Travel Bites

Olive-picking in Abruzzo


November is usually a dull month, it does not boast the ravishing ripe golden light of October, nor does it bring the cheer expectations of December and the Holiday season. But still, November has its thrill. Especially in Abruzzo.

In November almost everybody who owns some olive trees – “some” is a number ranging from 10 to 500 – is involved in harvesting olives. Many families own a small patch of land with a few trees, so olive-picking is a private business that involves relatives and close friends.

It is not just “work”, it is a way of spending a different weekend together and enjoy each other’s company, meeting new people (sometimes) and having a lavishing meal after harvesting is over.

The site setup requires some large nets to be spread under the trees, a ladder, some hand rakes, crates and enough manpower. Grown-ups climb the ladder or the tree itself and gently  comb the tree branches, those who suffer from vertigo work with their feet firmly on the ground and children pick up the olives that fall outside the net.

While doing so, people chat, tell stories, gossip, and time flies effortlessly and happily. Once the tree has been carefully combed, olives in the net are poured into crates; the net is then spread under the following tree and the process starts again. In the meantime, people come to pay a visit, some stay to give a helping hand, some other just stop to say hello, some just sit and watch.

When the sun is about to set, harvested olives are stored indoor and the day after they will be carried to the olive oil mill. After that, it’s time for lunch… or better, tea time. Hungry olive pickers take some refreshment with grilled sausages, steaks and chops and, needless to say, heaps of bruschette generously sprinkled with olive oil. While waiting for the olives to be crushed, week-end farmers’ dilemma will be: what will the yield be this year? – how many liters for 100 kilos?

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