October 30, 2017
An olieficio is a mill where olives are turned into olive oil – and a passeggiata is a stroll. This weekend we got a chance to do both.
First, the oil-making. It’s a process we’ve always been interested in, and since October and November are peak olive months in Sicily, we were hoping we’d have a chance to see an oleificio at work.
Fortunately our friends Ueli and Ruth, who have a small farm outside Licata, let us know that their olives would be processed on Saturday, and that the oleificio (or sometimes frantoio) was not far from the center of town. They have five large trees, and about 25 smaller trees, yielding some 600 kilos of olives, which are mechanically shaken from the trees onto tarps, then collected. We were pleased to go, with our friends Morten and Anne-Inger. The oleificio is a fairly small concern, primarily operated for small farmers who mainly produce oil for their own consumption – which can be a lot. Ueli and Ruth estimated they use a liter of olive oil a week!
We were told that you get about 18% yield from your olives – that is, 18 kilos of oil for every 100 kilos of olives. That’s from the first, cold “press.” After that the spent pulp is shipped to more industrial operations for steam and even solvent (!) extraction. Cold pressed oil is “Virgin,” with “Extra Virgin” referring to the quality level of the raw material, acid content and so on. The junk that comes out of the big factories is called “Pure…”
The Passeggiata was an event organized by a community association in Licata, “Walkfood,” to acquaint Licatans and visitors with important historical and cultural sites in and around Licata. This year it was a long hike along the seashore about 5 miles west of Licata, to lovely beaches and hills that were important to early Greek (600-400 BCE), Carthaginian, Arabic and Spanish involvement in Sicily. Mollarella and Poliscia beaches were also the first landing point for US/Allied armed forces in the first major action against Mussolini and his Nazi backers in World War II. Angelo, a journalist, served as the walks historian, providing background on the locations and their history.
The weather cooperated wonderfully, there was great participation from cruising sailors in the marina (some 30 of them, including kids) and we’ll all look forward to the next installment of this event!
Tomorrow is Halloween – something of novelty holiday in Italy, coming from the US as it does, followed by the much more traditional All Saints Day on November 1 and The Day of the Dead on November 2. There will be a “cultural exchange” between the boaters in the marina and Licatans, featuring trick or treating at the boats on the 31st, and a presentation by Licatans to the boaters on the following day, including traditional sweets and explanations of the long-time practices of southern Sicilians around these dates.
Photos by Birgit, Syd and Peppe