`Lungarotti: Preserving Olive Oil Heritage

Food & Cooking

Lungarotti: Preserving Olive Oil Heritage

Aug. 31, 2011
Luciana Squadrilli

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Set in the very cen­ter of Italy, Umbria is one of the few Ital­ian regions that do not look over the sea. Its land is made by gen­tly sloped hills, lakes and springs, ancient vil­lages full of his­tory, art and spir­i­tual appeal (here is Assisi, where St. Fran­cis was born, with its won­der­ful basil­ica).

And flavours, too. Some of the best Ital­ian salami come from Nor­cia, a small Umbrian vil­lage that gave the name to the spe­cial­ized butch­ers (norcini), its woods are rich of pre­cious truf­fles, its wines are very well known. And then there are the olive trees. So many olive trees: they cover a huge part of the Umbrian land, con­tribut­ing to the region’s label of Italy’s green heart.”

The whole region holds a unique PDO for extra vir­gin olive oil, Umbria, within five sub-zones: Colli del Trasi­meno, Colli Amerini, Colli Mar­tani, Colli Assisi-Spo­leto, Colli Orvi­etani. The lead role here is played by the intense Moraiolo cul­ti­var, with its bit­ter flavour and full aroma. Other vari­eties like Fran­toio and Lec­cino fea­ture as high level co-star to smooth the extra vir­gin oil char­ac­ter, as well as the typ­i­cal, gen­tly sweet San Felice, that only grows in a restricted area.

Olive oil and wine here always had a major eco­nomic and cul­tural role, but tech­ni­cal progress has deeply changed the rural world that once flour­ished on them. To pre­serve this her­itage, the Lun­garotti fam­ily cre­ated two muse­ums in the ancient vil­lage of Tor­giano.

A sym­bol of Umbrian wine since the 60s, when Gior­gio Lun­garotti founded it, it is still a fam­ily-run busi­ness, deeply linked to the land where it stands. Chiara Lun­garotti and Teresa Sev­erini lead the com­pany today. Their mother Maria Grazia, Giorgio’s wife, is in charge of the Lun­garotti Foun­da­tion, born in 1987 to pro­mote the Ital­ian rural econ­omy and cul­ture.

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An expert in muse­ol­ogy and an Art lover, Maria Grazia is to thank for estab­lish­ing the Museum of Wine, in 1974, and the Museum of Olive and Olive Oil in 2000. They are a charm­ing way to learn more about the his­tory of these two prod­ucts, dat­ing back to the very begin­ning of the Mediter­ranean cul­ture, with a spe­cial focus on Umbria.

Guided by the pas­sion­ate Gian­luca – he could talk for hours about every small object dis­played – we dis­cover how rural Umbrian life was like in the past decades and how it has changed, along with an exhaus­tive exhi­bi­tion of tools, hand­craft and art­works from dif­fer­ent ori­gins and ages.

The Museum of Olive and Olive Oil stands where an ancient olive press used to oper­ate. Walk­ing along the ten rooms, Gian­luca takes us in a fas­ci­nat­ing jour­ney through the olive oil world: from the phy­to­log­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the most wide­spread vari­eties in Umbria and the meth­ods for cul­ti­va­tion to its pres­ence in daily life through­out the cen­turies and its uses in med­i­cine, sports and cos­met­ics.

Among the most pre­cious exhibits, a large col­lec­tion of oil lamps and the aston­ish­ing Attic alabas­tron by the Foundry Painter (5th cen­tury BC), which cel­e­brates Athens foun­da­tion myth: the God­dess Athena gave birth from the ground with her spear to an olive tree rep­re­sent­ing pru­dence, seren­ity, peace — that is to say civ­i­liza­tion.

While in Tor­giano, you can’t miss a visit to the Lun­garotti mas­sive cel­lars, to taste the excel­lent wines and the two extra vir­gin olive oils: the intensely herbal Dop Umbria- Colli Mar­tani and the more del­i­cate – yet tasty and nicely pun­gent – Il Can­tico, named after the famous Laudes Crea­t­u­rarum by St. Fran­cis. Both are made by Moraiolo, Fran­toio and Lec­cino olives, they only dif­fer from the har­vest­ing times.

After­wards, you can rest in the beau­ti­ful Pog­gio alle Vigne coun­try house, fac­ing the green Brufa’s hill where olive trees and vine­yards grow, or in the lux­u­ri­ous resort Le Tre Vaselle within the medieval walls of Tor­giano: here you will find com­fort­able rooms, a Spa with wine-based care treat­ments, an ele­gant restau­rant with an exquis­ite cui­sine based on local prod­ucts and – if you fancy a full immer­sion in the Ital­ian and Umbrian food cul­ture – the new Food and Art Expe­ri­ence in part­ner­ship with Alma, the world-renowned cook­ing school.

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