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  • Writer's pictureThomas Gubler

The fascination of the olive tree

The 500 or so olive trees were planted on steep terrain terraced with dry stone walls after the abandonment of viticulture 50 to 70 years ago. The olive varieties native to Etna are Brandofino (Randazzese), Nocellara Etnea and San Benedetto, as well as Coratina, Frantoia and Nostrale from the mainland. The trees grow in six small groves, which together cover an area of just over two hectares. The groves are spread over 11 hectares of land between 500 and 600 metres above sea level. The embedding in a near-natural landscape with oak forest and species-rich rough pastures promotes health and resilience. The olives ripen in a landscape of biblical beauty with a view of the majestic, 3350-metre-high Mount Etna.

The olive trees are treated with the utmost respect and care. Not the yield and the convenient harvest are in the foreground, but the health and beauty of the proud trees. There is no fertilisation or use of pesticides. My farm has been registered for organic certification with Ecocert Italia since 2018, but there are still two years of patience and checks to go before it is expected to be ready in May 2021. The mechanical tillage with bare soil in the olive groves, which is still common in Sicily, is dispensed with. For the purpose of fire prevention and combating brambles, the herb layer, which is already thin at this time of year, will be mown at ground level with a string mower from the end of June. This also mulches the soil, which is thus protected from the hot sun and from soil erosion during the first rainfall in autumn. The interaction of the six olive groves growing in different locations with the different olive varieties mentioned above results in an inimitable olive oil that characterises the Valle d'Oliva. It goes without saying that the olives are harvested by hand at the right degree of ripeness and brought daily, cleaned of leaves and branches, to the modern olive oil press. Chemical analyses and sensory tests reveal an excellent olive oil that reflects all the magic of the Valle d'Oliva with its view of Mount Etna.


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