TRAVEL: MARTANI HILLS
It is the Valle Umbra immersed in the heart of the “green heart” of Italy, where Umbria is more Umbria than elsewhere.
The silvery splendor of olive trees stands out against the backdrop of Umbria’s green, rolling hills: a crop that represents the entire region for various reasons.
The olive tree is a biblical and universal symbol of peace. It also represents religious values, which are so important in a land, Umbria, that is often referred to as “The Holy Land of Italy”.
In fact, the great Umbrian saints, the beautiful sanctuaries, and the other magnificent religious buildings scattered throughout the region create a mystic aura.
Finally, the flavors of Umbria and the Umbrian Olive Oil embody the spirit of the region’s cuisine, made up of simple and natural ingredients and genuine tasty foods.
The olive tree, with its long lifespan and slow growth, is a fine representation of the region’s ability to lovingly preserve century-old traditions handed down from generation to generation.
In the green heart of Umbria from the hills, there’s a generous land of centuries-old olive groves. Colli Martani, Martani Hills.
Colli Martani area is considered by many as a Widespread Museum.
This land, in fact, is abundant in natural beauty and art.
A thousand expressions of art emerge from every fold of the ground. In addition, many museums have been created to celebrate the Umbrian history, Umbrian traditions, and culture.
For example, the Regional Museum of Ceramics in Deruta and in Torgiano, the Lungarotti Wine and Olive and Oil Museums are authentic “monuments” to the local treasures.
The many ancient castles create a suggestive atmosphere. For instance, between Torgiano and the Etruscan Bettona, it’s located the Castle of Rosciano is used for romantic weddings, and the thirteenth-century Castello di “Ritaldi” in the heart of the olive oil production area.
But also, there are tiny villages along the “Oil Path” or in italian ” Strada dell’Olio”, like Gualdo Cattaneo and Giano dell’Umbria, a prestigious “City of Oil”.
The olive trees surround the road, a landscape that inspires poets, writers, painters or simple, thrilled travelers.
Many thousand-year-old olive tree specimens are located in the medieval villages of Macciano and Camporeggiano and near the Abbey of San Felice.
The Abbey of San Felice is a Romanesque art masterpiece and oil production center. This abbey gives its name to the local cultivar – San Felice Cultivar– that, with its sweetness, characterizes the extra virgin of the Martani Mountains.
Olive tree plants are perennial sources of life and beauty, guardians of stories and traditions, to which some festivals and village celebrations are dedicated. To be remembered the Frasca Festival, which celebrates the end of the olive harvest, so-called “buonfinita in Italian”.
It might seem a paradox that precisely in this ancient land, filled with historical heritage and contemporary artistic expressions, a very original project finds a home right here. Frigolandia, the “Free Republic of Creativity” is a quite unique project. This is a factual micronation, not recognized by international laws, that proposes itself as a laboratory of art, culture, and satire.
Not to forgive to pay tribute to the ancient Roman empire, just few kilometers away there’s Massa Martana. This ancient town called Martis Tudertinum, was an important road junction along the old Flaminia road built by the Ancient Romans.
A visit to Todi is inevitable. A middle Ages city with a wonderful square, Piazza del Popolo, where the palaces, that symbolize secular and religious power, are proudly facing each other.
And then further on until you reach the “caliginosa” (from the latin caliginosus, meaning “hazy”) Bevagna with the medieval shops of the Mercato delle Gaite. ( My favorite to take a stroll in the morning, have breakfast with “cappuccino e brioche”, while reading my favorite newspaper in the main renaissance square. My personal version of Dolce Vita style! ).
The divine Montefalco shines beside it. “A little piece of heaven fallen on the ground” as an English traveler, fascinated by such splendor, wrote in the nineteenth century.
Prosaically famous also for being the home of truly exceptional wine, the Sagrantino, also called the “lord in red”, is one of the (or maybe “the”) most tannic red wines in the country! Worth a visit to one of the many winemakers of the valley. Montefalco shows an artistic, architectural, and environmental treasure.
Because here, above all, the immense expanse of olive trees and vines gives flavor to the simple life, industrious, but at the same time “slow”, which is still being carried out in these parts today.
Martani Hills is one of the five main Umbrian oil production areas, defined by the olive tree species of this territory and by the unique way these olives are blended.
Only a few municipalities in the Region of Umbria grow the olives destined for the production of extra virgin olive oil carrying the “Umbria” Protected Denomination of Origin – or D.O.P. – quality seal along with the geographic indication “Martani Hills”.
These are: Acquasparta, Spoleto, Massa Martana, Todi, Castel Ritaldi, Giano dell’Umbria, Montefalco, Gualdo Cattaneo, Collazzone, Bevagna, Cannara, Bettona, Deruta, Torgiano, Bastia Umbra.
The oil is made from a carefully handpicked selection of the first-harvested Moraiolo, Leccino, Frantoio, and San Felice olives that grow in the Martani Valley in Umbria. The color of this oil is green with golden reflections.
On the palate, this flavor is herbaceous with balanced notes of rosemary, artichoke, and aromatic herbs. This olive oil offers a balanced bitterness accompanied by spiciness.