Marina Colonna's Farm Is a Place Where History Meets Innovation

It's harvest time at Marina Colonna's farm in San Martino in Pensilis, Molise.

Nov. 13, 2017
By Ylenia Granitto

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Contemplation and silence, lush wilder­ness and breath­tak­ing vast­ness. After that expe­di­tion, my per­cep­tion of things changed,” said Marina Colonna, when describ­ing the over­whelm­ing emo­tions she felt in the moun­tains of the Trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh at 4,000 meters (13,123ft).

Just then, the olive mill machin­ery started oper­at­ing with its clan­gor, while we rel­ished a dif­fer­ent and yet enchant­ing land­scape shaped by small rivers, forested lands, corn fields, vine­yards and olive groves: Masseria Bosco Pontoni, near San Martino in Pensilis, is the safe house donna Marina always comes back to after all her jour­neys. And you get the strong feel­ing that the high-qual­ity liq­uid gold she pro­duces here, in the hills of Molise, is both the fruit and rep­re­sen­ta­tion of her full and pas­sion­ate life.

In the mid­dle of a promis­ing career in doc­u­men­tary pro­duc­tion which took her all over the world, one day, talk­ing to her father, Prince Francesco Colonna, she decided on a whim to help him in reshap­ing the image of the com­pany and, in about a year, she was able to launch her first pro­duc­tion line.

I was unaware of what was hap­pen­ing in the agri-food mar­ket,” she revealed. Therefore, I tried to under­stand how struc­tured olive oil com­pa­nies worked, and since I only had an idea about the design of the ves­sel I desired for my oil, I started look­ing for a glass­maker.” Then, the iconic bot­tle was born.

I sketched out the model and called Mr. Bartolozzi of the Vetreria Etrusca, who was in Rimini at a fair that took place in that pop­u­lar hotel fre­quented by Federico Fellini,” she pointed out with an amused expres­sion. I reached him, and we com­pleted the sin­u­ous design adding the two spouts on top of the bot­tle.”


Colonna attended the first wine fairs, dis­play­ing her prod­ucts in the booths of wine­mak­ers. Then, she pushed and con­tributed to the cre­ation of the first fairs ded­i­cated to olive oil and she is prob­a­bly among the pio­neers in Italian exports of high-qual­ity EVOO. In thirty years of qual­ity and suc­cesses, she also dealt with dif­fi­cul­ties and hard times with a lot of nerve. A for­ward-look­ing atti­tude led her to man­age a beau­ti­ful farm with sev­eral high-qual­ity agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tions, of which extra vir­gin olive oil is the crown jewel.

Twenty-eight thou­sand olive trees include plant­i­ngs of Frantoio, Leccino, Peranzana, Cima di Melfi, Termite di Bitetto, Maiatica, Carolea, Rosciola, Itrana and many other vari­eties. There are exper­i­men­tal ones, native cul­ti­vars like the Gentile of Larino and other rare types, spread out over 55 hectares (136 acres) of olive groves.

This har­vest is promis­ing to be excel­lent,” she remarked, while we walked through lush olive trees laden with healthy olives soon to be picked. We started with Ascolana, we pro­ceeded with Leccino and the other vari­eties,” she illus­trated, while har­vest­ing oper­a­tions were under­way with the typ­i­cal crates, nets and other har­vest tools. Yet Termite di Bitetto and Kalamata organic vari­eties were scrupu­lously picked by hand and then brine-cured as deli­cious table olives.

Different vari­eties are col­lected and crushed sep­a­rately, then blended with a thor­ough job of tast­ing and mix­ing over the year,” said the pro­ducer of Colonna Classic, which is among the extra vir­gin olive oils awarded at the NYIOOC 2017.

The pro­duc­tion line includes organic blends, mono­va­ri­etals, PDO, and cit­rus olive oils. Marina Colonna was prob­a­bly a trail­blazer with Granverde, launched in 1990 — an organic lemon-fla­vored olive oil obtained by crush­ing organic lemons from Sicily together with fresh olives from her estate.

She used the same method for organic orange, tan­ger­ine, berg­amot, basil, gin­ger, car­damom, chili pep­per and rose­mary fla­vored oils, while she cre­ated a line of infused oils by com­bin­ing EVOO with essen­tials oils of juniper, sage and rose.

This was born thanks to a din­ner invi­ta­tion in Bad Kissingen, the city of roses, in Germany,” she revealed. They asked if I could make a spe­cial oil with roses for this event, and I first thought it was a weird thing, but in the end, I tried, and the rose-infused olive oil was born. And it is great.”

We came back to the mill to con­trol the activ­ity of the machin­ery since it had recently under­gone tech­no­log­i­cal updates. Marina Colonna super­vises all activ­i­ties, with her spe­cial energy which is a fuel for her cowork­ers.

While we tasted a great, fresh extra vir­gin olive oil, I had a feel­ing that Masseria Bosco Pontoni is the place where his­tory meets inno­va­tion and a lit­tle hunch may become a remark­able break­through.


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