The oil and wheat routes

 

 

In antiquity, cereals, particularly wheat, formed the base of the food pyramid: easy to work, nutritious, easy to store. Considered the best of foods, the life cycle of the crops, the relationship with the seasons, were seen in a symbolic perspective, as an emblem of life and the alternation between death and rebirth. Devoted to the unalterable laws of nature, the Etruscans invoked the goddess Vei, the Greek Demeter, in their prayers, asking for the gifts of abundance and fertility for their fields and their young women.

Wheat, barley, and spelt were mixed with water and sometimes honey to make focacce and bread, the indispensable base for meals, both rich and poor, and essential ingredients in the sacrifices offered to the gods associated with the fertility of the fields.

The olive, gift of Athena, the Etruscan Menerva, covered the gentle hill slopes occupying a large part of ancient Etruria with its silvery leaves. The Etruscans ate the olives themselves but mainly pressed then for the oil that formed the basic condiment for their food.

As well as being used for cooking, as a condiment and for conserving food, oil was used as fuel for lamps and lanterns, but also in the preparation of cosmetics and detergents for personal hygiene, especially in the field of sport.

Like wine, oil was stored in amphorae and traded over long distances, constituting one of the most important commodities on the ancient economic circuit.

 

From Montalto di Castro to Orvieto

 

The Vulci Archaeological and Nature Park situated between Montalto di Castro and Canino and its paths through history and nature. The remains of Vulci, one of the most powerful of the Etruscan cities, on the vast plateau dominating one of the most fertile territories in Etruria, always rich in cereals and olives. The importance of oil and wheat in antiquity reflected in the splendid objects housed in the National Archaeological Museum and in the cults celebrated in urban sanctuaries. Not by chance, the ancient city still stands at the heart of the area where the famous DOP Canino oil is produced, an area that includes the hills as far as Farnese and the banks of Lake Bolsena.

 

Among the olive covered hills and small cultivated valleys, the Museum of the Prehistory of Tuscia and of the Rocca Farnese at Valentano, the “Pietro e Turiddo Lotti” Civic Archaeological Museum at Ischia di Castro and the “F. Rittatore Vonwiller” Civic Museum at Farnese, the latter also formerly an antique communal grain deposit, narrate centuries of this generous territory’s history. The extraordinary experience of the Museum of the Earth at Latera, housed in the granary of the medieval abbey, a journey to the heart of forgotten agricultural traditions and the discovery of surprising affinities between the modern and ancient countryside.

 

Possible detour, passing by Acquapendente, in the vast territory of the DOP Terre di Siena oil, through the olive groves of SAN CASCIANO DEI BAGNI, SARTEANO and CHIUSI, as far as the evocative MURLO, surrounded by an ancient aura of regality: the isolated hill of Poggio Civitate in a strategic position between two valleys, surrounded by hills covered with silvery olive trees, with the sumptuous Etruscan palace and the scenes of ostentatious banquets shown in relief on the plaques that once decorated it, now housed in the Antiquarium.

 

Bolsena: the archaeological area of Poggio Moscini and the Turona Archaeological and Nature Park. To the north the ancient route that linked the rock of Orvieto with Lake Bolsena, the fertile volcanic plateau of Alfina, with woods and immense fields of wheat, hardly changed through the centuries. Grotte di Castro: the evocative circular tombs and Civita Museum with a special section dedicated to Etruscan cooking and banquets.

 

The rock of Orvieto, surrounded by silvery olives, whose fruit produced the DOP Colli Orvietani oil. The necropolis of the Tufa Crucifix, the sanctuary of Cannicella and the Campo della Fiera, home of the Fanum Voltumnae, the federal sanctuary of all the Etruscans. The labyrinth of grottoes and tunnels forming Orvieto Underground, palimpsest of the history of Orvieto from the Etruscan period to the present day, and the incredible remains of a great medieval olive-press, evidence of the continuity of agricultural traditions.