Highly prized for its medicinal properties and staple of Mediterranean cuisine, olive oil was anciently also used as fuel and commodity. The olive tree was considered the most sacred of plants, associated with power, longevity, peace and purity. In the myth, it was the gift of the goddess Athena to humanity. To Noah, an olive branch was the first sign of life after the Flood. In Liguria, it was the olive tree what allowed people to survive and strive on this arid land.
The “taggiasca” olive cultivar was first introduced in the Province of Imperia in the XIII century by the monks of San Colombano, as a means to alleviate the poverty of the struggling peasantry. The monks also introduced the dry stone walling, a farming technique to permit cultivating on the steep hillsides of the region. The combination of terracing and dry stone walling represents the perfect adaptation of man to the environment: in fact, it has been shown to have a preventive role against landslides, avalanches, erosion and desertification. For these reasons, dry stone walling has been included by the Unesco in the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
These olive trees grow strong and robust, and can reach over 10-15 metres in height. Their cascading branches bear fruits of an intense purple colour: the renowned taggiasca olives. Although this type of olive is modest in size, the pulp is comparatively larger, making it a particularly aromatic and tasty table olive. It also produces an extremely palatable and renowned extra-virgin oil, which in San Damian is made entirely of taggiasca olives and never mixed with other cultivars. The olives are cold pressed and carefully preserved under the strict control of Roberto, who takes care of about 600 trees with love and attention.
The landscape in San Damian is still embellished with the taggiasca trees and the dry stone walls from the XIII century. It is as if time had stopped, inviting our guests to pause, suspended between the roughness of the hills and the lush of the oasis. Removed from the tourism of the coast, San Damian is a green, luxuriant scenery where to peacefully indulge in the contemplation of the flow of history. The traces of an ancient history adorn the gentle heart of this land, an unexpected gift on the dry, stony backdrop of inland Liguria.