Corri dall’oliva

November 14, 2012 / Events
Santa Caterina, lascia la ghianda e corri dall’oliva, the Umbrian farmers counsel. (“For St Catherine’s (Nov. 25th), leave the acorns and run to the olives”.) In our farming years, I spent many early November afternoons with my farmwomen neighbors under the oak trees, as we rapidly gathered acorns, filling burlap sacks. In the weeks before the pig slaughter, fattening with acorns assured the tastiest prosciutti. Olive harvests came after the acorn gathering: never before the end of November. Nowadays, a warmer climate pushes up the olive-gathering: we harvest mid-November.

Of all our farm labors, I’ve most loved the olive harvest – and still do. I relish the tattered feel of the olive leaves in my hands, the swishing sound as the hand slides down each branch, stripping the olives into the basket, and the “plunk, plunk” as the olives plop into the basket, hanging around my neck on a black strap.

Peppa and Marina picked together on the tree next to mine, our chatting staccatoed with the “plunk, plunk” of the olives dropping into our baskets. A far-off sheep’s bell clanged faintly now and then, our donkeys brayed, a goat bleated: the only other noises gently intruding on our olive-picking.

Peppa reminisced – swish, plunk – about picking olives after school when she was six years old: as the older people picked, the little ones scrambled to the top branches, called i chiorrini.”  “The men were on the ladders but we were even higher than them!”, Peppa recounted proudly. “The women picked le braghe” (lit. “long underwear”, ie, the lower branches). As Peppa picked a smaller tree – swish, plunk, plunk – “questo e’ il pollinatore”  (Umbrian rural dialect for “impollinatore”, the pollinator),  she explained , “the tree that sends dust around to all the other ones so that they’ll produce olives.”

And good thing they do!… each of us anticipating that first heavenly bite of bruschetta drizzled with the olio novello.

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

33 Responses to “Corri dall’oliva”

  1. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    How this note brings back a bitter sweet memory….when young walking the fields and loving the olive, I reached up and plucked one of the most tempting forbidden fruits and put it into my mouth, oh so bitter! Then I learned why you do not eat from the tree.

  2. I wish I could be there with you picking olives! Grace and I were just talking about you and your new apartment in Assisi and how much we would like to come stay there.

  3. I adore olives; my refrigerator is never without a container from the local supermarket olive bar, and a jar of chopped olives for a sandwich topping, or simply eaten with a spoon! OF COURSE they would be better in Italy, but even those I can get here are hugely better than the pimento-stuffed olives I grew up with.
    I once attended a party where an olive tree grew next to the pool. It annoyed the hostess because when the olives dropped they made an oily mark on the concrete deck. Awww … so why plant the tree there??? This reminds me of a birthday party my daughter attended, where I was asked to bring seedless watermelon so the kids wouldn’t spit the seeds out on the grass. Needless to say I ignored that fussy request, and the kids had a ball. The mother isn’t speaking to me to this day. (Katie is now 29.)

  4. Janice Peters

    I can taste the fresh olive oil from the photo.

    Grazie mille:)

    Janice Peters

  5. Anne Ladky

    Wonderful post, Anne. You do such a great job of bringing your readers right into the story–and in this one, I really felt I was there in your olive grove with you and Peppa. Love the pics of Peppa, Pino–and you in ’76! Will hope that someday I’ll be in Italy long enough to enjoy the change of seasons.

  6. Mary Cappiello

    Anne, you made the olive picking so personal with your anecdote about picking at a tree next to your neighbors! I would love to be there to taste the oil from the first press of the olives with you! What a pleasure that would be!

  7. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks for all comments – we were halted in our picking by the torrential rains here all day Sunday, Monday…..flooding near Orvieto and Tuscan coast(as most of you have probably heard…)…..though, thankfully, not here….
    Sun again today..and warm, too warm (for November).
    We will finish up tomorrow.

  8. Anne,
    Your writing is beautiful, and poetic. I love olives, but there are none better than those I’ve enjoyed while in Italy, along with your wonderful olive oil. I can’t wait to stay in your apartment, and perhaps I should change the date to stay during olive picking! Hmmmm–Something to think about.

  9. Karen Kotoske

    Annie, through your poetic word pictures I can nearly hear the plop of the olives into Pino’s ground net. I loved the photo of Peppa smiling through her olive branches. Reminds me of our last visit to Assisi when we rented a farm on the ‘skirt’ below Assisi, (just above Ma De Los Angeles.) It was October and on the last days of our stay the olive harvesters came to encourage the olives to leave their mooring so that they could become the rich, delicious, (with a nice ‘bite’) green oil of your photo. Oh to be there sharing a tasting of the 2012 harvest with you!

  10. Hello Anne,
    Thanks for the email. I am eager to plan my next trip. This post was very timely, I just picked the olives form my one little tree, first harvest ever. :) Not enough to press, so I will cure them and jar with herbs and olive oil later. I love to read your posts, they make be yearn to travel, and now especially to Umbria!

  11. Jo Catalano

    I always wondered why olive oil is so expensive-but after having paricipated in the olive picking, I now understand—
    -very labor intensive and think of how many pounds of olives must be picked for a pint of olive oil-but it’s worth it-and the bruschetta afterwards—-heavenly

  12. Janet Eidem

    Even if you had not given this November story pictures Anne, you create the marvelous scene with words. Olives! A grand Italian Thanksgiving!

  13. Joyce Statton

    Just the pictures had me drooling, and how much better those olives and oil must taste when you’ve done the picking yourself. Sharing them with friends in an Umbrian kitchen or garden could only make them more scrumptious.

  14. You know, I feel that I can just smell autumn in the scene you so beautifully describe. It makes me want to walk again the wooded roads up beyond lovely Assisi and slow to the pace of life that is so much of the attraction of life there. Abundanza!

  15. Great story, we also had a good harvest this year, but the way you write, makes yours even better! I just loved the photos as well!

  16. Anne, you talk about the days when you farmed. Is farming in Italy still as communal & charming as it was then or is it agribusiness like it is in America?

  17. Anne Langan

    Anne, your descriptions are so inspiring that I am in the early stages of figuring out a way to come visit!

  18. Carol Reed - California

    Great article Anne! You are a wonderful teacher and Hostess. Thanks again for having us in last week for dinner at your farmhouse. It was perfect and delicious.

  19. Anne Robichaud

    I am most appreciative of each and every comment – mille grazie. I love sharing the stories of the farm people who taught us EVERYTHING about farming – and about life. I feel I owe it to them to preserve their stories (most can do only basic writing..and school ended at 3rd grade…as it did for Peppa).
    Patrizia, in our region of Umbria, most farms are still family-run smaller farms. In the 1970-s when we farmed (picture of me in article picking olives – 1976), most of our farm neighbors were share-croppers, getting 48% of the yield of the land..working farms of 20 to 40 acres..not much more. Landowner got 52%,
    The people I write about – like Peppa- are truly the end of an era.

  20. patty babcox

    Great place, great food and great everything.
    I may come back and never leave!!
    Miss you,

  21. Hi Anne,
    Thank you so much for sharing the last days of your olive harvest with us. We have looked forward to this experience for over a year. The fall colors and warm sun created a magical time, and your hospitality made it truly wonderful. Grazie mille!

  22. Annie I do love your rustic description of memories past and present – you transport my mind to the harvest, the excitement of the moment and the community you love. I can just taste, see and smell the bruschetta drizzled with Italian gold as you relish the harvest together!

  23. Suzanne and Jack

    I really enjoy the way that you recount your Umbrian farm stories. Thank you for your warm writing and the generous way in which you share the culture of Umbria.
    I could almost taste the olive oil.

  24. oh, how I wish I could have been there just 2 more weeks for the harvest. I would have LOVED to pick olives right beside Peppa and you and Pino!! On my last days in lovely Assisi, on my walk to San Damiano, I actually stopped for a long photo shoot of the olive trees, in full bloom, along the path to the church. The smells, the colors?? Beautiful! I even have a little olive branch hanging in my kitchen right now from there!!
    Lovely post and pics!!! Miss ya’ll!

  25. Glorianna Pionati

    Anne, I always look forward to your stories and photos! I feel like I am back in Umbria with you when I connect this way! Please keep the stories coming, I wish I were there for the olive harvest…one of the best experiences I have had!


  26. Anne Urbancic

    this reminds me so much of years ago when I was studying in Florence but living closer to Settignano near an oliveto. Brought back many lovely memories. Thank you.

  27. J. Kevin Crocker

    Anne, I love the stories. They bring back memories of all your wonderful neighbors and the local culture. Truly a happy place in my history. I need to get back their. Say hi to Pino.

  28. Tom Calvano

    My family grows olives in Frasso-Telesino, Italy. They are delicious and the olive oil is out of this world!! This article brings to mind the times I have spent there with my wife. How much we enjoy Italy and the simple life there!!!

    Thank you Annie!!

  29. carol weed lundin

    Annie, You are a fabulous writer and chronicler of the past and the ever changing way of life in Italy. It would be a treasure to see your observations put into a book. In the meantime, however, I will continue to savor your posts and live vicariously. I will look forward to seeing you at your great stateside presentations until the next time I can come to Umbria and have you, once again (after many, many other times) show me in person all the amazing things you chronicle in these posts. No matter the years I have lived in Italy or how many trips back I make I always look forward to wandering all about Umbria with you, hearing your stories, meeting Beppa and all the others that make up your world there. Wouldn’t miss it for anything!

  30. Sandra Spector

    I love reading Annie’s articles. They make the story come alive & everyone wants to experience it too!
    Can’t wait ’til next trip to Italy… & Annie & her area will be a must see!


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