Travel Reviews

Strada dell’olio DOP “Umbria” (Olive Oil Road)

Written by Aksel Ritenis

umbria-olives_3Come to the place where a road divides the rolling hills, gets lost in the forests, and finds itself once again in the traffic of ancient and modern routes, passing through the most beautiful artistic and monumental sites, running along mountains, lakes, rivers and the purest springs, meeting up with people, history and stories, stopping in front of farmhouses, oil mills and restaurants. There’s only one Olive Oil Road, which takes you on a discovery of fantastical surprises and intense emotions up and down Umbria, passing through everything while bringing it together, in the same way there is only one DOP even with its different characteristics that is, for good reason, defined as the region’s green gold for its extraordinary organoleptic characteristics.

A path, actually five itineraries, furrowing through the characteristic features of the five hills that the DOP Umbria area is divided into, introducing you to remarkable pla­ces and authentic and extraordinary people, full of experiences and humanity. Behind every corner there are ancestral flavours just waiting to be discovered, of poignant and delectable simplicity, humble homes and luxurious villas, objects and peoples, great individualism and a great spirit of community.

umbria-olive-oilAn intense aroma, a bitter and spicy taste and a characteristic colour that ranges from green to yellow: these are the characteristics of the oil of the Assisi-Spoleto Hills. The centre of this area is the city of Trevi, the capital of extra virgin olive oil, the proud home of the local museum dedicated to its symbol of peace in the silence of the Franciscan Path or in that of Mt. Subasio that watches over Assisi. Its vocation is “repre­sented” by the olive tree that rises up from the tower of Spello, its international pride is the town of Spoleto. The San Felice Abbey looks out towards other two important “Oil Cities”, Gualdo Cattaneo and Giano dell’Umbria, which gave its name to the local cultivar in memory of the work of its monks with this sweet-tasting extra virgin olive oil from the Martani Hills. This is also where we find Massa Martana, an important junction along the old Flaminia road. The oil of the Trasimeno Hills and its Islands is extremely delicate, thanks to the area’s mild climate and the special Dolce Agogia cultivar. Amidst “ideal cities” such as La Scarzuola in Montegabbione and Guardea with the “Arch of Planetary Consciousness”, up to Montecchio, flourishing with olive trees, where the oil mills produce the oil of the Orvieto Hills, an extra virgin with a splendidly intense green colour and a slightly bitter and spicy taste. Finally, in the Benedictine lands of “ora et labora” (prayer and work) of the Valnerina Valley to Amelia, passing throu­gh Terni, where the land and the water merge and come together, the olive of the Amerini Hills finds its natural home, with its unmistakable bitter and slightly spicy taste.



Virtually all of the olives grown in Umbria benefit from particular climatic conditions that allow the fruit to ripen very slowly, giving it an extremely low acid content. The hilly terrains are particularly important, especially those at the foot of mountains: these well-structured and very permeable soils allow the tree roots to penetrate easily. Another factor in addition to soil and climate is the contribution made by man. First of all, there is the harvesting of the olives: no longer do olive growers wait until the olives have reached full natural ripeness – instead it is recommended that the olives be picked when they first start to ripen, i.e. when they are only partially darkened and they are at the peak of fruitiness with a minimum of acidity. This state is usually reached during the first days of November. The very old tradition of brucatura, or hand harvesting, has instead been preserved. Just after picking, the olives are not kept until the harvest is completed; instead they are sent immediately to the oil mill, to be pressed when they are at their freshest and most wholesome.

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Staff Corresspondent – Connoisseur Magazine

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Aksel Ritenis

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