In the Olive Grove with Italy’s Orsini Family

Paola stands to the far right as her husband Paolo addressed our group
Paola Orsini (far right) and her husband Paolo (center) addresses our group when we first arrive. 

Paola Orsini is a woman who orchestrates her booming olive oil business with finesse. She is the third generation to own the Orsini Olive Farm (Azienda Biologica Orsini) located just 70 miles south of Rome. With the help of her husband Paolo, they have developed an Extra Virgin Olive Oil that has earned the highest of points and awards within the olive oil industry.

It all began with her great-aunt Olivia, an elderly maid, when she acquired the olive farm with an old mill at the end of the 19th century. The farm is located in Priverno, in the Lepini Mountain basin. Most of the 4,000 olive trees are over 200 years old. They are interspersed with almond and citric trees on 123 acres. Olives are harvested between October and December.

The Orsini family has witnessed the sacrifices of many a family member in its time. Paola’s great-grandfather was a chemist, but traded his dream of owning a pharmacy for running the family olive mill. It was Eduoardo, Paola’s father, who continued the farming of the olives and gave up his plans to become a lawyer. However, all good things come to those who wait, and this is one great example. Today, the consistent quality of their extra virgin olive oil is superb and continues to remain in high demand.

The Orsini Family Homestead
The Orsini Family Homestead. 

My travel group, This Is Your Time, received a warm greeting from Paola and her husband when we first arrived. Afterward, we enjoyed a tour around the olive groves with Paolo. The late morning air was fresh with an earthy scent. As we gathered around Paolo to learn about the Itrana olive, exclusively grown on the farm, we noticed the trees were heavy with fruit.  Harvest time was soon to begin. The Orsini family have made a commitment to use organic farming, saying no to chemical fertilizer, genetically modified organisms, pesticides and forcing plant growth. They have converted the common cultivation into a biological agriculture, since environment protection is very important to them.

Paolo explains the harvesting the olives in the grove
Paolo explains the harvesting the olives in the grove. 

Harvest each year brings about 200,000 kg of olives, which produces 26,000 liters of oil. The Organic Itrana Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Azienda Biological Orsini (name of the farm) has consistently won multiple awards at major international olive oil competitions. They are ranked among the very top EVOO’s of the world as listed in major olive oil guides and publications. Ercole Olivario, the oldest and most prestigious olive oil competition in Italy, awarded Orsini Extra Virgin Olive Oil first place in its medium fruity category. This in itself is a high achievement.

The oil has been described as organic, intense limpid yellow, rich in aromas of medium ripe tomatoes, apples and rosemary. Its taste as a whole is harmonious with notes of bitterness and spiciness. It is typically paired with bluefish, roasted mushrooms, boiled octopus, broccoli soup and aged cheese. I can attest to its delicious taste and fragrance from our farm sampling.

Bumpy dirt road runs through the olive grove
Bumpy dirt road through the olive grove. 
View of the Lepini mountains from an old building on the farm
View of the Lepini mountains from an old building on the farm. 
Part of the old mill…

After our tour, we followed Paolo into the old olive press barn where we met up with Paola once more. A large assortment of traditional cuisine was spread out on the long wooden table. Bowls of tasty olives, sliced prosciutto, small brine onions, and roast pork encased in a thin crispy shell decked the table. Of course, there was plenty of olive oil and bread. We sat together with the family and enjoyed a bountiful meal over engaging conversations.

Paola with Danilo Mastracco from Slow Food Terracina enjoy a moment together in front of the dinner table. Notice the huge clay pot at the far left. These were used to store olive oil at one time.
Paola with Danilo Mastracco from Slow Food Terracina enjoy a moment together in front of the dinner table. Notice the huge clay pot at the far left. These were used to store olive oil at one time. 

The huge fireplace against the far wall brought visions to my mind’s eye of flaming logs casting a glow onto a festive winter dinner, while shadows of merrymaking danced across the walls and laughter accompanied the clinking of glasses. The meal was a restful respite from walking the orchards.

Orsini Olive Farm 2
A delicious lunch inside the old mill. 
Orsini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Photo courtesy of the Orsini farm

Olive oil steams out of the processor at the Orsini olive mill. Products can be bought at delicatessens, specialty shops or online**

Paola and her husband display a great passion for the land. As stewards of this family business, they are following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents. Their great care combined with the perfect climate, the high quality trees and meticulous hand harvest all contribute to bring about an exceptional product.