One day in the collection of olives with project M.A.R.E and M.A.R.E supporting team

On the 6th of October, two days before the departure of the volunteers of the supporting team, the president of the marine park, Lucio, invited us to live the experience of the olive collection at the house of his step family. Traditionally in Italy, the collection of the olives starts the first day of November, the day of the dead, and is done by hand. Of course, it can start earlier and can go up to December, but it’s normally in November that is associated the olive cultivation, a ritual that started almost 6000 years ago. Olives are collected directly from the tree and then, starts a race against the clock. From the time when olives are collected starts the oxidation of the fruit and they have to be taken to extract the oil as fast as possible. Olive oil is a raw material as important as it is delicate and it’s very important to identify the good moment to collect them. The olive harvest in Italy is also an important social occasion as families come together to pick the olives and press them for the first extra virgin olive oil. This makes it possible to harvest the greatest number of olives per tree and obtain maximum oil yield, while maintaining quality levels. Normally, 100 kg of olives yield 16 to 18 kg of oil. 

It was a very powerful feeling to be invited in this house and be part of what is a very old family tradition. We arrived in the morning and were welcomed with the traditional Italian “cornetto” and caffé. After exchanging salutations, we went straight to work, we split in different teams and covered the hole property to harvest the olives. Working with olives required a lot of patience because the collect is done by hand, branch by branch, and when the harvest is over it’s very important to check and remove the olives that are already bad. All of the volunteers worked for few hours and we harvested kilos and kilos of olives. At some point during the work, we started smelling the nice smell of the pizza oven working… What was our surprise when we realized that Lucio’s step-father prepared more than forty pizza dough for us! While the pizzas were getting prepared, we sat to have some drinks all together and after some time the first pizzas started to arrive! I have been living in Italy for 6 months and I have tried a lot of pizzas during this time but I can say without any hesitation that the pizza we had that day were the best I had ever tried in my life. Simple margherita, only with tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and a bit of oil… mind blowing!!! We ate all the pizzas we could eat that day and when everyone was full of pizza and drinks, they offered to make our own pizzas with the remaining dough. Each one of us that wanted to try, made their own pizzas. We started by working out the dough, slowly, using a lot of flour. Then we had to flatten the dough to make our pizza, added tomato sauce, cheese and directly in the oven! 5 min later… et voilà! A beautiful pizza. It was an amazing experience to be able to be so close to the Italian culture! The afternoon went on with pizza, drinks and dancing. I can say surely that everyone had a lot of fun that day. Around 5pm it started pouring rain and everyone was invited to go inside the house to stay dry. One by one we started to run towards the house until one of the volunteers, Arthur, arrived in front of the door and fell majestically because of the slippery floor! The crazy laugh we all had when we realized that there were cameras around and that we could see that fall over and over again (don’t worry nothing happened to him, he was perfectly fine). This beautiful day ended with the kindness of these people who, in the end, gave us a ride home so we won’t be soaked wet walking back. 

During this day we all put ourselves to work, we met great people and learnt a lot. We got closer to the Italian culture and shared a bit of our own. Thanks to this great team we worked while having fun which made things quite easy in the end. It was a great way to enjoy one of the last days of the volunteers of the supporting team, I think I can say without a doubt that we are all thankful for the opportunities that give us this project. I will always remember that day of my life when I picked up the olives and made Italian pizza for the first time, I will cherish every memory that I made with this team. Thank you all. 

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