Olive Picking

The Compitese is an area extending from the eastern slopes of the Monte Pisano, the hilly range that separates Pisa from Lucca (as Dante wrote in his Divine Comedy “Il monte per che i Pisan veder Lucca non ponno.” – The hill placed there so that the Pisans can’t see Lucca –  like a barrier placed between Siamese fighting fish to prevent them fighting each other).

The Compitese descends onto a marshy plain which was once occupied by a large lake, Lago Bientina. This lake has been largely drained by the construction of a canal by the engineer Manetti in 1859. Today, however, in keeping with wild-life policy parts of the lake have been reclaimed as wetlands resulting in a protected area known as Padule di Bientina, a favourite breeding ground of migrating birds and a heaven for bird-watchers.

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We visited friends at San Ginese di Compito last Sunday and were invited to an al fresco lunch in luxuriant sunshine. A sommelier treated us to wines from the Trento region.

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Somewhat later than planned we made our way to a hill village in the Pisan Mountain called Ruota (literally wheel) where our host has an olive grove.

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We’d been to Ruota before to take part in its attractive living crib last Christmas (see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/a-spectacularly-living-christmas-crib/ ) but were not aware that the place is also famous for some of the best olive oil produced in Tuscany. In November the fruit is in full maturity and now’s time to collect it.

Many hands make light work. With sheets to collect the olives and with a special machine to shake the olive trees and encourage them to drop their precious fruits we collected a fair amount of olives. The problem was that the grove has over 180 trees and we only managed to do barely half a dozen of them!

No problem. The occasion was mainly a social rather than an agricultural one and doubtless we’ll be back during the week to help out collecting the fruit from this sacred tree whose oil was used to anoint kings and athletes in ancient Greece and which remains a symbol of fertility, wisdom glory, abundance, purity and peace.

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