`'L'Ulivone,' Sabina's Tree of the Ages - Olive Oil Times

'L'Ulivone,' Sabina's Tree of the Ages

Nov. 24, 2014
Sarah Parker

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The tree in Fara, Italy known as L’Ulivone (Photo: Sarah Parker)

In the small town of Fara in Sabina, up a cou­ple of hills splashed with an impres­sive amount of olive groves and fol­low­ing the small rick­ety wooden signs bear­ing its name, you will come across the Ulivone,’ a nat­ural mar­vel of the world in the form of a gigan­tic olive tree.

The Ulivone, in English lit­er­ally big olive tree’ is owned by the Bertini broth­ers and was bought by their great-grand­mother in 1876 for 1,840 lire (just under €1 in today’s cur­rency) and has been handed down, from father to son, to the cur­rent own­ers.

A delight­ful lit­tle path­way leads its way to the site where you can admire a lit­tle wildlife reserve with geese, a pea­cock and some ducks and a well-kept gar­den before enter­ing the site where the gigan­tic tree flaunts its lus­trous branches bear­ing thou­sands of healthy olives.

Nationally known as the Ulivone Canneto and located in one of the many olive groves that char­ac­ter­ize the small ham­let of the town of Fara, this mil­lenary olive tree is con­sid­ered by many to be among the old­est and largest in Europe and today we even have the proof.

The path to L’Ulivone

Agronomists were called upon to esti­mate the age of the tree and they esti­mated it to be around 2,000 years old, an aston­ish­ing find­ing con­firmed by radio­car­bon dat­ing. Legend has it that Numa Pompilio, the sec­ond king of Rome him­self planted the tree.

The own­ers said the tree pro­duces around 12 quin­tals (about 550 kg) of olives annu­ally and 150 kg of olive oil. Today the pro­duc­tion is said to be slightly less due to prun­ing and the rig­or­ous care needed to main­tain the tree’s beauty, but it nev­er­the­less squeezes out remark­able amounts of olive oil.


People from dif­fer­ent eras and cul­tures have har­vested olives from this very tree and made oil from its fruit. This impres­sive won­der is awe inspir­ing and could leave olive oil lovers lost for words if they are lucky enough to visit it. L’Ulivone has fed and pro­vided olive oil to the Romans, to Byzantinesand to mod­ern-day Italians — and con­tin­ues to nour­ish its peo­ple with the pre­cious liq­uid gold.

The archae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­ery of the small flask of Poggio Sommavilla traced back to the sev­enth cen­tury BC is pre­served in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and is the old­est exam­ple of writ­ings from pre-Roman times. Interestingly, it is also a tes­ti­mony of the olive cul­ture of this area because in it are the remains of olive oil.

Claudius Galen (129 AD — 216 AD), the father of mod­ern phar­ma­copoeia, called oil of Sabina the world’s best known.”

The land on which the gigan­tic olive tree grows is owned by the Vatican and is man­aged by the Benedictine monks who reside in the beau­ti­ful Farfa Abbey, not so far away from the olive tree itself. Tourists usu­ally visit the two attrac­tions in the same day. The small fee to enter allows you to into the site — to touch the rough bark of the ancient tree and see its leaves tow­er­ing above you.

Abbazia di Farfa

The Ulivone di Canneto pro­duces olives of excel­lent qual­ity, bear­ing the famous Sabina DOP des­ig­na­tion. The tree is wor­shipped in every sense of the word by the local Cannetani,’ as evi­denced by numer­ous fes­ti­vals cel­e­brat­ing the grandeur of the tree.

One of the many fes­ti­vals is the annual Sagra dell’Olio.’ During three days of cel­e­bra­tions, par­tic­i­pants can take a guided tour to see and mar­vel in the delights of the tree and taste its oil.

The Bertini fam­ily make sure they take good care of their impor­tant heir­loom and are cur­rently devis­ing new ways to make a trip to see the Ulivone even more enjoy­able. In 2015 the fam­ily hopes to open an agri­t­ur­ismo’ — a farm­house inn over­look­ing the impres­sive tree, ini­tially host­ing up to 20 peo­ple.

At this new farm­house inn we are hop­ing to serve food entirely home­grown in our veg­etable patch and use olive oil pro­duced exclu­sively by the Ulivone. At the moment we are still work­ing on the con­struc­tion but it is an idea that we have wanted to develop for a while now,” said Francesco Bertini, the owner of the Ulivone.

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