The gold of Taggia

To find gold in the Argentina Valley, you don’t need to look for nuggets.

Olives are the real treasure of these valleys and in the Argentina Valley the olive tree has been sacred since the time of the Benedictine monks, who created what is now known as the “Taggiasca cultivar”: an olive with an unmistakable flavour.

The hills around Taggia – and throughout the province of Imperia town – are full of olive groves that, between October and January, are coloured with nets stretched out to harvest every last olive. Harvesting olives is a somewhat religious experience and an ancestral call, like the grape harvest, to be carried out in autumn.

Go up with the whole family, recruit friends and relatives. Go around the olive trees with sticks, large and small rakes in case olives are not too ripe and do not come down on their own.

Shake and bang the branches to make the olives fall on the coloured nets. Once upon a time, before the invention of nylon, women known as the “sciascieline” used to come from lower Piedmont to pick olives by hand.

From the nets, the olives pass into jute sacks, like coffee sacks.

The next day, the olives are chopped by two large wheels, then put into “spurtin”, i.e. special hemp ring-shaped baskets, which are then put under the press. The freshly pressed oil is green with chlorophyll, still wild, but already ready to be enjoyed on a slice of Triora bread… an explosion of flavours and aromas not to be missed!