Olive Oil Stars in an Assisi Festival
November is the month of the olive oil harvest all over Italy – and this year, it’s my month to focus on olive oils, subject of my two ZOOM presentations (- and you can see all my presentations to date here).
My first presentation – Part One of Umbria’s Liquid Gold: Olive Oil– focussed on the olive and olive tree in the art, history, mythology and the culture of Italy’s ancient peoples.
My November 7th ZOOM presentation will focus on the harvesting of olives, the pressing – and Umbria’s celebrations of the olive, olive tree and olive oil.
I’ll include a virtual experience of Spello’s late November celebration of just-milled olive oil, the Festa dell’Olio e della Bruschetta.
And how not to include, Assisi’s late fall celebration of the “liquid gold” of the area, the UNTO festival? The name is an acronym for UNESCO Natura Territorio Olivo.
For most of November, Assisi – UNESCO World Heritage site – celebrates the natural splendor and treasures of the hill territory surrounding Assisi, cloaked with olive trees – and most particularly, the “liquid gold” of the area’s olive trees. (“Unto” in Italian means “oily” – just think of “unction” – and is the past participle of the verb ungere, “to oil”).
The festival opens with a presentation in the medieval city hall for school children – and adults – on the olive, olive tree, and olive oil and their importance in Italy’s history and in the economy:
For the next few days, multitudinous events animate Assisi and surroundings as promised in the UNTO banners hanging in the main piazza bearing a clever play on words: “UNTO – Eventi a macchia d’olio” (literally, ” UNTO – events the way olive oil spreads” i.e., multiplying rapidly, diffusing):
The UNTO festival events include
-cooking lessons – also of medieval dishes – featuring olive oil
– guided hikes to surrounding olive groves to see the harvesting of olives, enjoy bruschetta – and music – in the oliveto:
– walks to historic estates of olive producers near Assisi for olive oil-tastings and brunch:
– guided visits to olive mills in the area to see the transformation of olives into olive oil…
….and to learn about Umbria’s different olive varieties through comparative tastings of the oils:
– guided visits to the historic monuments of Assisi near the town’smain square (UNTO focal point), such as the Roman Forum museum:
The massive 14th-c fortress, la Rocca Maggiore, towering over Assisi, ….….backdrops some of UNTO‘s medieval theatrical events. Medieval input is never missing in an Assisi event, for after all, Assisi is home of the Calendimaggio, one of Italy’s most splendid medieval festivals. During the UNTO festival, you’ll see little medieval drummers, young damsels sharing bruschetta, and medieval lords and ladies performing all over the town – with the olive tree, olive branches and olive oil always a central theme:
And for about four days of the UNTO events, the people of all ages wander the many booths of a mostra-mercato (literally, “show-market” – a “show-and-sell” street market) just opposite Assisi’s 1st-B.C. Roman temple of Minerva and the 14-c. bell tower:
Musicians play inside the food tent and just outside….
…… and the bambini, too, are entertained at UNTO:
Inside the food tent of the mostra-mercato, many vendors offer tastes of the goods sold at their stands:
You’ll find a variety of olive oils…
… that prized prosciutto of Norcia…
…tasty salmi, capocollo, and dried sausages….
… saffron, oils with saffron and honeys..
…truffles, truffle pate’ and even polenta corn flour with black truffle:
….and even lavender….
…as well as a local craft, the Assisi cross-stitch calle punto Assisi, proudly displayed by appassionata Tiziana:
And another talented artisan will be pleased to show you how she makes dyes for silks from pomegranates, other fruits – and the leaves of olive trees (for her bright yellow):
After roaming the mostra-mercato, some might warm up by heading to the vaulted medieval taverna just off the main square for roasted porchetta sandwich or bruschetta – with vino.
Read here about how ancient peoples used olive oil for illumination
Read about other ancient treasures of Umbria’s “liquid gold”
Click here to read about Spello’s Festa dell’Olio e della Bruschetta