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The Oldest Olive Groves in Europe

Olive oil from the ancient Sabina region is rich in history. The agronomists of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, selected this territory to plant thousands of trees and build mills and amphorae factories for the conservation, packaging, and transportation of the olive oil that came to be known as the ‘Gold of Rome.’ The olives were picked according to criteria that are still followed today, including the reading of weather cues, lunar phases, and plant cycles.

The olive groves of Sabina have been around since before Rome's existence. The region was home to many important historical figures, including the second and third emperors of Rome. It also is the symbolic starting point for the pilgrimage undertaken by St. Francis of Assisi. The first region in Europe to cultivate olive oil, Sabina is also the locus of Europe's oldest and largest olive tree, known as “Ulivone.” For the Sabina people, it was never the prominent ancient masterpieces that gave them their strength and longevity – it was the land on which they relied. Today, Italian family farmers produce Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) out of love, passion, and tradition.

Libellula is designed both to establish a profitable solution to the dying practice of family olive oil cultivation and to create a successful new business model that respects and protects the historic countryside. Our EVOO is produced following the strictest Sabina D.O.P. (Protected Designation of Origin) guidelines. By adopting an olive tree, you too can share part of the sophisticated, and largely undiscovered, history of Rome.

THE FIVE STAGES
Olive Oil Cultivation 

Harvest

The harvest marks a special time in Sabina. It varies each year and depends on climate, ripeness of the olives, and the lunar phase. Color helps determine the olive’s maturity, as it evolves from a light green to a violet red and finally to a dark brown. To begin the harvest, our farmers position large nets at the base of the olive tree to collect the olives with ease. Stairs of varying heights facilitate hand-picking, and small manual tools gently shake the branches to collect olives in places that are hard to reach. The olives are grouped together and brought to the closest mill for immediate pressing.

Cleaning

As soon as the olives are brought to the mill, an automatic leaf removal machine eliminates any residual leaves, sprigs, or any other impurities from the harvest. The olives are bathed in water to remove any other vegetable or mineral residues.

Pressing

The olives are then briskly crushed to obtain a coarsely ground paste made of olive pulp and broken olive pits. Broken pits play an important draining role, making the separation of the liquid and solid components of the paste easier.

Kneading

Similar to the kneading of bread dough, this operation involves a slow and continuous mixing of the olive paste and takes place in special kneading machines. This is a crucial stage because it allows the break down of the water-oil emulsions formed during the pressing stage, and the gathering of oil droplets into larger drops. This process allows the oil to separate easily from the solid paste.

Extraction

This is the key phase in the entire cold press process. Three components are extracted from the olive paste: pomace, vegetable water and olive oil. A common modern technique of extraction is centrifugation, which works on the principle of the different specific weight of each component. The olive paste is placed in high speed centrifuges that separate first the pomace from the liquid and then the oil from the vegetable water.