Sunday, November 13, 2005

Olive Harvesting in Nugola

This past Venerdi (11-11-2005), I went with some schoolmates to a villa in Nugola, outside Livorno (southwest of Florence, near Pisa) to go olive harvesting. I documented my day and uploaded the photos. You can also see it as a slideshow.

The whole journey was rediculously beautiful. The view looking out from the villa was unreal, as if painted or pulled from a fantasy book. After we were greeted by the very nice family living there, we went to work. Picking olives isn't easy, but someone has to do it. While working we were offered a snack of toasted bread with olive oil--oil from last year's harvest. The family, who inherited the villa, doesn't have enough olive trees to sell their oil commercially. The olives picked are only enough for the family and their friends.

To pick olives, you simply pull off every single olive, ripe or not. Olives that will be used for olive oil get crushed entirely and it isn't important whether they are fully dark. Some of the olives, though, were darker, and these generally were from the tops of the trees we were picking. As we could feel with the increasing heat in the morning's brisk, cold air, the sun was coming up over the eastern ridge of trees; these trees were preventing the lower parts of the olive trees from getting sun. We used ladders and little rakes to pull off the higher olives. Olive trees are very durable and one can climb all over them. And if one tastes an olive from the tree, it is bitter and tart; remember, an olive one buys has been cured through a process.

We placed large nets down on the dew-wet grass to catch the olives that fell. When a tree was finished as much as we could manage, we would roll the nets to collect the olives, then pick up the olives and place them in buckets. The day's harvest was then dumped into a cellar room. The family was waiting to harvest all the olives before taking them to the press.

We joined the family for a beautiful lunch of pastas, salad, wine, pies, and gelato. The dining room had large animal heads on every wall below the ceiling; this was cool, but also quite unsettling. It is something to be eating and talking, and then to look up and notice a giant boar head or elk head peering over me. All the animals had been shot before 1900. While heading up the tower to use a bathroom, one might also notice some of the other old heads around the villa.

After lunch we travelled about forty-five minutes through the rolling countryside to the olive pressing plant. A very small facility, the whole operation was managed by one man. He had a kind sense of humor and his friends liked to point things out to us. We watched as olives went in, were washed, crushed, turned, spun, and were released as oil. Olio nuovo is very clowdy; the little bits of olive have yet to settle. To have olives pressed here, one needs an appointment. The facility also sold olio nuovo; and we bought some. The bottles filled, capped, and labelled right before us.

We said goodbye, climbed back into the chartered bus, and headed back via the autostrada for Firenze. From our windows we could see the Tuscan sun kiss the green hills of Nugola as it set behind them.

view my day...

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