Canneto Sabino: A Living Legacy of Sabina's Olive Oil Tradition

With roots dating back centuries, the millenary Canneto Sabino symbolizes the history and tradition of olive oil production in southeastern Lazio.
Ulivone di Canneto Sabino
By Francesca Oliva
Jun. 26, 2023 15:03 UTC

In the enchant­ing region of Sabina, the endur­ing art of olive oil pro­duc­tion is vibrantly embod­ied in the mag­nif­i­cent olive tree of Canneto Sabino.

With a sto­ried past dat­ing back cen­turies, this awe-inspir­ing tree is a tes­ta­ment to the endur­ing her­itage of olive cul­ti­va­tion in the south­east­ern region of Lazio.

According to local leg­ends, this majes­tic Olivastrone’s roots can be traced to the reign of Sabino Numa Pompilio, the king of Rome, from 715 to 673 BCE.

See Also:Unveiling the Mystery and Magic Surrounding Tuscany’s Olivo della Strega

However, his­tor­i­cal esti­mates sug­gest a more plau­si­ble age of around a mil­len­nium, sit­u­at­ing its plant­ing dur­ing the momen­tous recla­ma­tion efforts led by the Benedictine monks of Farfa in the Canneto region.

Remnants of this period can still be seen in the pre­served Tanteri house and the adja­cent chapel of Madonna della Neve.

Numerous ancient doc­u­ments tes­tify to the Sabina region’s long­stand­ing tra­di­tion of olive cul­ti­va­tion.

In his work Geography, the renowned his­to­rian Strabo wrote of the extra­or­di­nary abun­dance of olive trees that graced the fer­tile soil of Sabina.

Marco Terenzio Varrone, in his sem­i­nal work De re rus­tica, pro­vided time­less advice on olive cul­ti­va­tion, lay­ing the foun­da­tion for Sabina’s esteemed olive oil pro­duc­tion meth­ods.

Archaeological dis­cov­er­ies fur­ther illu­mi­nate the region’s deep-rooted con­nec­tion to olives. The remark­able find of the Poggio Sommavilla flask believed to date back to the 7th cen­tury BCE and now housed in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, not only rep­re­sents the old­est known exam­ple of pre-Roman Sabine script but also bears traces of olive oil, serv­ing as a tan­gi­ble tes­ta­ment to the region’s olive cul­ture.

See Also:Safeguarding Italy’s Millenary Trees

Among the esteemed voices prais­ing the qual­ity of Sabina’s olive oil is Claudio Galeno, the father of mod­ern phar­ma­col­ogy, who hailed the oil from Sabina as the finest in the known world.”

Acquired by the Bertini fam­ily in 1876, the tow­er­ing olive tree reaches approx­i­mately 15 meters in height. Its majes­tic trunk boasts a cir­cum­fer­ence of 7.2 meters, while its sprawl­ing canopy spans around 30 meters in diam­e­ter. Notably, a hol­low cav­ity at the base of the trunk leads to the heart of its roots, cre­at­ing a cap­ti­vat­ing cav­ern within.

Canneto Sabino pro­duces olives of the Olivastro vari­ety, which exhibit dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics: its ellip­tic-lance­o­late leaves and small, ovoid-shaped fruits. The result­ing oil is known for its medium fruity pro­file, infused with ele­gant veg­e­tal notes, a mild bit­ter­ness, and a har­mo­nious, aro­matic essence.

While his­tor­i­cal records indi­cate the pro­duc­tion of 12 quin­tals of olives, yield­ing 150 kilo­grams of oil, an ancient mea­sure” known as soma,” the cur­rent yield is com­par­a­tively lower. This dis­crep­ancy can be attrib­uted to the empha­sis on aes­thetic prun­ing rather than max­i­miz­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Today, the Olive Tree of Canneto Sabino serves as a mag­nif­i­cent liv­ing legacy, a sym­bol of the Sabina region’s time­less ded­i­ca­tion to olive cul­ti­va­tion and the remark­able olive oil it pro­duces.

Standing tall, it whis­pers sto­ries of ancient tra­di­tions, entic­ing vis­i­tors to mar­vel at its grandeur and appre­ci­ate the rich her­itage it rep­re­sents.


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