We had been concerned about this year’s olive harvest given the recent drought in Tuscany. We were warned that the impact of “Lucifer’s wrath” would be a much smaller olive yield than experienced in past years (Blogs dated August 13th & September 27). However, we were simply thrilled to be able to participate in a traditional olive harvest in Tuscany.
This would be our primo (first) harvest of the olive trees on our property and from the adjacent olive groves we share with our two neighbours.
There was so much to experience, learn and this was on my life list!
“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” – Leonardo da Vinci
I had taken pictures of the tiny green olive buds in April, when there had not been a sense of an impending drought. Then another photo just before the beautiful black and green olives had matured and were about to be picked.
The day the olive harvest started at Villa Montecchio was a day earlier than we had anticipated. I no longer concerned myself with any time changes or delays in Tuscany, as it has simply become a part of life, a more relaxed life. I realized I needed to adapt and fret about the things that mattered, the rigidity of time had become less of a factor.
We had friends visiting from Canada (Rick and Diane) and we had risen early to go for a long walk on the Arceno Estate.
After going through the ritual of unlatching the Casale’s heavy-set of chestnut doors, we stepped outside and heard the sound of voices.
It was a beautiful, clear and warm Tuscan day with the birds steady chirping competing with the commotion. An electric hum could be heard as we sauntered towards the noise.
I spied Francesco and several men and one female, laying light weight nets under the olive trees. The nets seemed to float to the ground as they settled under the selected trees.
A younger man and woman were using an electric rake (the source of the hum) to shake the olives from the top limbs of the trees.
The olives fell to the ground with a soft “thud”.
Francesco smiled and asked if we would like to “auitare” (help), gesturing toward the trees to ensure we understood what he had said. We gladly jumped at the chance and he handed me “our” red plastic bucket.
Initially we joined the experts but fearing we may be “getting under foot” or better yet, caught in the nets, began hand picking the olives from the lower limbs of the olive trees nearby.
Francesco, watching me pick the olives one by one, handed me a red plastic hand-held rake. The rake was used to slide down each branch, with each stroke pulling many olives and leaves with it. A much more efficient approach.
A sense of relaxation began to set in as we all got into the steady rhythm of picking olives, one tree after the other, sometimes picking the olives from the same tree, other times finding our “own” tree to pick.
Our communal red plastic bucket was beginning to get filled. “Oops” I said as one lone olive fell from my sweater pocket which was also being filled with olives. I quickly stopped to pick it up not wanting to miss one precious fruit.
It was a time to think, a time to be with nature, a time to relax and a time to enjoy the camaraderie of friendship.
“One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken.” – Leo Tolstoy
The work was strenuous as the harvesters held their arms above their heads for hours at a time. We stopped to speak to the female harvester to ask her about the lavoro (work).
“It must be hard work.” I said and she replied in combined English and Italian, “Not on day one, but by day three, your arms and shoulders ache” and off she went back to the olive trees.
Rick, Diane and I were determined to fill our communal red plastic bucket to the rim. Thus ensuring no “olive harvesting embarrassment”, our Canadian pride depended on it.
After three hours (nine hours in total) we had filled our one red plastic bucket.
As Rick proudly carried the bucket and sat it beside Francesco, Francesco smiled and chuckled slightly. The harvesters were in the mist of loading their many crates laden with olives onto the truck.
We were not certain if Francesco was impressed we had continued picking or if after a combined nine hours, that was all we had picked. Regardless, Rick, Diane and I had matching grins that would have put any child on their first day of school to shame.
As we slowly sauntered up the Casale’s tufa stone pathway with our chest’s swelling with pride, our thoughts moved to a well deserved “pranzo” (lunch), a celebration.
We gathered the fresh vegetables and sliced meats from the prior day’s market, the glorious red tomatoes grown in Sergio’s garden in Ambra and decanted the homemade wine (Vino Rosso) given to us by Lorenzo, of San Gusme.
As we clinked our wine glasses, we toasted our “primo” olive harvest, Sergio’s delicious tomato’s, Lorenzo’s magnificent Chianti Classico and our friendship.
“That was better than any walk” and we all agreed.
BrainyQuotes. (2001-2017). da Vinci Quotes (Web Site). Retrieved from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/leonardoda154285.html
BrainyQuotes. (2001-2017). Tolstoy Quotes (Web Site). Retrieved from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/leotolstoy151957.html