Olive oil fit for a Roman emperor: Trees at site of ancient palace in Rome are harvested to produce 500 bottles of ‘strong, slightly spicy’ olive oil
Almost 200 olive trees standing on the site of a once grand palace in Rome are now being harvested to produce organic olive oil.
The Palatine Hill is currently increasing its production of goods such as olive oil, honey and wine as they begin to harvest crops on the ancient site.
189 olive trees were originally planted on the 188-acre site, which overlooks the Colosseum, a century ago, and now the crops are set to be turned into olive oil.
Although the oil itself will not be available for purchase, it can be tasted during educational workshops going forward.
The team behind the project, Parco archeologico del Colosseo, are harvesting olives from 189 trees on the Palatine Hill to turn them into olive oil
A decision was made three years ago to turn the olives on the site into oil after the team responsible for the site kept finding the fruit lying on the floor
The team behind the project, Parco archeologico del Colosseo, are also responsible for the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Domus Aurea.
The site director Alfonsina Russo told The Times: ‘When I started three years ago the olives were falling in the autumn and making a mess. So I thought why not make oil.’
She added that around 500 bottles of extra virgin olive oil which will be ‘strong, slightly spicy’ will be produced by this year’s harvest – and the product will be known as Palatinum.
Although the site was originally the location of an emperor’s palace, there are also huge areas of lush green spaces where the olive trees are found.
Although the oil itself (pictured) will not be available for purchase, it can be tasted during educational workshops going forward
The site director Alfonsina Russo said that the extra virgin olive oil which will be ‘strong, slightly spicy’
Russo said that because of this, it was likely that olive trees existed on the site during the height of the Roman Empire.
But it isn’t just olive oil being produced here, with honey output also on the rise thanks to two beehives, housing some 60,000 bees, that were installed on an inaccessible section area at the southern side of the Palatine.
And grape vines have also been planted on the Barberini vineyard, which originally grew grapes in the 16th century – with the first harvest expected in 2023.
The grape chosen by the team is known as pantastica, with local media reporting the chosen site is ideal for growing the plant.
How is olive oil made?
At its most basic level, olive oil is produced by harvesting olives and crushing them into a paste, before separating the oils from the olive pulp.
Olive trees produce fruit every year and the crops are normally harvested between August and December, with green olives picked during the earlier period, and black olives picked towards the latter end.
The exact process for making olive oil varies between each individual producer, but generally there are six stages.
- Harvesting – This is when producers collect the olives that have grown on the trees.
- Processing – After the harvest, the olives are separated from leaves and branches and are then washed before being crushed by a millstone or hammermill.
- Malaxation – After having been crushed into a paste, water is added and the mixture churned to allow for small oil droplets to join together and form larger ones.
- Pressing – After the pulp and water have been thoroughly mixed they are pressed to separate the oil from the water.
- Refining – The best quality olive oil is not refined, and this unrefined oil is known as virgin or extra virgin olive oil. However, lower quality oil is refined by heat or chemicals which masks a poor flavour.
- Bottling – Once the olive oil has been extracted, it is stored in stainless steel containers and poured into bottles.