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About crowncut and tree-combers. One year in the olive orchard

Snow covered olive trees at La Rogaia

In a few days the olive harvest at La Rogaia will start. It is the highlight and the end of the harvesting season, before life is slowing down to a slower pace, once the winter arrives.

Yet what is happening in the olive orchard during the year? Well, when you hear me asking that way, you know of course, there´s a lot to do.

Let´s simply start in February. Now is the time of the year which usually brings the most snow here in Umbria. The snow doesn´t last for long, but it can happen pretty fast that big masses of snow cover everything.

At this time of the year the snow is fairly wet and therefore heavy.

That means we have to leave our cosy place in front of the fireplace arm ourselves with a brush and swipe and shake the snow from the trees before the branches break under the snow´s weight.

Okay, that doesn´t happen every year, but if you have to free several hundreds of trees from snow you are not really sad about not having to do it.

End of February, beginning of March the next big work in the olive orchard starts. The olive trees have to be pruned.

Olives need a lot of light to grow.

To achieve this the trees here are pruned traditionally „a corona“ in the form of a crown.

All the branches pointing to the inside need to be cut, as well as branches which overlap and take away the light from each other.

What remains is a ring (or a crown) of strong branches, where the light can enter freely.

Given that olive shoots  grow pretty fast, the inside of the ring becomes overgrown quickly and next year the game starts again.

There´s to consider another particularity pruning the olive trees. Olives grow only on the two year old shoots. That means you mustn´t blindly cut everything. Instead you always need to leave sufficient of last summer´s shoots, if you want to have olives.

Which form you give exactly to each tree of course is even more complex and everybody who prunes olives has their own ideas.

Just put it like this. If you have gathered ten olive farmers in front of a tree, asking them how to prune it correctly you get at least eleven different answers (There´s always someone who cannot make up his mind or needs to call his “Mamma” first)

In every case it is a lot of work which stretches over several months from end of February to the first days of May. Then the olive blossom starts and you shouldn´t prune the trees any longer.

During the entire year of course you have to mow and harrow regularly in the olive grove, to keep grass and spines at bay.

Specially in summer water is scarce and if you want the olive trees to bear some fruit the competition by other plants mustn´t be too strong.

Apart of that it helps as well rare flowers and herbs which otherwisely wouldn´t stand a chance against blackberry tendrils and grass roots

Before the olive harvest starts there are two more important things to do.

The ground around the olive trees has to be freed from all stingy shrubs, like blackberries or blackthorn shoots, to spare the olive nets and the picker´s hands.

And the olive shoots growing abundantly around the olive trees have to be cut to be able to put the nets close to the trunks.

Now finally the olive harvest can start.

For this the pickers join in groups of three to five persons.

Each group is equipped with a long ladder and a big net.

Aditionally every picker receives a plastic rake with rounded edges made specially for the olive harvest and a pair of goggles to protect the eyes against twigs and the sharp olive leaves (though to be honest few of the pickers ever wear them).

First the net is spread out under the tree you want to harvest.

As the olive trees here are growing on the hill slopes you have to lift the net up on its downhill side and fix it with branches or metal bars. Otherwise the olives would use the net as a kind of ski-jump and rush down the hill.

Once the net is spread out the pickers start to strip the olives from the twigs with the rakes or with the hands (everybody has to find out how it works best for hom or her).

In Italian this is called “pettinare” “to comb”.

That means the pickers actually are not “pickers” but “tree combers”

Anyway, the olives drop down onto the net. The net is laid together and so all the olives roll on one heap.

Now little twigs and leaves which dropped down together with the olives are sorted out and the olives are filled into one or (rarely) two plastic boxes.

Oh, by the way you cannot harvest the olives by shaking the olive tree as many people think. At least you can´t do it by hand.

Once the olives are easily dropping to the earth if you shake the tree or worse drop down by themselves, they are so overripe you cannot use them for making high quality olive oil any longer.


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For Music lovers The most beautiful Music-Festivals this summer in Umbria

If you love music a holiday in Umbria for you can be an excellent combination of relaxing yourself and enjoying culture. You find almost everything from classical music to jazz and blues. And we dare say everything on an absolutely high level.

Today we present to you four festivals you definitely don´t want to miss.

TRASIMENO MUSIC FESTIVAL, Magione, June 26 to July 2, 2010

The  TRASIMENO MUSIC FESTIVAL was founded by the world famous Canadian piano player Angela Hewitt (recently honoured in Cannes as „best  instrumentalist of the year 2010“, one of the best Bach-interprets world wide).

The castle of the Maltese knights of  Magione, the abbey San Pietro in Perugia and the church San Domenico in Gubbio form the impressive setting for high calibre concerts of classical music with internationally renowned artists and emerging talents. Together with Angela Hewitt 2010 the violoncello player Pieter Wispelwey, the Quartetto di Cremona, the Orchestra di Camera di Mantova and the Soprano Ilona Domnich will give concerts.

UMBRIA JAZZ FESTIVAL, Perugia,  July 9 to July 18, 2010

UMBRIA JAZZ was founded 1973. Today it is one of Europes most important  jazz festivals. During the festival Perugia becomes the favourite place to go for thousands of jazz enthusiasts from all over the world.

Everywhere in the town you can visit small concerts, many of them for free. As every year also at the 2010 edition of UMBRIA JAZZ you will find at Perugia jazz-, rock-, pop-, und blues musicians of international fame.

TUSCAN SUN FESTIVAL, Cortona, July 31 to August 5, 2010

The TUSCAN SUN FESTIVAL takes place annualy in the pittoresque medieval town of Cortona. You can enjoy open air concerts on the Piazza Signorelli oder chamber concerts in the nearby Signorelli theater.

2010 at Cortona will be performing such illustrous artists as the soprano Renée Fleming (two time GRAMMY winner), the violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, ‘BBC Cardiff Singer of the World’, Ekaterina Scherbachenko and cello player Steven Isserlis (Gramophon award winner).

TRASIMENO BLUES FESTIVAL, Lago di Trasimeno, July 22 to August 1, 2010

The TRASIMENO BLUES FESTIVAL is probably the most important blues festival in Italy. In the little towns around Trasimeno Lake you can listen in relaxed atmosphere to legendary blues musicians as well as to spectacular emerging talents, enjoying a cool beer or a good glas of wine. Maybe you also like to dance, once the rhythm hits you. Most concerts are free and listening to the blues in a warm summer night on the lake shore makes you feel almost like being in the Mississippi Delta.

Villa La Rogaia is an ideal starting point for you to visit all these festivals. We will give you first hand information where to go and how to get tickets for concerts.

More information and photos here

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A real insider tip for travelers in Umbria the tulip festival „Festa del Tulipano“ in Castiglione Del Lago

Normally you rather think of Holland when talking about tulips or tulip celebrations. So you might be astonished to hear that there is also a big tulip festival in Italy.

Castiglione del Lago is a pittoresque little town, situated on a peninsula in the Trasimeno Lake, the “Umbrian Sea”. There since 1956 the inhabitants celebrate every year in spring time the “Festa del Tulipano”.

The whole town is decorated with tulip flowers and the locals competing  among each other creating the most beautiful decorations on windows and balconies trying to win

Flower decorations at the "Festa del Tulipano" in Castiglione del Lago

one of the prices awarded by the severe local jury .

During the five days of the tulip festival you can enjoy  entertainment almost around the clock.

You find street theaters, buskers, folk dance groups, processions and games of the „Nobles“ and the „Common people“ in historical costumes, handed down to us in old chronics. On Sunday the festival culminates into a big procession with flower decorated carts, displaying allegorical as well as satirical motives. For this carts literally thousands of tulip flowers (usually the ones to short to be sold) are arranged painstakingly to artistic compositions.

Of course you will find lots of culinary treats as well.

Taverns are set up in the whole town, where you can taste typical dishes based on medieval and renaissance recipes.
The  tulip festival is anchored firmly in the history of Castigliones, everybody is enthusiastic about it and it is really typical Italian. Yet you might like to know  “Who invented it?”…

Do you guess the answer?

It where not the Italians,



“The Dutch”!
In the fifties some Dutch families had settled down in Castiglione del Lago, to cultivate tulip bulbs on the shore of Lake Trasimeno. From their home they brought the custom to salute spring with a tulip celebration and established with the  “Festa del Tulipano” a new tradition in the very heart of Umbria .

By the way: From Villa La Rogaia you can reach Castiglione del Lago and the tulip festival comfortably by car.

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World Food Summit in Rome please take action against hunger

La Rogaia is not only an organizer of holidays and creative classes but also an organic farm trying to take a road different from the widespread industrial agriculture with all its negative consequences.

Therefore we support all efforts for a solidary, eco-conscious world. Being an enterprise in Italy we also feel that we have a special responsability to make  the world food summit in Rome a success, helping the poor in the world and providing sufficient food for all.

We have just signed the petition from Avaaz  urging world leaders to make good on their promises to tackle the world food crisis by delivering a $20 billion agriculture and food security package for developing countries.

Next week’s World Food Summit in Rome is our best chance to hold world leaders to their minimum commitments and push them to take significant action to tackle global hunger. If enough of us sign this petition, our global call will be heard and key actions could be agreed during the summit.

Click here to sign the petition:


With the recent financial crisis, poverty is skyrocketing in poorer countries, with 1 in 6 people on the planet now facing life-threatening hunger.

Next week, leaders will meet at the World Food Summit in Rome to address this growing crisis. The best solution is funding to boost sustainable agriculture in poorer countries, but France, Germany, UK, Italy and Japan are backing out on a $20 billion promise made earlier this year.

Millions of lives are on the line. Sign the petition below for rich countries to keep their promises, and it will be delivered directly to world leaders through a spectacular stunt at the Roman Colosseum on the eve of the Summit:

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. Yet the number of people suffering from chronic hunger across the planet has reached the record-high figure of 1 billion this year.

Hundreds of billions are spent by wealthy governments to bail out banks and financial institutions, but the G8 countries are trying to cut a promised $20 billion commitment to agricultural investment to only $3 billion in new money. With literally millions of lives on the line, this is a scandal.

The Rome summit is also our best opportunity to push governments to promote small holder agricultural production — growing evidence shows that intensive farming models are not effectively countering hunger and have a highly damaging impact on our environment.

We are teaming up with anti-poverty organisation ActionAid and global farmers networks to show our governments that we refuse to accept a world where people die every minute from hunger. Sign the petition to the Rome Summit — every signature will be represented at a stunning delivery event at Rome’s Colloseum:

With hope,

Luis, Alice, Benjamin, Graziela, Ricken, Pascal, Iain, Paula, Paul, Veronique and the entire Avaaz Team


Global Hunger worsening, warns UN:

Only 15% of G8 pledge is new money, Reuters:

ActionAid’s HungerFREE Scorecard Investigates why a Billion People are Hungry:

More information about ActionAid´s HungerFREE global campaign at:

World Food Day: There is enough food grown in the world for everyone (Op-ed), Oxfam International:

About the World Food Summit:

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Holidays and Olive Harvest at Villa La Rogaia in Umbria FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

The liquid gold coming freshly from the oil mill

During what time of the year the olive harvest is going to happen?

The harvest is held every year beetween the end of October and

December. The exact start of the olive harvest may vary some days, according to the grade of maturity of the olives

In a year with many olives the harvest can even last until the first two weeks of December.

How warm is it in November?

November in Umbria is mostly warm and sunny, much warmer as for instance in England at the same time of the year.

During day time temperatures can superate 20° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit)

Yet it can be already cool at night. Thus you might need warm clothing as well as let´s say some t-shirts.

How hard is olive picking?

Please consider that picking olives can be physically exhausting if you want to take home bigger quantities of olive oil and thus pick the whole day. Often it is necessary to climb up ladders to reach the upper branches. Hence we do not expect you to pick large quantities but hope that you will rather enjoy this way of intense contact with nature.

What do I do, if I cannot climb on trees anymore

Normally three to five persons join to build a picking team. In most cases one of the group likes to take a look at the landscape from above, picking the higher branches. The others can pick the olives which can be reached from the ground.

How long do I have to pick olives each day?

There are no rules. You can pick as long and as much as you wish. If you want to, you have always enough time for excursions and sightseeing in the surroundings. Of course you can take with you more olive oil if you pick more olives.

If you find out however, that olive picking is not to your liking this is absolutely no problem. Simply enjoy yourself discovering the manyfold culinary and cultural treasures of Umbria.

Do you offer half board during the olive harvest?

During the oilve harvest we do not offer food but the group of pickers often prepares meals together in a common kitchen. Our apartments are well equipped for selfcatering, the next possibilities for shopping and restaurants are at the village of Castel Rigone at 4 km distance from La Rogaia. On the last evening we will invite the group of pickers for the traditional “rinfresco”, an informal dinner.

How long takes the olive harvest?

We start with the olive picking on Sunday morning after a short introduction and pick until Thursday evening or Friday noon.

What about the oil mill ? Can I watch the pressing of the olives?

According to the quantity of olives we bring them together to a small oil mill two or three times a week There they are pressed and we can take home immediately the oil from the olives you have picked.

Of course you can and shall come to the oil mill. You can watch the complete pressing from the beginning to the end. Of course you have the possibility to ask questions as well.

How much olive oil do I receive?

Half of the olives you pick are yours and you can take home the oil pressed from them. Depending on the year, the weather during the week and how much time you spend picking this can be between 2 and at maximum 15 litres (but this rarely is the case) olive oil per person per week. For the pressing of the oil the oil mill will charge about EUR 1.80 per lt. oil.

Please consider that the yield of high class olive oil you can get from 100kg (22 pounds) of olives normally is somewhere beetween 10kg and 15kg (22 to 33 pounds).

In rare case it can be slightly less or more, depending on the weather conditions during the olive blossom and while the the olives are maturing.

Consider also that you do fairly well if you pick about 40kg to 50kg (88 to 110 pounds), of olives a day, specially if you have few experience with manual work.


Why do I not receive the complete oil I picked?

The olive harvest is only one part and the highlight of all the work to be done in the olive orchard during the year.

The trees have to be pruned regularly you have to cut grass and spines and work the soil. Of course the trees have to be planted and grown first. And of course it is not cheap to buy an olive orchard…

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Let´s go for a truffle hunt

trüffel auf der hand mit trüffelhund_kl_opr

"Here´s the truffle" and Asia the truffle dog gets her reward

Yesterday I accompanied our guests to a truffle hunt for the first time.

For quite a while now we have been offering the truffle hunt to the participants of our Italian Cooking classes.

Up to now however it has always been my wife who had accompanied the truffle hunters and had been quite enthusiastic about it. High time for myself to join them at last. Together with professional truffle hunters and their dogs we ´ll start the quest for the precious tubers.

We met first with our guides Lena and Saverio at the antique city wall of Citerna a really pretty Umbrian hill town overlooking the Tiber valley.

(For those of you who are interested in art: It´s only a stone´s throw from

Monterchi where the world famous „Madonna del Parto“ from Piero della Francesca is to be seen. And by the way, Citerna´s little church hosts a real Della Robbia Sculpture)

From here we went in convoy to the truffle „plantation“ a little fenced in wood (Truffle places in the wild are top secret and by the tartufai, the truffle hunters their locations are revealed only within the closest circle of family members if they are revealed at all)

At the entrance to the truffle wood we came to know the truffle hunters and their dogs, Asia (a very experienced “truffle nose”) and Sandy (her still a little lumbering apprentice).  Some introductory explanations and off we go…

The dogs released from the leash are off so quick we can hardly follow.

A mere  hundred meters in front of us Asia starts to dig with all her force and Giovanni her “padrone” has a hard time holding her back                                                                                                                                                                                                           (It´s not that dogs eat up the truffles in a rush like truffle pigs would do and therefore are hardly used anymore. Yet a truffle is damaged quickly by sharp teeth or big paws)

Finally the truffle is dug out by one of our ladies following the experts instructions using the small truffle hunters spade. She hands it to the others. Still dirty and somewhat unimpressive it has the distinctive truffle scent and of course everybody of our group wants to smell it.

Of course Asia gets her dog cookie (no dog that takes pride in itself works without a reward)

That´s how it went on, while Saverio sometimes on the double continued to explain us more about truffles and truffle hunt.

After nearly an hour we had almost filled our bag. 360 gramms as we discovered later on the scales.

The dogs were still fit and would have happily carried on but we were rather yearning for a cappuccino before the truffle tasting started…

(To be continued)

der trüffelhund will seinen anteil_kl_opr

Also the truffle dog wants its share

About the truffle hunt

Depending on season and climate you can find different types of truffles, black summer truffle black winter truffle white spring truffle or the most valuable white winter truffle. Participants can watch the truffle hunters at work but are also invited to dig the truffles out of the earth with the truffle hunters spade, once the dogs have found them.

Finally it depends on the fine noses of the truffle dogs how many truffles end up in the truffle hunters bags.

After the truffle hunt participants will visit a small but exclusive enterprise which refines the fresh truffles.

Finally there will be a truffle tasting with different types of truffles and a variety of truffle products accompanied by some glasses of genuine local wine.

If you like to have more information about the truffle hunt simply ask us.

tartufaio gmit hund_kl_opr

Giovanni the "tartufaio", truffle hunter, with his dog Asia

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Holidays with Olive Harvest at Villa La Rogaia. Stay healthy and have fun

picking olives on a sunny November day steadily but at your own pace, quick or slow it´s up to you... almost a meditation      Photo: Peter von Felbert

Picking olives on a sunny November day steadily but at your own pace, quick or slow it´s up to you... almost a meditation Photo: Peter von Felbert

Stay healthy and have fun.

Holidays with Olive Harvest at Villa La Rogaia  give a lot of benefits to your health

Those who participated already at the olive harvest at La Rogaia know that it is a strenous but also beautiful work which can make you highly addicted. Many of our guests return for the olive harvest hunting the “liquid gold of Umbria” every year…

Just imagine yourself sitting upon an olive tree on a sunny November day,  enjoying the wide view over the green Umbrian hills around.  Picking olives at a slow but steady pace according to your own rhythm. It can be a great almost meditative experience. Specially as November here in Umbria usually is very agreeable and mild.

Here you can come to a rest, forget the stress of your daily life for a while and relax truly…

At the same time you stay active you move your body and the physical labour supported by a glass of pleasant genuine

local red wine (or several glasses if you like:-) makes you feel agreeably tired sending you to a deep undisturbed sleep…

And not to forget, at the end of the week you take home your own organic olive oil picked by yourself, one of the healthiest foods existing (and of course incomparably tasty)…

All these things are authentic truly natural benefits for your health and what´s even better,  you ´ll have a lot of fun (a health benefit in its own right. Isn´t it-:)

Also this year we offer to you the participation at our olive harvest at La Rogaia.

However there are only a few spaces left and you shouldn´t hesitate with your booking.

Hurry to make sure you get one of the last free spaces…

Here you can make the booking for the olive harvest

Want to know more about the olive harvest? Visit here

Don´t hesitate to pass this post on to your friends so they can profit as well…

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