Olive trees have defined Italian landscapes, culture, and cuisine for thousands of years. With nearly eight hundred native cultivars, the appearance of the trees and the characteristics of their olives vary widely from one region to the next. This breathtaking biodiversity is part of what makes Italian olive oil so extraordinary. It may also be what saves Italy’s olive trees despite growing threats related to the global climate crisis.
In southern Italy, olive trees have been lost to drought, disease, wildfires, and fruit flies, while in northern Italy, they have been ravaged by floods and hailstorms. The loss of each olive tree represents a threat to Italy’s agricultural and cultural traditions, so olive producers across the peninsula are seeking out creative solutions to protect ancient trees, plant new ones, and celebrate the country’s many cultivars.
Palazzo di Varignana
In Emilia-Romagna, an olive-growing estate known as Palazzo di Varignana has developed a unique approach that invites people around the world to contribute to this effort. Thanks to their new olive tree adoption program, anyone anywhere can become the caretaker for an olive tree rooted in the Palazzo’s five hundred hectares of land just outside Bologna.
About half of the land at Palazzo di Varignana is devoted to the restoration of native olive trees. Beyond this, the estate also includes vineyards and gardens, as well as a resort with an array of dining spaces and overnight accommodations. Palazzo di Varignana’s collection of extra virgin olive oils are regularly recognized with gold and silver awards in some of the most prestigious international olive oil competitions. Several of their olive oils are also certified as organic or Protected Designated Origin according to rigorous standards set by the European Union.
Adopt An Olive Tree
The olive tree adoption program is a key component of Palazzo di Varignana’s broader restoration plan, which will ultimately lead to the planting of 160,000 olive trees. This will include three cultivars that are indigenous to Emilia-Romagna: Nostrana di Brisighella, Correggiolo and Ghiacciola. Adopting an olive tree is critical to the conservation of these rare cultivars, and comes with some nice benefits.
Anyone who adopts a tree at the Palazzo will receive a three liter container of the estate’s olive oil, as well as discounts on limited edition monocultivar olive oils. In this way, people around the world can come to understand the distinct flavors and aromas of one-of-a-kind olive oils. A customized name plate is also hung on one of its branches and its adoptive parent receives a passport to record the growth of the tree in the years to come.
Those interested in developing a closer connection to their adopted tree and a deeper understanding of olive oil production can visit the Palazzo’s grove to see their tree in person. During the spring, visitors will find the trees in full bloom, while in autumn the branches are heavy with fruit.
Each olive is milled within six hours of being harvested in order to produce an extra virgin olive oil that is distinctly delicious and highly nutritious. Guests of the estate can join olive oil tastings to be guided through the differences that define the Palazzo’s high quality oils while taking in a beautiful view overlooking rolling hills of olive groves and vineyards. Those looking for a modern way to experience the historic olive oil traditions of Emilia-Romagna may appreciate the Palazzo’s olive-oil infused cocktail, which can be enjoyed at their on-site bar or ordered in packaged individual portions online.
With your one-time donation of €80, you will receive:
- 1 three liter container of Palazzo di Varignana extra virgin olive oil
- A customized name plate on your tree
- A passport to track the growth of your tree
- 10% off purchases of olive oil for the next 5 years
- Exclusive access to special events and programs
Even if you don’t have the chance to visit your adopted tree in person, this program offers an incomparable opportunity to engage directly with Italian food culture in a meaningful way, while also supporting Italian agricultural practices.