Hillside Groves Between Assisi and Spoleto Get Heritage Status

The territory including the olive groves of the slopes between Assisi and Spoleto was designed as the first Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System in Italy.

Olive groves in Trevi
By Ylenia Granitto
Aug. 1, 2018 11:59 UTC
Olive groves in Trevi

The ini­tia­tive for the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and the dynamic con­ser­va­tion of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) was launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2002, in order to safe­guard and pro­mote out­stand­ing land­scapes of aes­thetic beauty that com­bine agri­cul­tural bio­di­ver­sity, resilient ecosys­tems and a valu­able cul­tural her­itage.

I won­dered why our ances­tors planted the olive groves in such an irra­tional, scat­tered way, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to har­vest. But exactly that choice made this place deeply bonded to, and beau­ti­fully char­ac­ter­ized by the olive trees.- Marco Viola

There are cur­rently 50 sites in 20 coun­tries described as agri­cul­tural ter­ri­to­ries rep­re­sent­ing mod­els of sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion. However, the core con­cept of GIAHS is dis­tinct from, and more com­plex than, a con­ven­tional her­itage site or pro­tected area, as each site is a liv­ing, evolv­ing sys­tem of human com­mu­ni­ties in an intri­cate rela­tion­ship with their ter­ri­tory, cul­tural or agri­cul­tural land­scape or bio­phys­i­cal and wider social envi­ron­ment.”

Olive groves on the slopes between Assisi and Spoleto (Italy)

Taking that as a basis, the ter­ri­tory which includes olive groves on the slopes between Assisi and Spoleto was approved and designed as the first GIAHS site in Italy dur­ing the recent meet­ing of the sci­en­tific advi­sory group in charge. (On the same occa­sion, the Geumsan tra­di­tional gin­seng agri­cul­tural sys­tem in the Republic of Korea was also selected).

The appli­ca­tion of this area of Umbria — which is already part of the National Register of his­tor­i­cal rural land­scapes, agri­cul­tural prac­tices and tra­di­tional knowl­edge estab­lished by the Italian Minister of Agriculture — was sub­mit­ted to FAO by a com­mit­tee com­posed of the munic­i­pal­i­ties of Trevi as a fron­trun­ner, Assisi, Spello, Foligno, Campello sul Clitunno and Spoleto, sup­ported by the Umbria Region and Sviluppumbria.

Olive groves in Trevi

This is an impor­tant result that we have achieved thanks to the joint com­mit­ment of the munic­i­pal insti­tu­tions of the area,” affirmed the mayor of Trevi, Bernardino Sperandio. Thanks to this recog­ni­tion, our olive trees will attract grow­ing inter­na­tional atten­tion. It will help us to con­sol­i­date the image of this land­scape, which has been appre­ci­ated and approved by the FAO audi­tors dur­ing a series of inspec­tions,” he noted, adding that they under­stood the great value of this land which can now ben­e­fit from the GIAHS recog­ni­tion.”

Among those who took part in draw­ing up the appli­ca­tion dossier, Leonardo Laureti of the Landscape Office Agronomist srl said that this is not only an arrival point but rather a depar­ture point for future gen­er­a­tions.

Such recog­ni­tion will help to pre­serve the valu­able ele­ments of this area and con­tribute to boost­ing the demand of the extra vir­gin olive oil from this ter­ri­tory, while pro­mot­ing tourism and job cre­ation,” he con­sid­ered, observ­ing how these olive trees are cul­ti­vated accord­ing to knowl­edge and prac­tices which include the use of dif­fer­ent types of ter­rac­ing, cul­ti­va­tion tech­niques and genetic vari­eties that have been main­tained by local com­mu­ni­ties for cen­turies.

This extra­or­di­nary land­scape com­posed of olive trees has been shaped by the age-old inter­ac­tion of farm­ers with the envi­ron­ment,” Laureti added.

Olive grove in Campello sul Clitunno

We are talk­ing about an Apennine scenery com­prised of 6,145 hectares (about 15,185 acres) of olive groves sit­u­ated between 200 and 500 meters above sea level, includ­ing almost 1,500,000 olive trees scat­tered among 4,225 olive oil pro­duc­ing com­pa­nies.

Among them is the award-win­ning Azienda Agraria Viola, Best in Class at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition with their organic Viola Costa del Riparo Biologico, suc­cess­fully flanked by the Gold Award-win­ning Viola Colleruita DOP Umbria.

This recog­ni­tion adds value to our land,” said Marco Viola. Agricultural com­pa­nies like ours are deeply linked to the ter­ri­tory, which we fully respect while we take care of the olive vari­eties which it offers, pro­vid­ing us great sat­is­fac­tion.”

Viola said com­pa­nies like his are for­ever joined with the place they were born, due to spe­cific cul­ti­vars, envi­ron­ment and cli­mate. Their plants of Moraiolo, Frantoio and Leccino are grown in the hilly area of Foligno between 350 and 450 meters above sea level, accord­ing to a code of ethics that man­dates a sense of social respon­si­bil­ity” by which the com­pany is com­mit­ted to guar­an­tee­ing the safety at work of its employ­ees, the qual­ity of the prod­ucts and the respect of the envi­ron­ment,” in tune with the GIAHS’ stan­dards.

They are so con­nected to this region that they share its highs and lows, Viola pointed out, yet high qual­ity con­tin­ues to char­ac­ter­ize their pro­duc­tions. Our plants of Moraiolo react very well to the low win­ter tem­per­a­tures which caused dam­aged else­where, and we are con­fi­dent in a good har­vest,” he con­sid­ered.

I won­dered why our ances­tors planted the olive groves in such an irra­tional, scat­tered way, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to har­vest, prun­ing, shred­ding, and so on,” the farmer revealed.

I real­ized that the most man­age­able and flat lands were des­tined for cere­als and other crops like alfalfa for ani­mal feed, and the olive tree was the only cul­ti­va­tion able to adapt to these hills even if it is at the expense of pro­duc­tion. But exactly that choice made this place deeply bonded to, and beau­ti­fully char­ac­ter­ized by the olive trees,” Viola con­cluded.


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