One of the great delights of travel is the perspective it gives you. While I know this to be true, those moments of gained perspective always surprise me when on the road in a foreign land. Having just returned from five weeks in Italy with our fall trips I was reminded once again.
We have the great good fortune to work with some incredible people in Orvieto. Our relationships deepen every trip, and we now count many of our best friends among these people. This trip, two experiences with friends contributed to perspective about agriculture and our food.
Bartolomei Frantoio in Montecchio just outside of Orvieto is run by the fourth generation of the family that established the olive oil company in the late 19th century. Rita and Carla, two Bartolomei sisters, are the energetic public face behind this wonderful company. Our Taste of Orvieto trip takes us to pick and press olives at their Montecchio orchard and olive mill. On one of our visits this fall Rita explained something to us that was new to me, and absolutely incredible and wonderful.
One problem with growing olives is that there is a fly that attacks the fruit. Consequently, many producers spray their trees to kill the flies. But Carla and Rita are intent upon producing a natural product and spraying insecticides does not fit in with this philosophy. They have an incredibly brilliant solution. For every hundred trees, they plant one tree of a different variety that produces a fruit with much more meat and a small pit. The flies are attracted to this particular tree because of the abundance of the olive. The one tree is sprayed, and the flies feeding on the fruit are killed, enabling them to produce a clean, organic oil with minimal pest damage. I love this.
This revelation came after we had met with another friend who had given us a fresh perspective on the “perfect” fruits and vegetables we find in American stores. His comment was so simple yet profound.
Riccardo Manieri helps source artisanal foods imported into the U.S. by ZiaPia, a company who’s roots are in Italy. As we had coffee with him one morning he commented that what we might want to consider is that all the beautiful produce in American stores is beautiful because it has been treated in a variety of ways to keep pests away – in other words chemicals. Perhaps, we might reconsider that if we find fruits and veggies less than perfect, it is a reflection that they have been grown naturally. Ahhh!
Then we go to Bartolomei and Rita reinforces the whole concept with the way they grow their olives. Beautiful. New perspective yet again. Thank you travel.
Kristi and Bill Steiner began leading “learning vacations” to Orvieto, Italy in 2003. Through Adventures in Italy they provide a cultural immersion experience. Many trips include the pursuit of some kind of creative work that complements and reinforces exploration of Italy’s culture. Relationships built over the years enable Kristi and Bill to provide experiences that a typical visitor to Orvieto never gets.
Learn more about Kristi and Bill’s trips. Stay abreast of Adventures in Italy developments, and follow Bill’s musings about travel and Italy on his blog Make Haste Slowly. View Bill’s photos of Italy, Orvieto, and other memorable places at steinerstudiophotos.com, and follow him on Instagram.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.