Food Notes & Tousim 03/12/2012

The beauty of olive groves, the deliciousness of Ligurian oils

In some areas of Italy, the purchase of a bottle of extra virgin olive oil is an ethical choice. Pouring a drop of olive oil from Liguria means to defend the landscape

“I always associated Liguria to olive groves and oil, more than to the sea or other equally strong features, which are still intimately connected to the identity of the region” is the profound belief of oleologist Luigi Caricato.

Caricato has repeatedly written, over the years, about the extraordinariness of Ligurian oils, of their uniqueness, but most of all about the centrality of the olive groves for the landscapes, characterized by the famous terracing. In his books, Caricato told and illustrated the expressive power of olive tree cultivation in Liguria, without forgetting the numerous issues that it entails.

There is something special about Liguria, which makes it different from all other regions: its literary soul, its capability to tell the world about itself. Many writers and poets, not only from this land, praised its olive trees and oils, together with their producers. For example, the contribution of the ideas and testimonies brought by the historic and prestigious magazine “La Riviera Ligure”, published under the initiative of the Novaro family, has been unparalleled in divulgating the culture of oil and territory of this region.
Liguria landscape, with its dense and flourishing olive trees, with green and silver leaves, mostly of the Taggiasca variety, is not only product of nature dynamics: behind them, there is a clear hhuman footprint, expressed by the lucid pride of Ligurian people, who never quits and always strives for success with all their intimate strength.

“The attraction and love for Liguria was transmitted to me by Giovanni Boine” admits Caricato. This writer was born in Finale Marina in 1887 and passed away in Porto Maurzio, today Imperia, in 1917. He is not among the most renowned Italian literates, but his writings are powerful, and make the reader rediscover the most authentic spirit of Liguria and its people, through their shattering truth. In this difficult land, writes Giovanni Boine, everything requires effort: “there is no bomb here, furrows are drilled with the violent hoe, breaking the compact and clayey ground. A mean ground, insufficient, on cliff drops, which is sustained by the great works of terrace walls made by men”. All this huge work lasted centuries, and required mines and bats to break rocks for dry stone terrace walls. As Luigi Caricato says, “this effort deserves to be remembered today, when we taste all the deliciousness of these extra virgin olive oils, in an epoch when we are finally sure, against any abuse perpetrated in years where no regulation existed, that these oils are authentically from Liguria, thanks to the denomination of protected origin Riviera Ligure, which has saved the whole territory”.

Boine’s pages elicit great emotions in their readers, and make them understand what is hidden behind every olive tree in Liguria. The true soul and identity of the land can be perceived in his works: “…millions squared meters of dry stone walls that our fathers, who knows since when and for how long, built with their hands (…). Walls and terraces, and on top of them, twisted olive trees which testify that they have lived, that they were opulent for will and strength (…). And us – Giovanni Boine continues – were amidst olive trees like an ancient people in their cathedral: all our hopes relied there, all our certitudes were there, in the olive groves”.

“Not only trees of the Taggiasca variety” Caricato clarifies. “The olive germplasm include other cultivars, although less known and little widespread, or present only in limited ares”. Their names are Castelnovina, Colombaia, Cozanina, Fiandola, Finalina, Lantesca, Lizona, Mattea, Merlina, Negrera, Premice, Pietrasantina, Razzola, Rossese...

The Dop Riviera Ligure, with its three additional geographic indications – Riviera dei Fiori, Riviera del Ponente Savonese, Riviera di Levante – indicates the versatility of these oils. “Equal and diverse, we can say: they share kindness and delicacy in their smell, and taste”. Luigi Caricato attributes them “finesse and elegance, with fruited notes which denote personality and character, without ever resulting disharmonic and excessive”:

“The necessary impulse to the birth of olive culture in Liguria was given by Benedictine monks; Taggia, where the Abbey of Santa Maria del Canneto was built, was most likely the propulsive center. Since then, it is fundamental the effort of Ligurians. Nobody can ever forget it: they had to move the earth with their arms to fill the empty spaces between walls and hills, thus forming that characteristic belt to the whole region, which appears like a magnificent and large amphitheater”.

“This terribly hard work should never be forgotten, before tasting Riviera Ligure oil. Therefore – oleologist Luigi Caricato repeats – there must be an ethics of consumes”. It is not by chance that last year the Consortium for the protection of extra virgin olive oil published the “Manifesto in defense of pureness and typicalness of Dop Riviera Ligure oil”, where the centrality of the landscape is strongly emphasized.

The following excerpt, says: “Behind every drop of oil, there is the diligent industriousness of farmers who have been cultivating this land, in spite of extreme and inaccessible conditions, like true heros of the territory. The landscape would be different without them. The choice of an extra virgin olive oil whose origin is certified also means to support the effort of those who fight against the erosion of lands”.

di Maria Carla Squeo