`Basilicata, Wild Olive of Southern Italy

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Basilicata, Wild Olive of Southern Italy

Nov. 20, 2014
By Aldo Pesce

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A land of grapes, olives and tragic beauty, Basil­i­cata is one of the small­est regions of Italy and its olive oil is not as well known as some oth­ers.

In the mid­dle of the Mez­zo­giorno, this region has a per­fect cli­mate for olive grow­ing. The most com­mon vari­eties of olives here are: Ogliarola del Vul­ture, Ogliarola del Bradano, Majat­ica di Fer­ran­d­ina and Farasana.

While only Ogliarola del Vul­ture has the PDO des­ig­na­tion, all of the local vari­eties pro­duce oils prized for their well-bal­anced and fruity taste.

Many of the groves in Basil­i­cata are over hills dif­fi­cult to access and to har­vest. In gen­eral olive oil pro­duc­tion is less orga­nized — a far cry from the mod­ern sys­tems found in sur­round­ing regions, like Puglia or Cal­abria.

This frag­men­ta­tion of pro­duc­tion is dis­cour­ag­ing invest­ments in the sec­tor. Half of the olive oil mills here still use presses, often mix­ing olives of widely vary­ing con­di­tion.

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These fac­tors are mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for Basilicata’s olive oil to stand out. With 90 per­cent of its pro­duc­tion extra-vir­gin, and mostly from organic agri­cul­ture, Basil­i­cata oils are still typ­i­cally sold unbranded and hardly any (3 per­cent) is exported.

Nev­er­the­less Lucani, as peo­ple from Basil­i­cata are called in Ital­ian, are encour­aged because new oppor­tu­ni­ties are com­ing soon. Mat­era has recently been named 2019 Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture — a high-pro­file oppor­tu­nity to raise the aware­ness of Basilicata’s olive oil poten­tial.

Mean­while, next week, the mayor of Mat­era will meet Siena’s mayor, in the Tus­can city, at the national assem­bly of the asso­ci­a­tion of olive oil munic­i­pal­i­ties, Città del­l’O­lio, to tighten the part­ner­ship between these cities in the name of the olive and extra-vir­gin olive oil.

Pro­duc­ers are prepar­ing for these events, ready to add value to the liq­uid gold com­ing from this wild land that in the past gave inspi­ra­tion to great artists includ­ing Pasolini and Carlo Levi.


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