We are now ready to start. It’s nine o’clock on a freezing Sunday morning. The morning frost has evaporated but it’s still cold. Luckily, today the wind is giving us a break. We start with the farthest trees and want to finish a row by lunch. I place the net and my brother helps with the “pioli” (little wooden sticks that we use to secure the net). My dad has already started with the bottom branches, my mom takes care of the other side. My wife has disappeared on top of the tree and I climb the ladder to help her. After about twenty minutes all the olives are picked, and are on the net ready to be collected and placed in the crate. It was not a big tree but produced about half a crate (20 lbs of olives). It should give us 2 lbs of olive oil if this is a productive year with the percentage around 10%. By lunch time it’s warmer, and we all take off our jackets and hats. It’s time for a quick snack: bread, prosciutto, pecorino cheese, a glass of wine and we are ready to go again. By five o’clock it’s too dark and you are not able to see the olives anymore. We collect our tools and put everything in the storage room. Last thing to do is to collect the crates and pile them under the “loggia”. They need to have air in order not to mold.
The morning after I am off work so I can help my parents who both took the week off. It takes us about two weeks to complete the job and if it doesn’t rain too much, we can pick almost all the olives and get around 10,000 lbs! When all the olives are in the crates, it’s time to bring them to the “frantoio”, the oil mill. My mom has booked us a spot in the morning, so we load all of our cars with the precious goods…they will smell like fresh olives for weeks…and we carefully drive to the mill. As we arrive, we encounter the giant tractors and trucks coming from the mill full of freshly pressed olive oil. They work for big farmhouses and usually press their olives during the night.
Soon, it’s our turn! We unload the containers into a giant hole, where they are sucked up, washed, and sent into the first machine. Two big stone wheels crush them, leaving a brownish thick paste. The paste goes through many processes and is always kept cool, which is very important to not alter the flavor of the oil. After about one hour the first drops of golden-green liquid are coming out. It’s very dense and full of sediment. It has to rest for at least a week before it can be used, but it smells so delicious, so the the first thing we do when we get home is to try it on some grill bread. It’s very spicy and strong, but so good and we are very proud of it!