Museum of Olive Oil in Abruzzo – how is extra virgin olive oil made?
The “Museo dell’Olio” (Museum of Olive Oil) in Bucchianico (Chieti), which I visited recently, it is quite a unique and interesting place whether you are new to Abruzzo, a local or a seasoned Abruzzo lover.
I absolutely loved it, and not just because it was created and it is run by my dear friends at natural farm and winery Cantinarte. I genuinely think it’s a great place to visit, for tourists and locals alike, and why not, with classrooms and in study trips. Discovering the traditional, artisanal way of making olive oil will not just give you theoretical knowledge (and extra conversation points at dinner parties) but will also help you when it comes to buy olive oil for your consumption.
The Cantinarte Museum of Olive Oil also runs degustation workshops (a post on this coming soon) and sells the house extra-virgin olive oil, Oropuro. But now, come with me on a discovery tour…
The aim of the Olive Oil Museum is is to celebrate one of our region’s food treasures – Abruzzo olive oil – and to preserve the memory of traditional oil making tecniques. In fact, the Museum holds a precious relic of the bygone era when olive oil was made entirely by hand and without any electrical power involved: a giant wooden press from the XVIII sentury, used to extract the oil from the olive paste.
The press, beautifully lightened, lies at the hearth of the Museum of Olive Oil, hosted in a “fondaco” (ground floor workshop) from the XVIII century, which still retains its lovely architectural features- volte “a botte” (barrel vaults) and exposed brick walls.
There is also a stone mill which was operated by horsepower, or rather ass-power; the giant double wheel was used to grind the olives (yes, stones included) into a rough paste which then went into the press. At the Museum , you can also see the “friscoli”, a round shallow basket, traditionally made of wicker, in which the olive paste was shoveled after milling, The friscoli were then piled up underneath the press, and then squeezed.
The dry residue from this process – called “fecce”, which is the equivalent of the English word “scum”- was stored in a cold, windowless room under the mill floor, dried up and used as firewood. Nothing went to waste!
The Museum’s displays touch on every aspect of the olive oil production- from growing and pruning the olive trees, to picking the olives – a process which is still done by hand, with the help of rakes and nets laid on the ground to catch the falling fruits.
Whilst wandering around, I had so many flashbacks of me picking olives in my Granddad farm as a kid, together with all the family, and then going to the olive mill to see the oil being made!
The beauty of the Museum of Olive Oil is that it’s a “live” museum, you’re not just staring at exhibits and reading panels: Francesca, the museum owner and tour guide, really brings the whole process to life. And since she also makes extra virgin olive oil at Cantinarte, she’s able to gives visitors an insight on today’s production methods, as well as educating them about what makes a good olive oil. Yes, because not all extra-virgin oil are created equal…curious? Then come back for my next post about the olive oil degustation workshop in Abruzzo. Ciao!