Olive Groves Yesterday and Today

Terraced-Field Olive Farming, Local Cultivars and the Yearly Cycle

Olive farming in Liguria goes back to ancient times and olive trees feature strongly all over the local landscape.

Originally from Asia Minor, olive trees grow on the mild sea-facing slopes of Liguria, tucked away from frost and humidity.

MORE INFORMATION – Olive Groves Yesterday and Today

In his Acta Ordinis Sancti Benedicti, the French historian Jean Mobillon described how Benedictine monks introduced olive farming and dry-stone wall terracing to the people of Finale Ligure at the beginning of 1100 CE. Terracing turned steep, stony slopes into flat platforms, locally called “fascie” [t.n.: pron. /fashe/ meaning terraced field] that could then be used for olive farming. Land-terracing techniques imply building a dry-stone wall downstream of the slope and filling the space behind the wall with soil, with stones and soil often being transported on mule-back from farther afield. Ultimately, Liguria’s unique landscape was forged from the hard toil of terracing.

Despite ups and downs over the centuries, olive oil has been used in cosmetics, as a source of power-generation and in the kitchen. Nowadays, olive oil is mostly used for cooking.

Ligurian olive farming commenced in the second half of the 1500s, when a taste for olive oil first developed and demand increased throughout Europe. As prices increased and production became profitable, olive farming quickly spread and peeked between the 17th and 19th centuries.

The following olive varieties are farmed in Finale Ligure:

Taggiasca – the best known and used variety due to its great adaptability;

Pignola – locally known as feina meaning from Feglino [t.n.: a small local village] – Pignola olives are a late-harvest variety yielding small, rather rounded, black fruit;

Colombaia – an ancient cultivar from Finalpia and Varigotti – Colombaia olives feature particular up-growing foliage and yield a rich dark polyphenolic oil.

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