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Postcards from Umbria: L’Olivo di Santo Emiliano

When I heard that there was an olive tree somewhere in Umbria purported to be 1,700 hundred years old—the oldest olive tree in the region, in fact—I knew what I was looking at.  I was looking at a quest.  I had to find it.

Is a quest really a quest when there's an explanatory plaque?

As it turns out, the tree—near Trevi in a little hamlet called Bovara—isn’t that hard to locate.  Legend has it that the martyr Emiliano, the first bishop of Trevi, was tied to the tree and decapitated in the year 304…Emiliano became a saint, and the tree seems to have become immortal.

Still looking good at 1,700 years old

Despite late freezes which have killed off generations of trees in the surrounding grove over the centuries, l’Olivo di Santo Emiliano continues to flourish and produce fruit which the nearby Benedictine abbey uses to make their extra virgin oil.

The tree bears its catalogue number on the trunk

The trunk has become twisted and gnarled, the bark black with age, and the catalogue number painted on its side (the tree is listed in the regional register of protected flora) seems somehow insulting.  But still some majesty—the kind that only something which has witnessed almost two millenia can claim—remains.

Yes, a quest is a quest if you feel like you come away with something ennobling.

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