` New Casaliva from "Grotto of Catullus" will be Pure Poetry - Olive Oil Times

New Casaliva from "Grotto of Catullus" will be Pure Poetry

Aug. 12, 2010
Lucy Vivante

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By Lucy Vivante
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Rome

Grotto of Catullus – Lake Garda Archeological Site to Produce Traceable Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

The Grotto of Catullus, the largest Roman era villa in north­ern Italy, will now be pro­duc­ing extra-vir­gin olive oil from its ancient olive groves. The site has belonged to the Italian gov­ern­ment since 1948 and is in Sirmione, a town and penin­sula that juts out into Lake Garda. The 7 hectare prop­erty (17 acres) has some 1,500 olive trees and the villa struc­ture itself cov­ers 2 hectares (almost 5 acres). It is one of Italy’s most vis­ited arche­o­log­i­cal sites.

AIPOL, the Association of Inter-Provincial Olive Growers of Lombardy, was asked by the gov­ern­men­t’s Ministry for Patrimony and Cultural Affairs and the Superintendence of Archeological Patrimony in Lombardy, who jointly man­age the site, to reclaim the olives which had not been tended for years. A grant from the European Union, along with Italian gov­ern­ment monies, funds the 2010 – 2012 project.

The name Grotto of Catullus is often seen in quo­ta­tions. This is because it is nei­ther a grotto nor did it belong to Catullus. Grotto” comes from the fact that the villa had been in ruins and the col­lapsed build­ing recalled grot­toes to Renaissance eyes. While Catullus did have a villa in Sirmione, and wrote about it in his poetry, it is unlikely to have been this one. The present villa is from the first cen­tury of the Common Era and Gaius Valerius Catullus lived from c. 84 — 54 BCE. However, recent exca­va­tions have found an ear­lier villa under the south­ern end of the present struc­ture, so the mat­ter is not closed. Later poets such as Tennyson, Carducci, and Pound vis­ited Sirmione and wrote of Catullus and the place.

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Catullus (ca. 84 BC – ca. 54 BC)

Gaius Valerius Catullus was born in nearby Verona, but spent most of his short life (he died at about age 30) in Rome. He is best known for his love poems writ­ten about Clodia Metelli, known as Lesbia in the poems. Catullus was one of the ear­lier native Italian poets to fol­low a vari­ety of Greek mod­els, both in his erotic and vitu­per­a­tive poetry, as well as in a beau­ti­ful longer nar­ra­tive poem, really a mini-epic in the fash­ion­able Alexandrian style, that tells of the mar­riage of Peleus and Thetis, the par­ents of Achilles, and the aban­don­ment of Ariadne by Theseus on the island of Naxos. Teachers of Latin have often relied on Catullus’s erotic and obscene work to hold the inter­est of their stu­dents.

Silvano Zanelli, pres­i­dent of AIPOL said, The recla­ma­tion and cul­ti­va­tion car­ried out this year on the ancient olive grove will pro­duce AIPOL trace­able extra-vir­gin olive oil, of the Casaliva vari­ety.” Zanelli added that his orga­ni­za­tion’s work will pre­serve for years to come the land­scape that for cen­turies has char­ac­ter­ized the arche­o­log­i­cal area of the Grotto of Catullus and the north­ern­most sec­tion of the Sirmione penin­sula.” Casaliva vari­ety olives pro­duce del­i­cate and fruity oils. The vari­ety is com­monly grown in Lombardy and other north Italian regions.

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