By GIOVANNI D’ACHILLE, ASPOL president
The olive groves of the province of Latina are located predominantly in the piedmont and hilly area that is extended with continuity and homogeneity behind the Agro Pontino from the district of Roccamassima to that of Minturno, with the characteristic development in parallel with the sea from the North to the South of the province through the contiguous systems of Lepini, Ausoni and Aurunci Mountains. All in all, the geographic orographical system, with a predominant south-west position and exposure following the path of Appian Way, constitutes a sloping terrace towards the sea for 100 km.
This territory is characterised by the massive presence of olive groves and by the constant presence of the olive variety called itrana (that never drop under the 50% of the plants’ heritage in the olive groves). The olive groves, generally planted in precipitous lands, rarely overtake the 400 metres height above sea level because in the higher zones there are woods and Mediterranean scrub that create a system strictly interconnect between the olive groves and the protected natural areas and those of network Natura 2000. The Pontine olive industry’s number are considerable: 11.728 producers spread over 10.312 hectares that grow about 2.500.000 plants mainly of Itrana’s variety (above the 70%). The olive oil production is 25.000.000 kg per year, meanly grinded in the 56 olive oil mills of the province.
The average annual production is 4.600.000 kg of oil and 5.000.000 of olive da mensa, for a total turnover estimated at about EUR 30 million. The increased olive production is concentrated in the districts of Itri, Cori, Roccamassima and Sonnino and the interested parties are organised in individual companies or in cooperatives. The itrana is a cultivar with a fruit that can be used to produce both oliva da mensa and extra virgin oil. She’s also known under the name Oliva di Gaeta, Oliva Grossa, Trana and Esperia. The drupes ripen late and in a progressive way.
That permits to the olive growers to extend the harvest’s operation without compromising the extra virgin oil quality obtained. The olives produced for the direct human consumption (through the technique of natural fermentation in brine, called Itrana style system) are harvested between November and December (white). To produce the Gaeta it waits the maturation during the period March-April. The productivity is good even if the production’s alternation is pronounced: after season of charge is possible to have year of scarce production. The itrana has a long story, a secular story but in the past she was known especially like oliva da mensa. In the last twenty years, thanks to the improvement of the extraction techniques, and the diffusion of knowledge about the quality among the producers, it has been started the production of prestigious oils that in a short time have conquered important prosceniums in the national scene. Moreover, the itrana is the main property of the DOP Colline Pontine. The protected designation of origin, in fact, has to be obtained in the olive groves with the following varieties: itrana from 50% to 100%,
Frantoio and Leccino until the 50% and other varieties until the 10% without modifying the product’s characteristics. An oil can obtain this recognition if the olives production, the transformation in oil, the packaging et.., take place in the production areas of the District registered to the Production Specification approved by the EU.