IL MONTANO DI COSTACCIARO
THE HISTORY AND OPERATION OF THE ANCIENT OLIVE OIL MILL
In his Naturalis Historia, Pliny the Elderattests how, even back in Roman times, an oil called “oleum herbacium” was produced in the Eugubino and sold along the Via Flaminia “herbacium quoque, quod Iguvini circa Flaminiam viam vendunt” (NH XXIII, 95) . However, we do not know with certainty whether this oleum was olive oil or, more likely, a medicinal ointment made from wild or cultivated herbs.
Furthermore, little or nothing has been handed down to us in the way of documents about the cultivation of the olive tree in this area during medieval times. However according to oral accounts, by the Montefeltro, Dukes of Urbino in the 15th and 16th centuries, this cultivation must have been more widespread in the area.
One of the largest and oldest oil mills in Umbria, dating back perhaps to the 17th or 18th centuries, is preserved in Costacciaro, where the olive trees on the southernmost part of its hillside, were once intensively cultivated, as clearly attested by photographs of the early 1900s. In these years, “Il Montano” was owned by Carlo Bartoletti of Costacciaro. However, in the 19th century this cultivation was already being carried out by an Order of local Franciscan friars.
The Costacciaro oil mill was, from its earliest origins, called “Il Montano”. This term, which has nothing to do with the mountain, could have derived from the Latin “molendinum” meaning mill, evolving as follows: “molendinum”, “molendanum”, “molentanum”, ” moltanum ”, and on to “montano ”. “Il Montano” at Costacciaro, now owned by the municipality and perfectly preserved, was being operated until the 1960s. It is made up of a millstone for crushing and squeezing the olives and a mighty oak beam, to which an enormous stone counterweight is anchored.
The ancient oil mill of Costacciaro is still equipped with most of its original structures: the “millstone”, which was rotated by a donkey, a large counterweight, the main press and a wooden screw press, some wooden spacers, a “caldaro” (cauldron) holding around 150 litres of liquid, and a small drainage tank
On the beam you can still see the engraved measuring rods, with which the quantity of olives that arrived, or that of the oil obtained by pressing them, was measured, while, in a drawer of the same “Montano” lies the old block of ledgers, on which the revenues and accounts of the mill were noted.
THE PROCESSING PHASES
- One usually started working at night. The first operation was to light the fire and boil the water in the copper cauldron that would be needed during processing.
- At the same time, the olives were ground by rotating the stone mill pulled by an animal, usually a mule or a donkey, in a special room.
- The olive paste obtained was then poured into rope disks called “fiescoli” or “friscoli” (from the latin Fiscus, fiscina meaning a bag or basket) These are filtering containers in which the ground olives were placed for pressing. Some of the pressed and dried olive paste was used as a stopper or sealant, water was added and the process continued by placing one disc of “friscoli” on the other until the olive paste was completely exhausted.
- Next the process continued on to the screw press, winding it to close tightly on the paste and press through the oil. Meanwhile, other olives were ground ready to load other “friscoli”, which would go to the press as soon as it was empty.
- Once this stage was completed, the “friscoli” were unloaded onto the millstone by turning it just two turns with a little hot water, the “friscoli” were refilled and the column of disks reassembled, this time for the giant press or the second pressing.
- Meanwhile, the mixture of vegetation water, additional water and oil, derived from the first pressing together with that from the second has flowed into the container placed in the tank under the floor grid.
- Here boiling water was added to allow the oil to float, due to the difference in specific weight.
- The oil was collected with a large wide copper spoon, with a diameter of about 20 cm. The so-called “overflow” operation required a lot of skill to separate the oil from the vegetation water of which as much as is possible was eliminated through the floor drainage grid.
Antico Frantoio dell’Olio
Via Massarelli – Costacciaro (PG)
075 917 2723
Request reservation (075 917 2723)
Ticket 2,00 €
(it also includes a visit to the Museo Laboratorio del Parco del Monte Cucco)