Italian flavors: Riviera Ligure oil

May 22, 2021 152

The Riviera Ligure Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) Extra Virgin Olive Oil production area extends across the entire territory of Liguria. Olive cultivation rises from the coastal area up to accessible heights. After the fall of the Roman Empire, olive growing continued alongside the cultivation of other crops. Liguria provided an ideal climate for production, with good economic prospects. This led to a vast phenomenon of olive tree planting, which only ended in the nineteenth century.

Documents such as the Bill of Lading for “two barrels and ten skins of fine oil” of 18 February 1796 show how the oil was transported in barrels or goat skin flasks. In this particular instance, permission is granted to a “leudo” (cargo boat) called “L’Immacolata Concezione” belonging to the ship-owner Gio Lamberto.

The olive groves are on hillsides with medium and steep gradients, arranged mainly in terraces, the soil of which derives from the decomposition of the limestone bedrock. The terracing of the olive groves allows the otherwise fragile terrain, prone to landslides, to be preserved. Where the olive groves are well cultivated, the land is stable.

The olives are picked by hand or with small machinery that has minimal impact. Nets are spread under the trees and the branches are beaten with wooden poles or with the more modern combs and electric or compressed-air shakers. 

The harvested olives are taken to the mill on the same day for processing into oil. The removal of the leaves from the olives before taking them to the mill is a Ligurian ritual, performed at dusk. Continuous-cycle oil mills allow a higher quality product to be produced.

The pressing must be well calibrated in relation to the typical characteristics of Ligurian olives, which are generally small, but with a very high final yield. In the eighteenth century, girls were brought from other areas of Liguria, Piedmont and Emilia to help with the olive harvest. These were known as “sciascieline” and their arrival was an opportunity for the local boys, who would organize genuine feasts and often ended up marrying them.

By Consorzio per la Tutela dell'Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva DOP Riviera Ligure with MiPAAF

You may be interested