Between the Gargano mountain massif and the Adriatic Sea, Antonello Clemente and his three siblings are the fourth generation of their family to cultivate olives. The family shares a deep passion for their environment and their trees.
The olives for our Dauno Gargano D.O.P. olive oil grow in the sunny lands of southern Italy. The fine cuvee, predominantly from Ogliarola Garganica olives, is cultivated at Olearia Clemente. Some of the trees here are thousands of years old and their trunks are so thick that a person cannot get their arms all the way around them. Yet year after year, these impressive, gnarly branches yield succulent fruit - something that is certainly down to Antonello Clemente. Along with his siblings, this olive grower runs Olearia Clemente, which spans an area of more than 300 hectares. His passion has been nurtured since the cradle.
His great-grandfather Berardino Clemente founded the farm at the end of the 19th century in the middle of the Gargano National Park and began producing olive oil between the mountains, which were up to one thousand metres high, and the azure blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. From the outset, the use of pesticides was prohibited and a great deal of manual labour was required. The paths to the olive trees, some of which were growing at 600-metre altitudes in the mountains, were for the most part only accessible on foot. And the trunks of the old trees were often much too thick to be shaken using machinery.
Despite this, Berardino Clemente was inspired by this little place on the spur of Italy's boot and handed down his deep passion for the land and olive trees to his son, Michele. In turn, he passed it down to his son, Berardino, and later to his children, Antonello, Michele, Carla and Ilenia.
However, just into their 20s, Antonello and Michele had to assume responsibility for the farm after their father's sudden death. Later, their younger sisters, Carla and Ilenia, entered the family business too and the siblings decided at the end of the 1990s to produce organic olive oil - the first company in Italy to do so. As trailblazers at the time, they received direct training from the organic certification company and were regarded as pioneers in this sector.
„We are fully aware of the significance of sustainable and environmentally-friendly working practices, which is why we do our best to preserve our environment and spread the word about organic cultivation as a lifestyle.“
Today, the family tends to more than 13,000 olive trees and also buy olives from neighbouring farmers. Every year, they produce some 800 tonnes of organic olive oil in their own mill. There are some 50 employees working on the farm. Yet, despite the modern mill set-up, innovative packaging lines and storage, the Clementes have stayed true to their own traditions.
The siblings know that light, warmth, earth and wind have a measurable effect on the olives’ flavour. Antonello can even tell what the olives will taste like, just from the way the trunk of a tree is growing. He loves the trees, just as his great-grandfather did, and he is convinced that he can speak to them. And as he picks one of the olives, rubs it between his fingers, closes his eyes and deeply breathes in the aroma, we are inclined to believe him.
„Our family is united. Always. In every moment of joy, but in difficult times too, which are never far away.“
In the evening, they often sit down to enjoy a lengthy meal together; it is only late in the day that things start to get going in the neighbouring port town of Manfredonia. Children play between the buildings, while on the streets the Italian temperament shows through. Car horns honk and traffic rules are often somewhat bent. The restaurants are full, so too is 'Calamadro', right on the piazza, where fresh fish is prepared using oil from the Olearia just a few kilometres away, of course.
At midday, on the other hand, the town and the farm seem deserted - with only a few moos and bleats coming from the olive grove, as the sheep, goats and buffalo belonging to neighbouring farmers look for a shady spot for their siesta. At the same time, these creatures fertilise the olive trees with their 'dreamy dung', chuckles Antonello Clemente. Their milk and cheese is just as excellent as the olives.