07 May

A Very Old Tradition That’s Alive and Well in Loreto Aprutino

It was bound to happen eventually.

I guess we weren’t really surprised.

It may not have been a tragedy but we felt the loss all the same.

What happened?

We ran out of Rita’s oil!

We’d been using it on and off for the best past of two months and like all good things, it finally came to an end.

It’s hard to go back to oil from the supermarket after using nectar from the olives of Loreto Aprutino.

So today we went to a local food market in Dublin and bought a litre of oil from Puglia that was pressed last November. It’s good oil, nice and peppery. It catches the throat in a way that supermarket oil doesn’t and never will.

But it isn’t oil from Loreto Aprutino and it isn’t Rita’s oil.

There’s something about buying oil from the person whose olives were used to make it. Sourced from olive trees you pass everyday. Buying it from somebody who understands how lucky they are to have such a resource.

That’s food provenance.

On our last trip to Abruzzo we deliberately brought an almost empty suitcase so we could bring goodies back. Rita’s oil was part of that goodie-bag.

Oil on bread with a little salt isn’t a natural combination for people born in Ireland but everyone we’ve challenged to try it has loved it.

The olive oil tradition of Loreto Aprutino is so important to the town that it has its own oil museum.

It’s a fascinating place.

The Museo d’Olio was officially opened on 14 May 2005 as a result of the efforts of Bruno Carboni. Carboni was born in Subiaco near Rome, grew up in Piombino in Tuscany and settled in Abruzzo in the 1960’s. He was a lawyer specialising in commercial law but his passion was archaeology. He was involved in many important digs during the 1970’s including the Italic necropolises of Nocciano, San Clemente in Casauia and the Neolithic settlement of Villa Badesse in Rosciano.

Without the efforts of Bruno Carboni, my favourite museum in Loreto Aprutino might not exist.

The museum is dedicated to great names of the local olive oil culture.  The building itself, Castelletto Amorotti, is based on the design of the painter Francesco Paolo Michetti, who wanted to evoke the feeling of a ship’s prow breaking through waves.

Did he succeed? What do you think?

Inside the building one name stands out – Raffaele Baldini Palladini.

He was a volunteer in Garibaldi’s army in 1860’s and later, in 1880’s he opened an olive oil factory located between the walls of the Castelletto.

Using the latest methods of manufacture, focusing on hygiene, and meticulous devotion to the art of oil production, the reputation of Raffaele Baldini Palladini’s oil from the small town of Loreto Aprutino grew and grew.

It was praised in Rome, Naples and Paris and sought after in Switzerland, Germany and USA. Palladini even received a special order from the Tsar of Russia who felt it was the oil best suited to his palate.

But like Rita’s oil at the start of this post all good things come to an end. The death of Raffaele Baldini Palladini and the onset of the First World War was the beginning of the factory’s slow decline.

The Amorotti family attempted to revive the mill’s fortunes but World War II and occupation by German soldiers ended that dream.

Even though the golden era of Raffaele Baldini Palladini is long over Loreto Aprutino still produces superb oil. Part of the golden triangle that includes nearby Moscufo and Pianella you are in for a treat if you buy oil from this wonderful region.

I admit I’m biased. I also admit that right now I’m using oil from Puglia and it’s certainly very tasty, but it’s not the same as local oil from Loreto Aprutino.

I think it’s time to make another trip.

a little bit about 

Noel is an IT Consultant, software development Project Manager, photographer, writer, and English teacher. These days he swaps his time between Abruzzo, Italy and Dublin, Ireland.

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Noel McCarthy Photography

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