Olive Harvest in Umbria … Raccolta Delle Olive

In late October the the topic of conversation, throughout the rural areas of central Italy, begins to revolve around la raccolata delle olive, the olive harvest. Olives, for the most part, will be harvested in November, but exactly when depends on the ripeness of the olives, the weather forecast, how much fango (mud) remains in the oliveto after recent rains and various other factors.

In November, when the right day arrives, friends and family gather in the groves and begin raking olives from the thick branches into large mesh-like nets stretched out beneath the trees. To reach those olives in upper branches, wooden ladders are sometimes propped up in the center of trees, and someone climbs up to rake from above.

Luigi raking our olives

My husband, Luigi, and I just finished harvesting our own olives. It’s our fourth year of harvesting, and we learn so much more each year. It’s truly one of the most enjoyable and fascinating events (and, yes, it is a true event) that I’ve ever taken part in.

Me watching Luigi rake olives – lol!

Each year, on the morning that we begin harvesting, I’m always excited – like a child on Christmas morning! Plus, there’s a wonderful sense of camaraderie amongst those who are harvesting, and this year I felt that connection more deeply than ever.

The first olive …

As in previous years, we raked most of the olives – some shiny black, others green and some in between – and hand-picked others that hung on lower branches.Then we scooped the olives into crates, and took them down to our friend Riccardo’s frantoio, to be pressed into our olio di oliva extravergine 2012.

belle olive!

So the first part of the olive adventure ends with a completed harvest, and that’s where the second part begins, of course, with the pressing – an amazing process that deserves its own post.

Therefore, this simple olive story must be continued …


Pamela Haack is the founder of Off the Beaten Strada where she creates and organizes personalized experiences and specialty retreats in central Italy, for travelers who wish to be immersed in the history, culture and traditions of the region.

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  1. Colleen Wallace 11/09/2012 — 4:19 pm

    So interesting, I enjoy Italy so much and would love to be there for
    the harvest, you are so fortunate!

  2. Pamela, I love to cook and I use olive oil just about every day! I am so curious about this process. Do you harvest enough of your own olives to have a private “brand” of oil? Also do you notice a change in the taste of the olive oil from year to year? Thanks!

    • Hi Cheryl … I’m going to post the olive pressing process in a few days (with photos, of course) so stay tuned! Yes, it’s sooooo interesting! Regarding our oil … no, we do not press enough to sell (perhaps because we consume too much!). Each year is bit different in terms of the quantity of olives, the size of the olives, the percentage of acidity, water and oil in the olives, etc., so, yes, the taste can vary too. In general, the oil is very spicy and a tiny bit bitter (in a good way) when it is freshly pressed. Over time, the oil becomes “softer”, but still has a peppery finish. Even the consistency is different – denser – than commercially pressed oil. There’s just nothing like it. You’ll have to plan an autumn visit to Italy next time so you can participate in the harvest! 🙂

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