More and more frequently, on the terraces between Piedmont and Aosta Valley, alongside the more traditional grapevines, less and less sparse olive trees peep out. Rather than a new appearance, it is actually a return, since evidence of olive growing in Piedmont has been recorded since the Thirteenth century, as emerges from Professor Giovanni Donna’s studies.
Some centuries-old olive trees surround the castle of Settimo Vittone and the pre-Romanesque monumental complex of Saint John the Baptist Baptistery and Saint Lawrence Parish Curch, and precisely the fascination aroused by this unusual and ancient presence gave birth to a project carried out by Vito Groccia and Alberto Giovanetto, who after a few decades has borne fruit with the opening, on October 29, 2010, of the municipal oil mill in the hamlet of Montestrutto.
From an institutional point of view, it all started with the foundation, on October 15, 2003 in Vialfrè, of the ASSPO – Piedmontese Association of Olive Growers. At the time it was little more than a dozen farmers, including Vito Groccia himself and the son of Alberto Giovanetto, Adriano, who believed in the possibility of launching this activity on the lands of Piedmont and Aosta Valley, and wished to associate in order to exchange knowledge, ideas and suggestions. Since its foundation, the ASSPO has undertaken an extensive study on Piedmontese olive growing, carrying out a census that enabled Dr. Antonino De Maria to count about eighty thousand plants in the regional territory and monitoring the presence of the olive fly, main olive parasite.
The association has seen, over the years, an increase in the number of its members. Despite the Piedmontese olive growers cannot compete for the quantity of production with the colleagues of other regions, the Piedmontese olives, mainly of the leccino type, are of excellent quality and produce a sweet and delicate oil.
Meanwhile in Settimo Vittone, after years of patient work, in 2002 the Circolo Molino Lingarda, chaired by Vito Groccia, organized the first “Olive and Oil Festival”, producing for the first time the oil of the Riviera Settimese by pressing about 200 kg of olives in Villanova d’Albenga: the wonder of the Ligurians in noting the quality of the Canavese fruits will be an encouragement to persist in the challenge, planting hundreds of plants and carefully studying their adaptability to the territory.
The municipal administration believed in this “bet”, so they restored the former fish pool inaugurated in 1930 by Maria José di Savoia in order to adapt the building to an oil mill, equipping it with high-tech machinery, which has become a real point of reference for Northwest olive growers. The amount of olives conveyed has risen year by year, challenging the volunteers of the Circolo Molino Lingarda, who run the structure.
Olive growing – which requires less maintenance than viticulture – offers the dual prospect of promoting the territory and its excellence and taking care of the territory itself, turning abandoned vineyards and fields into olive groves, thus contrasting abandonment and hydrogeological instability.