What’s that smell? It’s the scent of millenary olive trees. Behold a cultural landscape carefully cared for by generation after generation of farmers in order for everybody to continue enjoying their exquisite oils, to our day. An olive oil the color of gold, with a soft scent balanced by the aroma of leaves, leaving an aftertaste of soft fruit.
That’s what these “seas of millenary olive tress” taste like. They have witnessed the passage of kingdoms and civilizations, they have endured frosts and draughts, and, more recently, they have escaped from being pulled out and transplanted to urban gardens thanks to the protection they have been granted by some institutions and by Sénia Territory, an organization that strives for their preservation through their study, the selling of their oil and the promotion of oil tourism in the area.
BUT… WHERE ARE THEY AND WHY ARE THESE OLIVE TREES MILLENARY?
Territory Sénia, to the east of the Iberian Peninsula, is composed of 27 municipalities between the Valencian Community (15), Catalonia (9) and Aragon (3). This territory covers an area of 2,070 sq km and its population reaches 113,000 inhabitants. It has been an area intensely cultivated with olive trees since ancient times, so much so that the river Sénia itself, a modest sized water course that flows directly into the Mediterranean, was known to the Romans as the Oleum Flumen (the river of oil).
Millenary olive trees are those that have, at the very least, a trunk with a contour that measures 3,5 meters at a height of 1.30 meters from the ground. Their olives are picked manually from the tree itself and transported to one of the eight oil mills of the area, producing what is known as extra virgin olive oil from millenary olive trees.
Nowadays, there is a census of almost 4,800 millenary olive trees, 966 of which lie within the municipality of La Jana, which makes this the area with the largest concentration of millenary olive trees in the world.
TWO NATURAL MUSEUMS.
There are two natural museums to be visited with the help of information panels that detail the size, characteristics and coordinates of the most relevant trees:
-The Farga del Arión, with 35 specimens distributed on 1,3 hectares.
– La Jana, with 21 millenary olive tress distributed on a little less than 1 hectare of land.
To stroll along this land is to be in the company of live sculptures that require to be seen slowly and calmly. They are a gift to artists who have been inspired to carried out creative endeavors such as the movie “El Olivo” (2016) by Icíar Bollaín, which tells the story of Alma, a young woman who sets off to Germany to find and recover the millenary olive tree that her family once sold and is the only thing that will give her grandfather a reason to live on, since he was against the tree leaving their land from the start.
A RECOGNIZED CULTURAL LANDSCAPE.
Walking across these fields we think thinks that we have never been anywhere in the world with such a large concentration of olive trees, in a place with such energy and taken care of with such care by a farmers so generously involved in preserving these traditions above their economic benefit. One feels the place to be so natural, but at the same time, so greatly transformed by mankind. And one thinks that places like these set an example. When, later, one discovers how many times this effort has been awarded, everything makes sense.
This great endeavor is carried out thanks to the laudable coordination between different administrations and regions, recovering traditions with respect towards the land and returning the economic benefit of it all to its inhabitants. Hence, it has been worthy of various awards: Hispania Nostra 2013, EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards in 2014 and, more recently, it has received a special mention in Landscape Award of the Council of Europe.
BESIDES, TO ENJOY THIS EXPERIENCE WITH THE BEST OF COMPANIES, IS AN ADDED PLUS.
Every year the la Asociación Hispania Nostra, which, since 1976 works to defend and promote Spain’s cultural and natural heritage, celebrates a gathering of its member associations. This year the chosen location were these lands. We had time to debate very interesting issues regarding “heritage education” but also to enjoy this landscape, taste olive oils of different kinds and in different states combined with a delicious gastronomy. The conversation during these meals shared with heritage lovers always returned to the same idea: the reasserting that civil society plays an essential role in safeguarding our heritage.
Hurray for the best of Heritage!!! 😉
Until the next post,