I can't stay for long, as I'm due at the mill to help press my olives and make them into oil. Pressing when the olives are at their maximum freshness is how you get that vibrant flavor and bright yellow and green color. The mill is chilly, to keep the fruit as fresh as possible; loud, since machines (not donkeys) are now used; and busy. Commercial olive growers, individuals with small crops, and people like me all come to the same place. When it's my turn I simply hand over my crop to the miller, and watch the machines do their business. First the olives are rid of stems and dirt, then ground into a paste, and the final step is separating the oil from the vegetable water and solids. The whole process can take as short as an afternoon, less if it's really well timed and no one is in line. Today I can't stay until the end as I'm due back at my B&B, so vow to drop back in the morning to pick up my personalized bottles of oil.
Eating from the Italian Countryside
The countryside is spectacular, but I can't do much dwelling as I hug the switch-backs on my way to Casal dei Fichi, my home while in Marche. Bob and Ian, two British expats, own the traditional farmhouse-cum-B&B snug alongside yet another lush Italian valley, and are doing their best to adopt the Italian way of life. Bob and Ian host gourmet olive breaks, which include olive oil and wine tastings, market visits, cooking workshops (I can finally learn how to make gnocchi!) and the chance to help with the olive harvest.
They've also mastered cooking with the traditional stone oven they inherited with the property, and tonight are hosting a pizza feast for the guests. As I bite into the sweet tomato and spicy basil of the classic margherita, with the thin crust bubbled up just perfectly, I wonder how I might follow in Bob and Ian's footsteps one day.
The next morning I wake knowing it's my last day in this abundant countryside, overflowing with olives, wine and the finest meats, cheeses, and fruit. To make the most of everything around me, I pack a picnic of epic proportions to enjoy back at the grove. I load Peppe's ciauscolo, a slab of soft taleggio cheese, a bottle of Vino Cotto, roasted chestnuts, and a jar of preserved plums. On the way back to the grove, I stop at the local baker for a loaf of crusty white bread, and then at the mill for my bottles of freshly pressed olive oil. When I have everything I need, I head to the grove. Sitting back under Olie, with the feast laid out around me, I dig in, vowing to take a little of this lifestyle back home with me.
If you go:
Jillian Dickens hails from Vancouver Island and spent several years working in Canada's arctic. She is the author of the Nunavut section of the Frommer's Guide to Canada, as well as the Nunavut section of Frommer's Far and Wide. When not running Bannikin Travel & Tourism - a boutique marketing firm based in Toronto - she writes about travel for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.
Eating a Personal Pig by Zora O'Neill
Can a Croissant Change Your Life? by Amy Rosen
Where Queens Come for a Fight by Donald Strachan
Lessons Learned in the Wales Countryside by Amy Rosen
Other Europe travel stories from the archives
Books from the Author: