At The Frantoio

The Estate of Montelabatte nestles in the hills to the west of Gubbio near the village of Piccone.  This co-operative now owned by the University of Padova is certified organic and has over 15,000 olive trees.  Three years ago they received an European Community Grant and installed a modern oil mill or Frantoio, and they offer the facility to neighbours to press their olives.  This was my choice for where to take the olives from Bellaugello to be milled and turned into wonderous olive oil.  As I drove up the gently winding road what a lovely spot greeted my eyes, traditional farm buildings, well cared for land and to boot warm sunshine in which to bask whilst waiting turn for the pressing.

Antonio the Manager of Montelabatte Estate took us personally through the milling process, which as you see is carried out by the finest of modern machinery in a scrupulously clean environment.  I love the blend of traditional and modern.  Antonio also told me a bit about the Estate which of course once belonged to the church as evidenced by the monastery sitting proudly on the hill above the fattoria.

In the spring and summer on a Monday morning they offer small personal guided tours of the Benedictine Abbey explaining a bit of the history of the estate and locality, culminating in a light luncheon of home grown and local produce.  The  cost is €13.00 a head.  We will definitely be participating in these when they re-commence next spring and offering a chance for guests at Bellaugello Gay Guest House to savour the delights of this beautiful, well managed estate…

Sunshine for the farmer

Yesterday heralded a glorious cloudless blue sky and warm sunshine and the final day of the olive harvest here at Bellaugello Gay Guest-House in Umbria, central Italy.

The Apennnes glistened bright with a dusting of snow on their summits from the recent snowfall.  The Chiascio valley filled with birdsong in the golden hued oak trees, and we set to work to pick olives from the trees below Belluagello House.  Accompanied by Milo, Edo and Jenny we trotted off to harvest the final trees.  These trees are a little bit wild and un-pruned, but this year heavy with olives that I just could not resist picking even if it was a bit of a challenge. It seemed a shame to leave these delightful black and deep red fruit to fall to the ground, the dogs all looked on in wonder as ‘dad’ climbed higher and higher showering olives down on them and the pickers below!

The delight of climbing a ladder high into the branches of the olive trees, warm sun on my back and sensual shiny black fruit coming easily from the branches and falling into the net below is hard to describe, but was one of the pleasanter farming jobs of recent days.

Tomorrow the olives go for pressing to the frantoio,where they will turn as if by magic into wonderous green piquant oil, and yes we will be eating bruschetta brushed with garlic and our own Bellaugello Olive Oil by that evening.  However not all, as we have reserved some particularly fine large specimens for salting.  Following a traditional recipe thirty days of washing the olives are followed by salting and then flavouring, the resultant olives to be served with aperitivos sipped here on the sun filled terraces next summer, a perfect accompaniment for the local Grechetto, the crisp white wine of Umbria.