Living in the countryside in Le Marche means that you never rest, especially after the grapes harvest, there it comes the olives’ one!
Italy has as many as 400 different types of olives that vary from the olives you can eat alone to those more suitable for the oil. In our region we distinguish 40 varieties, each of which gives the olive oil a special taste; there are also professional olive oil tasters, just like for wine, coffee and tea. In most olive groves you will find different types, so that the obtained olive oil is called a blend. If you have oil pressed from only one type of olive, we speak of a monovarietale (mono variety). Here the type of olive will clearly give a characteristic flavor to the oil.
In Le Marche they have been producing olive oil for centuries, which often served as an important currency. The Marchigian municipality of Cartoceto can even call itself one of the most important Marchigian olive producers. Probably the Carthaginians, who fled the battle of the Metauro River (2nd Punic War (218-201 BC), founded a settlement here, although it is already mentioned in some documents from 79 BC. Another hypothesis would attribute the foundation of Cartoceto to the population living in the 6-8th century AD avoiding barbaric incursions.
In the 12th century we can already read about olive trees in the then walled city. A century later, Cartoceto was even the most important olive oil producer in the County of Fano.
Nevertheless, the municipality had to be completely rebuilt in 1572 after a severe earthquake.
Since 1977, an olive market has been organized every year in November, and from 2004 the olive oil was the only one in Le Marche to obtain the DOP Denominazione D’origine Protetta (protected designation of origin) certificate. One of the many conditions to meet this requirement is that the olives must come from Cartoceto, Mombaroccio, Fano or Colli al Metauro.
As a true olive fan, Isabelle decided to visit this special place together with her husband Erik! The area already announced it: this really was an olive tree region, olive trees everywhere!
They parked in a small car park on the outskirts of Cartoceto where we immediately see the church Santa Maria della Misericordia, Santuario della Mandonna delle Grazie. A 19th century church built on the site of a 15th century religious building. Upon entering, the richly painted ceiling and the well-preserved 14th century fresco of the Madonna immediately stood out. The latter was frequently revered, as can be seen in the various votive offerings as thanks for healings.
On the outside, a symbolic monument was erected in 2015 in honor of the killed boat people.
Isabelle and Erik descended a staircase, walked along the city wall and a little later came out on piazza Garibaldi.
Here, the imposing 14th century Palazzo del Popolo stands out with its high bell tower.
A permanent exhibition hung in the arch; the recovered stones, from the partly collapsed city wall in 2012, turned some artists into a special creation under the direction of the local artist Gesine Arps. On the right was the palazzo Marcolini once belonging to the Marcolini family, nowadays municipal property with the library.
The municipality visibly retained its herringbone geometrical city plan, as evidenced by the numerous alleys and staircases that we can follow. Very cozy and in the summer with all kinds of terraces and bars ….
A real surprise for Isabelle and Erik was a wall with whole poems. In Cartoceto art seems to be everywhere: such as Dit ed Ardit by Urbana Mascarucci with all kinds of spells in the dialect and the Olive oil fountain 2004 realized by Padre Stefano Pigni (born and died in Cartoceto 1919-2006)
Finally they reached piazza Marconi with a very nice view and the local 18th century theater Trionfo built in a former olive oil mill. This square was called here the Turchia or Turkey because here they stood on the lookout during the threat of the Saracens.
The little hamlet is really worth having a stroll withing its alleys.
But after so much walking, it’s time to eat something! Restaurant Pizzeria Agli Olivi, naturally surrounded by hundreds of olive trees seemed the good place. A large restaurant that could even be reached by buses, given the size of the toilets. But all kinds of corners made it feel cozy. They were even renowned for their baccalà, for which they received a prize. Isabelle and Erik have been very lucky, being middle of October, they got to taste the freshly squeezed olive oil on a piece of fresh bread, incredibly tasty and quite spicy. They were not disappointed; very tasty dishes of good quality and very friendly service!
If you want to visit an olive oil producer in Cartoceto, click on this list!