The olive tree is regarded as the sacred plant par excellence from all Mediterranean peoples, which since ancient times have been able to cultivate it, even in difficult conditions, to extract the precious olive oil essential for their everyday life.
Olive oil was useful in many ways a part as a food. Today, when we enjoy a nice dish dressed with olive oil we are actually tasting a product that is heritage of the Mediterranean!
Olive oil embodies the culture and traditions that have brought it up till our table.
In the region where I come from, Umbria, a central region of Italy, the olive cultivation, especially from the eleventh century to today it has always been active and thriving, except for two main interruptions due to the frosts of 1929 and 1956, instead in Malta there is a story to be retrieved.
In another article, I wrote you about my curiosity for the local products in Malta that brought me to Zejtun, in the South East of the Island, where I asked personally to the Mayor, Mr Joe Attard to tell me more about the Zejtun Festival of Olive Oil. Click here for his interview.
Thanks to Mr Joe Attard I discovered that the name of Zejtun is a place name of significance, it tells the story of a flourish cultivation of the olive trees during the Romans and even before to the Phoenicians times.
So also Malta, as well as Umbria, has a long tradition in the cultivation of olive trees, led by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and then systematically cultivated by the Romans.
This is an incredible confirmation that the olive oil is a common good of the Mediterranean.
Mr Joe Attard, is at the forefront in promoting the regeneration of Maltese olive oil heritage, both with infrastructure projects and cultural initiatives, as the Zejt iz-Zejtun Festival. So I told to the Mayor that it would have been surely interesting to bring together these two agricultural and cultural realities as the Umbrian and the Maltese ones. Consequently, Joe Attard, as President of the Local Action Group of the Xlokk area, promoted a meeting with the Umbria LAG, in particular the one where I come from “The Umbrian Valley LAG” (Valle Umbra GAL).
Thus was born the Rural Tourism Project, “Olive oil, symbol of Mediterranean civilization and traditions“, from the idea to compare the cultures, civilizations and traditions related to olive oil with the intention to promote the exchange of knowledge, as well as contribute to the promotion of the rural and social Mediterranean identities as well as environmental development.
The visit of the Zejtun representative happened just during the Umbria Olive picking season in November, while in Malta it is in September. Therefore, as Zejtun has its Oil Festival so Umbria was celebrating the Festival called “Frantoi Aperti” or “Opened Oil Mills”.
The Zejtun group could experience directly the Umbrian Olive oil Feast scattered in different mills located in different towns of the district of Valle Umbria.
Moreover, they could know more about the pressing process of the olives in which the Umbrians boosts a great specialization.
In fact, they visited two important mills, the “Frantoio di Spello”, an olive mill located in the outskirts of the lovely town of Spello, in the Province of Perugia.
Then we went to visit the “Frantoio Gaudenzi” in Trevi, an olive mill located in the countryside of the beautiful town of Trevi, in the province of Perugia.
Personally, since I came to Malta through my explorations I found different links with my Region and the Maltese islands, so for me this visit of Zejtun to my city and my Region was like a dream that comes true, all thanks to the olive oil that puts together the Mediterranean countries.