248 – Autumn Visitors and the 2017 Olive Harvest

Over the Autumn we have had a string of friends and family members come and visit us at Tre Cancelle which kept us busy. First we welcomed our friends: Clive and Marilyn who used to live in Gaeta. For several years Clive used to help Paul a great deal in the olive grove before their move back to the UK. They treated us to a lovely meal at a restaurant in Gaeta named the Masaniello.

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Clive and Paul

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Marilyn

My cousins Cathy and Jeff from Australia came to stay for a a week and also Paul’s sister and her friend Linda. They also helped Paul to celebrate his birthday.

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Cathy and Jeff

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Annie and Paul

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Annie, Paul, Cathy, Jeff and Linda

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The Birthday Boy – Paul

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A hand-drawn birthday card by Jeff of “San Paolo”

They also have us an amazing hand in clearing and preparing the olive groves for the harvest. Thank you all for you wonderful efforts !!!

No sooner had this party departed another arrived in the form of came our friend Kay and also friends Gerda and Adrian from South Africa who had recently got married.  The couple had been doing a 30 day whistle-stop tour of Europe visiting 5 countries, 22 towns and villages in Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy.  And they still managed to fit in a few day’s visit to see us at Tre Cancelle. Amazing guys !!!

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Adrian and Gerda from South Africa

We also welcomed two of Kay’s friends, Nicky and Simon. All had come to help with the olive harvest.  Our American friends from Minturno and  Nandi, Davide and their three children from Itri, Tomaso, Dante and Giada, also volutuneered to help for a couple of days which was fantastic to have some extra pairs of hands.

This year we had a decent crop much to Paul’s delight . Over a couple of weeks with our team of volunteer workers we managed to harvest 1000 kilos of olives which were turned into about 180 litres of November harvest extra virgin olive oil which was really good news. At the same time we also managed to prune some of the trees that were growing too far too tall.

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Our sincere thanks to all those who took part and helped to make it such fun. It was an outstanding team effort.

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tctitle

Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Holiday Apartments Near Sperlonga’s Beaches and Historic Itri

Discover Beautiful South Lazio

 

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199 – Spring In The Olive Groves

The Spring is always a busy time for us at Tre Cancelle.  There’s always the Spring cleaning of the apartments to do and generally tidying and sprucing up around the place. 

This Spring was extra busy as we had had a fair bit of pruning carried out on the olive trees over the winter months, and there was a large amount of wood from the severed branches to be sorted and cut to size ready for the wood-shed.

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Some of the dogs didn’t waste time in making themselves cosy little nests amongst the leafy branches or frasche.

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Our builder friends very kindly lent us a hand by helping to transport some of the wood from the lower sections of the olive grove to the car park area in front of the house.

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We purchased a new chop-saw to help with the task of cutting the wood into manageable lengths.

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This may seem like an awful lot of wood but our wood-burning stoves are hungry beasts and consume huge amounts of firewood over the winter months to keep us cosy.  There are still several piles of firewood to be gathered and chopped, so hopefully we will be well stocked up for next winter.

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Italian winters can be cold and damp, however we rarely get a frost.  This year however was an exception, as we were hit by an icy cold snap, which killed off most of my geraniums and also burst an underground pipe.  At first we didn’t understand what had happened. It wasn’t until we received a phone call from our local water supplier asking us to pay our bill.  When Paul asked how much it was, his jaw dropped !!! – It was far higher than normal.  It was only then that we realised that there must have been a leak !!! Not good news !!! Not good news at all !!!

During March our friend Kay came to stay and she is always willing to help with many different tasks around the place.  Some of our other friends, Pauline and Filippo who also live in Itri, also came to lend us a hand in the groves. Heartfelt thanks to them all !!!

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Filippo, Pauline, Paul and Kay at Bix Bar in Itri

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By then the olive groves were gaily decorated by delicate wild flowers and blossoms.

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The astounding beauty of nature !!!

At this time of year the people from Itri also roam the countryside to collect the local delicacy of wild asparagus.  It grows freely on our land.

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Unfortunately the horses also love to eat it !!!

Photos by me – Louise, Paul, Kay and F. Agresti

#spring #itri #italy #SouthLazio #olive #grove #WildAsparugus

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TCTitleTre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments

Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

196 – Helping Hands In The Groves

A few days after Elsie’s party a couple more good friends arrived from Cardiff, Nicki and Callum, who had volunteered to help out for a week in the “Tre Cancelle” olive groves.  This was their second visit to Itri. 

Sadly this year once again we had no olives.  It is not just us, though, it is the same in many of the olive groves in Itri, because there were strong winds back in early May when the trees are in bloom and the flowers failed to set. 

We have recently got some workers in to help with some pruning in the lower section of the grove, and they had left behind piles of branches and twigs that littered the ground. 

Pruning Olive Grove Itri Italy

The job in hand was then to chomp out and separate the chunky branches from the smaller twiggy ones, called “frasche”, using pneumatically powered secateurs.

Then all the small branches have to be gathered up and burned.

Pruning Olive Grove Itri Italy

Bonfire Pruning Olive Grove Itri Italy

The burn ferociously because of the amount of oil in the sap.

We all got stuck in and worked our cotton socks off for several days and managed to clear several of the terraces.  In fact it became a quite a challenge as to how many terraces we could conquer.   Callum is only 14 but he worked so hard. Nicki you should be so proud of him.

Bonfire Pruning Olive Grove Itri Italy

Pruning Olive Grove Itri Italy

Pruning Olive Grove Itri Italy

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Pruning Olive Grove Itri Italy

Firewood Pruning Olive Grove Itri Italy

Dog Max Olive Grove Itri Italy

Max Olive Grove Itri Italy

Sunset in Olive Grove Itri Italy

However, it wasn’t all work and no play that week.

We all went out for a special birthday meal at the “Casareccia” in Campodimele and were joined once again by our American friends from Ohio, Florisa and Patrizia.

Meal at  La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

Meal at  La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

Meal at  La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

Meal at  La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

Once again Maria served up copious amounts of wonderful handmade delicacies.

Meal at  La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

Meal at  La Casareccia Campodimele Italy

Callum is a keen young cook and whilst staying at Tre Cancelle he made a fabulous chocolate cake.

Chocolate Cake Tre Cancelle

Chocolate Cake Tre Cancelle

You can come and stay again Callum !!!

On their last evening we took Callum, Nicki and Kay to the Bellavista.

Here Callum had a one to one lesson in art of pizza making, by the expert himself – Massimo !!!

Making Pizzas at La Bellavista Restaurant Itri Italy

Making Pizzas at La Bellavista Restaurant Itri Italy

It’s not as easy as it looks !!!  It is all about stretching the dough.

Making Pizzas at La Bellavista Restaurant Itri Italy

Callum made a special pizza for his mum ……

Making Pizzas at La Bellavista Restaurant Itri Italy

Making Pizzas at La Bellavista Restaurant Itri Italy

Making Pizzas at La Bellavista Restaurant Itri Italy

Making Pizza at Bellavista Restaurant Itri Latina Italy

Pizza at the Bellavista Restaurant Itri Latina Italy

Bellavista Restaurant Itri Latina Italy

Bellavista Restaurant Itri Latina Italy

Bellavista Restaurant Itri Latina ItalyNicki, Anna and Kay

Thank you Kay, Callum and Nicki

for all your support and hard work during that busy week. 

We couldn’t have done it without you !!!

#olives #gaetaolives #itriitaly #lacasarecciacampodimele #bellavistaitri

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TCTitle

Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments

Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

39 – Need Something To Look Forward To ?

Brrrrrrrrrrrr !!!

The weather back in the UK sounds atrocious !!!  

Here in Itri, this year, we have yet to experience a frost !!!

Today was mild and sunny so we have been working outside.  

It was lovely to feel the sun on our back, and hear the birds joyfully twittering.

Spring is on the way !!!

If any of you are fed up with the cold and the snow,

why not think of planning a little break in Italy,

something to look forward to?

The Spring is a lovely time to visit ” TRE  CANCELLE ” and Italy in general

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Set amidst the greenery of our own olive groves,

in the heart of the Italian countryside. 

An  excellent  base  for  exploring  this  beautiful, region of South Lazio.

Close to many lovely Golden Sandy Beaches on the Riviera Di Ulisse 

and  seaside resorts of 

Sperlonga / Gaeta / Formia / Terracina / San Felice Circeo

Rocky coves, hidden caves and sheltered harbours.

Sparkling, clear waters awarded the prestigious

European Blue Flag for several years. 

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Sperlonga

Yet close by are the dramatic mountains of the Aurunci Regional Park,

with its verdant hillsides, olive groves, lakes and protected nature reserves.

 Easy day trips to Rome / Naples / Caserta / Montecassino / Anzio / Ponza

 Nearest Airports: 

Rome Ciampino / Rome Fiumicino / Naples Capodichino

 We are on hand to ensure you have a most enjoyable holiday.  

*** SPECIAL OFFER ***

 We have decided to reduce our “Out of Season” prices.

REVISED PRICES – per apartment, per week (7 nights) during Period :

2 Feb 2009 to 3 April 2009 … was 425 euros    Now 395 euros

(including heating via Wood-Burning Stove – wood provided)

4 April 2009 to 1 May 2009 … was 450 euros   Now 425 euros

2 May to 3 July 2009 …  was 550 euros    Now 500 euros

4 July to 17 July 2009 … 550 euros

18 July to 28 August 2009 …  630  euros

29 Aug to 2 Oct 2009 …  was 550 euros   Now  500 euros

3 Oct to 6 Nov 2009 … was 475 euros   Now 425  euros

See our website for full details: 

 http://trecancelle.shapcott-family.com

 

We also have a selection of other Holiday Villas available in this area:

http://www.shapcott-family.com/Immobiliare_Itri_La_Rocca/Holprops/index.html

Please do contact us for more details

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32 – Our Olive Harvest Volunteers – Jane & Heulwen

The next set of volunteers, Heulwen and Jane arrived safely on the following Sunday evening.  The weather forecast was not looking promising, however on Monday morning the weather was in fact fine and fortunately stayed fine for the whole week, so we started where we had left off a few days previously. 

Normally each Monday and Wednesday evening  Paul does an English Lesson for our good friends Pasquale and Raffaele, so we invited them to eat with us, and Jane, who is a cook by profession, prepared a tasty meal for us all with bruschetta and chicken breasts stuffed with ham, cheese and spinach.

ol16Tuesday we worked hard again in the olive grove and the tally from Monday and Tuesday’s collection came to a grand total of 357 kilos, beating the previous record that had been set just the week before.  This yielded another 60 plus litres of oil.

Thankfully with the weather improving further, Wednesday was another good day of olive harvesting. Wednesday evening is normally another English lesson, and Pasquale and an old student, Antonio, came over after supper to benefit from more English conversation. Even Raffaele managed to turn up a little later despite having said he would be unable to make it.

In Thursday’s sunshine, and with the additional help of Filippo in the afternoon we managed to gather a massive 400 kilos of olives to take down to the mill.  This total took us over the amount we had gathered during our very first harvest at “Tre Cancelle” on the back of all the previous owners cultivation skills.  Paul felt this was an important milestone, an indiction that perhaps we have at least learned some new farming skills  over the past three years.

Once again, we can’t thank you enough for all your help and hard grind, Filippo, Jane and Hels !!!

Not only did the girls work long and hard in the groves, but in the evening they experimented with cooking.  Jane is clearly passionate about food and Heulwen was keen to learn.  One evening together they knocked up some delicious home-made pizzas.   

past01bThe girls wanted to have a go at making pasta, so we dug out our old pasta machine.  They prepared and kneaded the dough, before feeding the first flattened lump through the rollers of the wonderful contraption. 

They repeated this process several times, periodically reducing the gap between the rollers, thus gradually rolling it out into a thinner and longer strip of smooth, silky pasta. 

past05We used this to make some ravioli with a beef filling. With the left over dough  they made some fettucini and spaghetti.

Heulwen tried her hand at a Carbonara sauce (with fried pancetta, eggs, cream and Parmesan cheese) which was delicious.

The following lunchtime we dined on the fettucine and spaghetti with a freshly prepared Puttanesca sauce (made with tomatoes, “Itri olives”, capers and anchovies).

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Friday we took a well earned day off and went for a spot of lunch at Pauline and Filippo’s.  Deefa insisted on coming too !!!

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A meal at Pasquale’s that evening was a suitable finale to our busy week.  Rafaelle brought a sauce, prepared by his mother, for a primo piatto: pasta with Aubergine, courgette, sweet peppers and tomato, plus some fresh chilli to give it a bit of an edge. This was followed by a Secondo:  local hand-made sausages cooked in the oven with potatoes and rosemary.   

peppFilippo had expertly prepared some roasted red peppers.  He had charred them over an open fire before removing the blackened skins, slicing them into strips and tossing them in olive oil and lots of finely chopped garlic. Ideal for warding off vampires !!!

The meal continued with a salad of mixed green leaves and some fresh Mozzarella di Bufala and Parma Ham.  For the pudding or Dolce Jane had made a fresh Ricotta Cheesecake with a Fruits of the Forest Coulis topping and a scrumptious Kiwi fruit Pavlova with some rather nice “bubbly”. Then coffee and grappa topping off a wonderful spread and a most pleasant evening.

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31 – Our Olive Harvest Volunteers – Linda and Linda

The first set of our “Welsh Girl” Volunteers arrived for 5 days during  the last week of November, “Big Linda” and “Little Linda”

Sunday evening Paul went to collect them from Itri Station.  We had been in contact with them by through texts via mobile phones, so we knew which train to meet.   We had warned them to sit in one of the front half a dozen or so coaches, since Itri station has a fairly short  platform which doesn’t always extend to the full length of the train. 

However  the girls failed to heed our advice, and found that they had to throw off their suitcases first and launch themselves off the train into the darkness !!!  Eventually the two happy travellers appeared out of the gloom at the end of the platform, a little weary but nonetheless glad to have arrived !!!  We shared a piping hot lasagne and glass or two of vino in front of the log fire to round off their long day.

Unfortunately during this period the weather seemed to be set against us and for the first two days there was heavy rain and strong winds. This frustratingly kept us housebound, yet it was good to catch up with each other’s news and enjoy some friendly company and the odd game of cards.

"Little Linda" Gathering Up Olive Nets

"Little Linda" Gathering Up Olive Nets

 

 

 

Barney Dog Helping "Big Linda"

Barney Dog Helping "Big Linda"

Eventually on the third day there came a break in the weather and at last we were able to get out into the groves for two successive days.  Despite the fact that we were now operating on some sloping terrain, which is more challenging to work on than the flatter areas, by the end of the second day we had collected just over 300 kg of olives which we felt was quite an achievement.  This batch topped our previous maximum load taken to the mill, in a single delivery which produced just under 60 litres of extra virgin olive oil.  

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Well Done Girls !!!

We can’t thank you enough for all your help.

The Linda’s also had the opportunity to meet one of our English students, Raffaele, and we enjoyed an evening of his friendly banter.

Friday morning Paul took the girls into Itri to buy their train tickets.  The girls had planned to fit in a quick visit to the Trevi Fountain in Rome, to throw a coin in – to ensure their return, before catching their train to Ciampino and flight back to Bristol.

 

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30 – Itri Table Olives

Itrana olives are also suitable as table olives.

ol2aWe had hand-picked some especially plump olives to prepare for preserving in brine.  Olives, freshly harvested from the trees are inedible and need to be treated to remove the astringent bitter taste.  Filippo showed us how to partially slice the olives with a knife before placing them into a brine solution.  These then must be left to cure for a period of about 5 or 6 months, after which they become soft.  They take on a distinctive bitter flavour, with a hint of wine vinegar.  They are absolutely delicious.

There are in fact two types of Itrana table olives:

“White” which in reality are a golden green colour with pale pink markings, harvested early in the season whilst they are only semi ripe

and

“Black” which are actually a deep purple colour, harvested in March or April, when the olives are fully ripened. Although the Itrani olives are mainly cultivated in the Itri area, they are more commonly marketed abroad, mainly to America, as “Olive di Gaeta”, despite the fact that they are cultivated around Itri and not Gaeta !!!

Top chefs recommend that recipes such as “Spaghetti alla Puttanesca” or “Straccetti alla Marinara” require only the best ingredients, such as “Gaeta”  (Itri !!! ) Olives.

 

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29 – Our “Tre Cancelle Olive Oil”

olivIn Itri there are several olive mills, the largest of which is a new modern building, marked with a curious tall post mounted with a ball made of yellow wire mesh, which is illuminated at night, presumably it is supposed to represent an olive.

However, we normally choose to get this batch of our olives processed at the local Co-operative.  At the olive mill, first our crates were weighed and marked with our name, and then stacked until it was their turn for processing.  

During the first process the olives are tipped into a hopper and passed through a vibrating machine which separates the olives from the leaves and any other debris.

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Then they are washed, and sent on to another machine for the second process, where they are mechanically sliced, crushed, mashed and churned to produce a smooth pulp.

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The third process extracts the liquid mixture of oil and water and feeds it into a large centrifuge, whilst the remaining solids are collected for further processing offsite.

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A session of spinning to separate the oil from the water follows, the oil after a last filtering being finally decanted into the olive producer’s portable container.

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It is back-breaking work, but it is incredibly satisfying to see our own olives transformed into freshly milled, vibrant golden green oil.

From tipping the olives into the hopper at the beginning of the “continuous cycle” , to the oil flowing out the other end takes a little more than one hour.

Our olives had been harvested early in the season, so they tend to produce slightly less oil, but one of an extra high quality (low levels of acidity) with a fruity and slightly peppery after taste. Oil derived from fully mature olives, harvested later in March or April, would be somewhat denser, less bitter and with higher levels of acidity.

To be classified as “Extra Virgin” olive oil  this has to be extracted during the “first pressing” of the olives and must have an acidity level of below 1%, therefore, the lower the acid level, the higher the quality oil. More oil can be (and is) extracted from the solids remaining after the first extraction, but a lower quality olive oil is the result. Finally after all the oil processing is done the remaining matter is pressed into briquettes for burning on open fires.

Therefore our own olive oil, could be labelled:

“Extra Virgin” 

“Cold Pressed”    

“Early Pressing” 

“Derived solely from the Itrana variety of olives”

It is a superior quality oil, with a good flavour,  and is noted to be exceptionally low in acidity, in fact far below the 1% international standard.

Many olive oils that you can buy fairly cheaply in supermarkets may be labelled “Extra Virgin”, but these can be made from a blend of oils of varying quality. 

It is rather like the blending of whisky, where taste and quality can vary widely.  Our “Tre Cancelle Olive Oil” is more comparable to a superior Single Malt Whisky, of infinitely higher qualityThe real McCoy”  !!! 

Chefs would generally choose this type of “quality oil” to dress a salad, rather than for use in general cooking.

Well – This is just the beginning of our Olive Harvest.  The harvesting will go on for several weeks/months.

Some excellent News !!!  At the end of November we have some of our past guests coming to stay, known lovingly the “Welsh Girls” (despite the fact that they are not all Welsh !), who have volunteered to come to help us with the olive harvest. 

We are sure that even without the offer of free accommodation and wine, they would have come anyway !!!  

Any other volunteers ???

 

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28 – Start of the 2008 Olive Harvest

treesaWell, its November once again, and we are pleased to say that we have made a start on the olive harvest  here at “Tre Cancelle”.  This year we have many more olives than last year.  By the beginning of November many were growing round and plump and gradually turning from green to a dappled pink.

The countryside surrounding Itri has been noted for the quality of its olives since Roman times. The Itrana variety is exclusive to this specific area, thriving in the unique environment.  Everywhere you care to look in Itri there are olive trees, its undulating hillsides are tinted with their distinctive silver-grey foliage. In this rocky terrain olive trees thrive, benefiting from the hot, dry summers, temperate winters, refreshing Tyrhennian Sea breezes and fertile mountain soil. Indeed the cultivation and preparation of this fruit is the mainstay of the local economy.

Unfortunately, during the last week or so we have been troubled by some violent electrical storms, accompanied by bursts of heavy rain and forceful winds.  Consequently a number of the olives have already been battered to the ground, so last week we started the harvest by collecting up some of these fallen fruits – a long and arduous job, on our hands and knees, but it is such a shame to waste them by leaving them to rot on the ground.  In fact last weekend, I imagine that almost all the inhabitants of Itri would have been on their hands and knees, also trying to salvage windfall olives.

ol1aAt the weekend Filippo and his English wife Pauline kindly volunteered to help us with some olive gathering.  But we had a problem, as Paul could not remember where we had put our olive nets.  Either he has put them somewhere very safe”, or someone has “half inched them”, so in the end we had to go out and buy some new ones. 

We started by spreading the huge, green, synthetic nets under four or five trees. Paul then fired up the air compressor, which is driven by a small, raucous petrol engine, and connected the long, flexible, pneumatic hose to the compressor’s air reservoir. There are a variety of tools that can be attached to the end of the hose, but for harvesting olives there is the machinetta, a mechanical shaker which has a pair of vibrating clappers, mounted on a telescopic aluminium pole, which can be extended to a maximum length of about four metres.

ol4a1Paul operated the shaker, to dislodge the fruits from the higher branches of the trees, while the rest of us endeavoured not to get battered by the tumbling fruit that was raining down. Pauline and I worked on the lower branches, detaching the olives by gently running our fingers over the fronds, and popping off the green drupes. Filippo chose to use a ladder to climb up the tree to pick olives that were proving difficult to reach.  Then I  scrambled about under the trees to manually gather any that had bounced off the nets.  Oh !!! My aching back !!!

We periodically silenced the compressor giving us a break from its chuntering and hissing, while we gathered up the nets rolling the olives to one edge.  Then we sorted and pulled out some of the leaves and stray twigs, before pouring the olives into the prepared crates.  Then we lugged the nets on to the next batch of trees to be harvested and laid them out again.

We worked on until dusk, and then packed away our equipment before I put the kettle on for a brew. Meanwhile  Paul and Fil  loaded the full crates of olives into the back of our car. Ideally the olives need to be processed within a 24 to 48 hour period after picking, otherwise the quality deteriorates rapidly, any bruised or damaged fruit would begin to oxidise and ferment, resulting in higher levels of acidity.

After a lovely cuppa, we headed off to the mill, and as we bounced and trundled down the pot-holed road to Itri the car was bursting with the intense fruity aroma of the freshly picked olives.

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