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Olives


There are two centres which produce the largest quantity of table olives from the Lazio: San Gregorio and Gaeta-Itri.
The giant olive from San Gregorio is an olive for eating at the table; it is green in colour and has a sweet flavour. It is of notable dimensions and is the speciality of San Gregorio da Sassola, a small town of one thousand three hundred inhabitants on the slopes of the Prenestini hills.
The cultivation of this olive, destined for family use, goes back to the eighteen hundreds: today it has been rationalised to permit it to be profitably commercialised for the small companies and co-operatives of producers dedicated to it.
The "olivone" (‘big olives’), which are harvested relatively late to allow the full development of the flavour, ripen in brine for a period of time which goes from six to eight months: for this time they are preserved in large containers.
The olives from Gaeta and Itri are well known for the wide use made of them in cooking, as well as for the possibility of eating them as appetisers, essential accompaniment of many of the delicacies typical of the South; the olives from Gaeta are a common patrimony of the town (which was the last stronghold of the Bourbons) and of the various surrounding localities: Formia, Itri, Minturno, Fondi, Spigno Saturnia.
The way they are processed is ancient and traditional: the method used is known as "alla itrana", clearly due to the fact of it originating in Itri, land of the well known character fra Diavolo. The olives are left in fresh water for about one month, and are then transferred into a fairly diluted quality of brine. They remain in this second soaking for longer: five months. The resulting colour is a dark wine-colour, the flavour is bitterish with some hints of vinegar. Every year, thirty six thousand quintals (seventy thousand hundred weights) are produced. One can find both types on the market: the black olives from Gaeta and the ‘white’ olives from Itri: in these cases, the colour defines the category.
Notwithstanding their appearance, ‘white’ olives and black olives belong to the same family: the difference is that the olive from Itri is harvested and placed in brine early, before it has ripened (between November and December). The colour of the ‘white’ olives is, in reality, a golden-green with shades of pale pink; the flavour is winey-vinegary with bitter-milky hints. The quantity produced is more modest than that of the black Gaeta olives, and the price is slightly lower.

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