OLIVE ‘O8. Wish you were here?

Olive harvest in Umbria just outside Panicale

PANICALE, Umbria, Italy–Every day this week Elida and Guenter have been sending us pictures of that day’s harvest. This is from today’s photos. Day Three. The idyllic beach weather has finally turned more seasonal and they are rushing to get as much done as they can. In Iowa we call that “making hay while the sun shines.”
olive harvest in Panicale in Umbria in Italy 2008
Having done both haying on the farm and the raccolta di olive at Casa Wassman, it is safe to say “Frankly, Scarlet I’d rather be picking olives.” They know all of us monkeys here in Maine wish we were there up a tree with them. It is hard work and once you start racing the weather, it is work that keeps on coming. Thinking about emptying that first tree in a grove full of trees is daunting. Once you pick a tree, put down your nets, put up your ladder and start pulling those rascals down into the nets. And the next thing you know the tubs keep getting fuller and fuller and then the magic moment comes when it is time to be hauling your olives off to the press.

Elida says they took several thousand kilos off to the press in Pacino, just yesterday. They had to be proud of that. So much of farming is such a throw of the dice. Last year there we hardly any olives to pull into the nets and the few there were, well they were so small some would slip right through. Not this year!

With friends from Africa and South America, the crop is coming in big time. And some other friends from San Francisco are joining that happy throng in a day or two.

In the meantime as Steve from Australia (who, like us, lamely can’t make this year) says “Elida, you are killing us with these pictures.”

Living vicariously, or however we can, until we get back there.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Money can’t buy happiness? How about chocolate? How about zucchini pasta? Picking olives with friends? Can they buy happiness?

friends bringing us chocolate from Aldo, other friends torturing us by sending us fun photos of olive harvest, Perugia written up in Traveler magazine

Even faux euros can bring a taste of happiness if they should happen to be wrapped around a piece of real Italian chocolate, hand carried from Bar Gallo.

chocolate from Perugia, Umbria, Italy
PANICALE, Umbria – WILDS OF MAINE–Our friends Bud and Susan just got back to Maine from their adventures in Italy. Their son got married at Spannocchia outside Siena and then they stayed in Panicale for a few days. We weren’t too jealous when they confirmed what all our Italian friends have been emailing to say/rub in – that the weather this October has quit being autumnal and returned to the balmy days of summertime. Nothing but soft breezes and blue skies for days on end. La dolce vita in fatti. So. That didn’t make us jealous. And Bud, a bit skeptically I’m sure, took our advice, got his hair cut at Biano’s and it changed his life, as I knew it would. And they ate wonderfully with all the Belficos at Masolino’s next door to our house and no, no, REALLY, not at ALL jealous. But! Everything was all better when they brought back a stack of our Italian maps, tour books, etc. On top of the stack was the 500 euro chocolate from Aldo and family. With a note on the back of a Bar Gallo card.

All is right with the world. What did we do to deserve friends with candy? We felt missed, we felt the love and we felt the green eyed monster slinking away.

We get a raft of magazines at our office. I really have no idea why we have National Geographic TRAVELER magazine, I didn’t order it, but it seems to be coming and I picked this one (Nov/Dec 2008) up to bring home and read because right on its cover it had this well-I’ve-got-to-check-this-out story hook: “World’s Sexiest Small City (HINT: IT’S IN ITALY) Page 98”. Hmmm. What that is all about? Midge got to it first and looked at me over the top of it and wagged her eyebrows a couple times “Want to guess where it is?” she said. “You’ll love it” Quit teasing me, let me see that! What a treat. 12 full color pages on one of our favorite neighbors, ever-chic, ever-Etruscan Perugia.

I’d love to give you a link to the article but that isn’t how TRAVELER is set up, so you may have to take my word that it is a great and engaging article or find a copy in your local magazine shop. Their web site does let you see some great Perugia photos. And like the chocolate bar from Aldo took me to Panicale, this took me back to my days at the Universita’ per Stranieri in Perugia. In a heartbeat, the soles of my shoes were polishing the stones of Corso Vannucci scuffing my way up that promenade to meet friends for a midnight gelato. Con Frutti di Boschi.
olive harvest in Panicale in Umbria in Italy
Right while I am writing this, our dear friend Elida dropped us an email about the olive harvest. Earlier in the week she’d sent us a couple pictures warning that our wisteria was trying to digest our house. So I wrote Dily at Linda’s store and she told her dad Bruno and he’ll teach that wisteria to mess with Casa Margherita! But back to the olive harvest. When it is nice weather, there is no finer way to spend the day than helping friends pick. And then helping yourself to groaning tables of food for hungry farm workers. She mentioned apple tart and zucchini pasta were on the menu today. I remember picking and eating and eating and picking, walking home and falling straight over into bed and sleeping like the proverbial pascha. At seven pm. Like we did the last time we were picking olives at Elida and Guenters. Oxygen and fresh sunshine overload will get you every time.

Ah, I wish we were there. And in my mind, we are.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland