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.


    • rebecca |

      @George…It’s a great quest because there is a fabulous restaurant nearby. Nothing like a quest with lunch thrown in!

    • rebecca |

      @Paula…there is a great restaurant near there, so you can stop for lunch as long as you’re emptying your bucket!

    • rebecca |

      @Italytutto…thanks! This was a special post for me, so it’s been great to have such an enthusiastic reception.

  1. Mariann |

    Two questions, please:

    1. Is it possible to visit this tree with a small (24) group via a 30-passenger motorcoach, i.e. can the coach get in and out easily and be able to park so the group can get off and take photos? The group will be staying in nearby Trevi.

    2. Where exactly is the tree in Bovara?


    • rebecca |

      The tree is just a few hundred meters up the road from the Benedictine abbey in Bovara, so the coach can stop there and you can walk the rest of the way up the hill. It’s quite easy to find (Bovara is tiny and the abbey is the largest building there).


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