Deep in the emerald hills of Umbria in central Italy, Simone Veneri’s olive trees grow on the foothills of Monte Subasio – the mountain on which Assisi sits. His father bought the land, intending to sell it on – but fell in love with it so hard that he started planting vines the same day.
Ruggero started the vineyard in 1973; in 1988 he started producing olive oil, too. Today, Simone carries on his father’s work. He also grows lentils and chickpeas according to organic principles.
Their trees sit 500m above sea level in the foothills of Monte Subasio, near Assisi
Visit Spello, one of the medieval terracotta hilltowns, stacked up Umbria’s rollercoaster hillsides, and you’ll see the trees from the main square. That’s because, if you set foot in Simone’s shop, one of the first things he’ll do – after proudly showing you a photo of him and his late dad among their vines – is to walk you out, and point.
See those hills, in the gap between the 13th-century town hall and the post office? See how they look furry with a lighter green? Those are our trees.
The oil is squeezed from a single type of olive: moraiolo
Moraiolo makes for a sweet oil – if you don’t like the traditional fiery punch of freshly pressed oil, this is the one to go for. It’s also high in polyphenols, which have been linked to health benefits (you’ll have to look those up for yourselves, as we can’t make health claims). In fact, because the 2019 harvest showed even higher than normal levels of polyphenols (oil is analysed every year), some people take a teaspoonful a day, neat, as a supplement. Us, we prefer that teaspoon drizzled over our food – it tastes just as sweet.
Spello is famous for its lentils and chickpeas – the flat plains outside town are said to have a microclimate and a stony-yet-rich terrain that lends flavour to the pulses. His yield is small because, as he says, “everything is done respecting nature”.
We’re selling Simone’s oil and lentils (we just sold the last of his 2019 harvest of chickpeas, but they’ll be back in stock later in July). Drop us an email if you’re interested in his wine, too.
The best part of my job? The scent of freshly ploughed ground, the smell of fermenting must, and the intense taste of new oil when you make your first bruschetta – Simone
About the area: Umbria, the ‘green heart of Italy’, is the only region on the Italian peninsula without a coastline. It’s known for its food – truffles, cheeses and heavy pasta dishes. Olive oil from here tends to be sweeter or fruitier, with less of a kick than oil from other regions.
Spello is a Roman-founded town – its Roman walls are still intact, there’s a Roman villa complete with a sumptuous mosaic to visit, and the aqueduct was functioning until the 20th century. In fact, you can see Simone’s olive trees from the aqueduct, as well as from the square.
How we know him: We met Simone last year, walking through Spello on a winter trip to Umbria. We saw the pic of him and his dad on the door, dipped our noses in, and quickly realised we needed a tasting. After he showed us the analysis of the 2020 oil production, and its high polyphenol count, we were sold.