Since ancient times olive trees have been cultivated in our area. There is ample proof of the existence of a significant olive oil production dating back as far as 787Ad.

 

Everywhere, in the countryside, one can see the typical terraced topography of the surrounding hills, which suggests the age, and origin of this important product. In medieval towns one frequently comes across street names such as “Via dell’Olivo” (Street of the olive tree) or the Church of¬† “S.Quirico all’Olivo”.

 

In this area, woodlands and scrubland increasingly made way for the cultivation of olive groves even high up on the rolling slopes of the hills. This required the construction of the orderly, staggered, terraces so typical of the region. Olive cultivation, and commercial oil production grew rapidly but in an uncoordinated fashion, until the first “Standards of cultivation and quality reform” of 1241.

 

A decree of that year stated that, where the oil was being used as payment for land rent, the price of 22 pounds weight of oil (a unit of rent) must be reduced to 15 pounds in less productive years, permitting the tenant to settle the outstanding debt the following year. Already then people had to take into account the realities of olive growing, namely, that in olive oil production there are good and less good years. It spared the tenant from using disreputable methods to inflate  quantity to the detriment of quality. This was a clever attempt by the Olive Oil Guild of the time to preserve the good reputation of the region for high quality oil.

 

In a further effort to promote quality control, the Luccese Guild conducted a census of cultivated olive varieties in (1308), which listed the varieties of olives best suited to the region ensuring the desired quality. Then in 1594 The Oil Laws, which regulated export licenses, pricing policy, – driven by the annual harvest production, and the minimum quality criteria to which all olive oil producers had to adhere.

 

To protect the quality specifications of their product, quality controls were put in place stipulating the correct cultivation and growing techniques (see A.Mazzarosa, “The Olive Growing Practices in the Country around Lucca” 1846). The grip on quality was intensified during the 17th and the 18th century until in 1865 an article, was published in the “Gazzetta” of Turin which stated: – “only the growers around Lucca and Pietrasanta were qualified to care for the olive trees of the region, to fully guarantee their proper maintenance and optimal production.”

 

From this brief review, one can understand how the people from this region who traditionally have always been shrewd and capable merchants, started very early to export their olive oil. They built up a reputation for its fine quality, and distinctive taste throughout the whole of Europe, until, ultimately, it arrived in America at the beginning of the 18th century.

 

Another interesting point is, that the “Census of Varieties” in 1308 registered the existence of frantoio, leccino and maurino trees, which today, have become the most cultivated varieties around here.Given this background, it is surely undisputed that the olive tree, more than any other crop, goes back furthest in history and most readily represents the agricultural traditions of the region.

 

Furthermore, given the traditional manner in which these plants have been cultivated over the ages, they have largely avoided the mechanical and chemical techniques of today, which, during the last century has so affected almost all other areas of agriculture. Instead, olive cultivation has remained unchanged; creating an historic and agrarian tradition, which has maintained the never changing landscape of the region.