing ladders to comb the highest branches.

Many who harvest olives these days now use battery-operated abbatitori (literally, “knock-downers,” i.e., olive-harvesters).  Here you can see the one our son Keegan uses when he helps us on our harvest:

Pino prefers to do the picking “hands-on.”  Literally.

**(Elisabetta, mille grazie for the lead photo – and others – of your family’s harvest in the Spello hills.)

Read about Assisi’s November UNTO festival, celebrating the olive harvest

Click here to read about Spello’s Festa dell’Olio e della Bruschetta

Read here about how ancient peoples used olive oil for illumination

Read about other ancient treasures of Umbria’s “liquid gold”

 

 

:

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Privacy Policy

Privacy Italian Legislative Decree n° 196/2003 Under Article 13 of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, regulations with regard to the Protection of Personal Data, this is an informative report to all interested parties on the modality of the treatment of personal data, arising from interaction with our website www.annesitaly.com
THE PRINCIPAL FOR DATA TREATMENT During site consultation, personal data referring to identified or identifiable persons can be processed. The principal for data treatment is Anne Robichaud Pian della Pieve Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy. The data will be mainly processed at the mentioned head office by the people responsible for the website or by other people appointed for occasional maintenance operations, provided that their actions conform to of the guarantees enshrined in the Legislative Decree 196/2003.
TYPE OF DATA TREATED
Web navigation The information systems and software procedures required for the functioning of this website, acquire some personal data during their normal service, the transmission of which is implicit in the use of web communication protocols. This information is not collected with the purpose of identifying interested parties, but due to its very nature, the information could lead to user identification through processes and relations with data held by third parties. In this data category there are IP addresses or domain names belonging to computers used by users who connect to the site, addresses with URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) notification of the requested resources, time of the request, used method in submitting the request to the server, dimension of the file obtained in replying, the numeric code mentioning the reply status given by the server (successful reply, error, etc?) and other parameters referred to the operation system and to the user’s information environment. This data is used with the sole purpose of obtaining anonymous statistical information on the use of the site and to check the correct functioning; immediately after processing, the data is erased.
Data voluntarily supplied by the user The voluntary optional and explicit e-mail transmission to the addresses mentioned in this site implies the subsequent acquisition of the sender’s address, necessary to reply to the queries, as well as the other eventual personal data registered in the message.
OPTIONAL PERSONAL DATA SUPPLY Except for the above mentioned navigation data, the user may be asked to supply his own personal data through queries or messages to the email addresses shown in the contact pages. Failure to provide such data may be the cause of the inability to obtain the requested information from the company.
TREATMENT MODALITY The personal data is treated in compliance with the Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 and held only for the time necessary to achieve the aim for which it has been collected. Specific safety measures are taken to prevent any data loss, illicit or incorrect use and unauthorized access.
RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES The data subjects are at any time entitled to obtain confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are held, to know the contents and the origin, to check the correctness, to ask for integration, updating or change (art. 7 Decree Law 196:June 2003). In accordance with the same article, they are entitled to obtain the erasure, conversion into anonymous form or freezing of all data used in breach of the law, to object, on legitimate grounds, to the processing of data relating to him. All requests have to be transmitted to the e-mail address anne@annesitaly.com

Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)