Although there are some very good wines in the Lucca region, our area is especially noted for its (olive!) oil. Some of the world’s best oils come from the trees planted on the hill slopes north of Lucca and, in my opinion, are of a higher quality than those found around Florence. This is largely because in the late eighties of the last century a series of terribly cold winters devastated the olive groves around that city and it takes at least twenty years for an olive tree to start producing really good olives. The Lucca area’s winters are somewhat tempered by its greater proximity to the sea and so there are more ancient olive groves here than in most other places.
(Ancient olive tree outside Valdottavo’slower church)
(Interestingly, olive trees belong to the same family as ash, lilac, privet, jasmine, and forsythia, the last of which is at the moment in full bloom – see Debra’s post at http://bellabagnidilucca.com/2015/04/03/yellow-flowers/ . You can also read more about the olive in my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/oil-on-my-land/ ).
Olive groves also abound further up the Serchio river valley. My own modest collection of olive trees at Longoio are about five years old now and have started to produce small but spicy fruit. Above an altitude of 500 metres, however, the tree is difficult to cultivate.
The Valdottavo valley has a micro climate conducive to the production of high quality virgin olive oil and there’s a “Festa dell ‘olio” every year in this elegant little town which boast its own art nouveau theatre and several flashy fin-de-siècle houses built by returning emigrants who struck it rich in the Americas.
We covered the festa last at year at
and decided to revisit it this year with friends.
Apart from booths selling the wonderful liquid there are other attractions at the festival, which lasts two days.
There’s a refreshment tent, (the headquarters of the local band on other occasions):
a display of motorbikes and agricultural equipment,
a stage for shows, demonstrations on how to prune olives, some nice flower stalls including one selling bonsai olive trees,
some unusual dogs including this persian greyhound
and an art exhibition.
This year’s exhibition was dedicated to Giuseppe Pierucci who specialises in post-impressionist evocations of the countryside around us. I feel his paintings are a cut above the usual landscapes produced by local artists and show real feeling for the ambience and sensitivity to the rapidly changing colours of our part of the world.
Take, for instance, this view of the little Romanesque church of San Martino a Greppo surrounded by lavender fields.
Or the lovely oratory of San Graziano.
Here are some more luscious landscapes by Pierucci.
On a more sardonic note are these two exquisitely executed statues, also by him.
The first one, illustrating the present state of Italy, is particularly poignant.
The second illustrates what Alan Bennett said Britain excels at – (hypocrisy!)
I’m glad the festival continues and hope that visitors to it will gain ever more respect of the virgin oils this valley produces and be able to taste the difference between counterfeit virgins “produced in the EU” and those with an actual name of provenance e.g. the groves around Valdottavo.
PS I got told off for suggesting we include this festival next year – I somehow doubt it’ll have much to do with extra virgin oil.