Welcome to our story for October 2023 and thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I do appreciate it. October was full of surprises. A visit to an olive oil mill, a visit to Cetraro Centro Storico and having lovely time with friends. If you are new, I am Michelle, and John and I moved to Scalea in December 2018. Check out the archive to see how this British couple ended up living in an Italian town called Scalea.
We accidentally found an Olive Oil Mill
I know, how do you accidentally find an olive oil mill? Well, John and I decided to do a supermarket shop in the larger Conad in Praia A Mare one day after our friend Justin said it was a better one than the one in Scalea. We don’t tend to shop in Conad that often as it can be more expensive. We tend to shop in Eurospin and go to Conad and Spar for items that Eurospin doesn’t have. But we thought we would give it a go.
From the car park before going in I noticed a sign on another building on the opposite side of the car park which stated they sell olive oil. So I said to John, after shopping in Conad we should try there for olive oil if it is nothing or not open we can go back to the supermarket. Then after shopping at Conad which was similar to the Conad at Scalea but layout was different and possibly bigger, we walked across.
What we found was an olive oil mill called Sagario. The front of the warehouse type building contains a shop which was all in darkness but we could see some produce for sale. There was nobody around but there was a doorbell so I pressed that and we waited, a few seconds later a man appeared from outside and opened the door, turned on the lights and welcomed us in.
The mill is a family run business owned by the Sagario family for over 60 years. All of the olives that they use for their olive oils come only from northern Calabria, so a true local product.
Inside the shop, they sold various types of extra virgin olive (EVO) oil. We have only ever seen extra virgin olive oil for sale in the shops and supermarkets since moving to Scalea. Unless we have just missed it (let me know if you live in Scalea). In the UK we were accustomed to seeing ‘normal or regular olive oil’, which I think is a second press but it is heated to extract the rest of the oil in the olives along with other processes. This makes the oil more stable for high heats. We tended to use this type for frying and the EVO oil for dressing salads or end of cooking a meal once the heat is off. It seems like in Scalea at least (not sure about the rest of Italy) EVO oil is king for most and seed oil is used for high heat frying.
Along with the olive oil, the shop sells local wine, artisan pasta and other food products preserved in olive oil as well as beauty products made from olive oil. But they also sell a more refined olive oil which they say is a more delicate flavour and is good for frying and preserving. So now we have found a “normal olive oil” ha-ha.
Also in the shop, there is a video of the growers harvesting the oil and the story of the oil. It was very interesting. As we were there, the man asked if we want to look around. It wasn’t the correct time of year to press the oil but we still could see the equipment in the mill. We were happy we did it was so interesting.
He said that we can return around the 10th October to see the whole process as that is approximately the time when the olives are ready to be processed. We said we definitely would.
Well, I sort of lost track of the dates. This is something we tend to do since we moved here. Time flies. I thought we missed our opportunity. We planned to go to Praia A Mare with Justin and Michael for drinks and may be something to eat. Then I remembered the oil mill. So I asked them as we are already there, do you fancy visiting an olive oil mill. They were up for it. I had no real hope of the company being in the process of making oil but at least they could see what we saw.
When we arrived there were crates of olives outside. I was so excited, but it was very quiet. So not sure if they had a day off or something. But we rang the bell as we did before and someone arrived. He recognised us and was very happy to make olive oil and for us to see it.
A man driving a forklift truck went to the crates of olives pick some up and brought the crates into the mill. Then took one of the crates to a machine that was switched on and then the olives were poured into a large funnel that places the olives into a conveyor that washes them. After which they are then crushed and turned into a mash. They are then pressed and a centrifuge separates the liquid from the solids and then it’s filtered and the gold liquid oil comes out of the machine into a large bowl. A relatively quick process. They gave us each small a taste in a cup. It was like no oil I had tasted before. Super fresh extra virgin olive oil. After the pressing, the oil is then placed into huge vats and rested before it is bottled. All four of us throughout the process were smiling like kids at a Willy Wonker chocolate factory, it was amazing to witness. It was a privilege to see the whole process from the olives to the oil.
Obviously, we all bought some oil and other items. I can’t imagine buying oil from anywhere else now because the passion they show when they talk about it is contagious and it is so close to where we live. It is also very tasty. So if you are in the area around Praia A Mare I recommend a visit whether they are making the oil or not.
If you are interested in the company Sagario that makes the oil check out their website here
You can also see a You Tube video of our visit on the Prego Italia channel here
An unplanned Visit to Cetraro Centro Storico
If you are a regular reader you may remember that John had a cataract removed back in February 2020 (can’t believe how long ago that was!). Well now his other eye is bad with a cataract, so it is time for him to have that one removed.
So off to the Oculista (ophthalmologist) we both went. I needed to change my glasses prescription so we killed two birds with one stone. It was the first time that I had an eye test in Italy, so I was intrigued. In Italy you go to the Oculista to check your eyes, then for lenses you go to a different place called a Ottica where they make the lenses and sell frames.
The Oculista we used has his office on the first floor of a residential building which at the very least needs the whole external walls repainting. Nobody in the medical world seems to be on the ground floor in Scalea. Anyway, once we were in his reception it is very clean and a nice place to be. Inside his office is very clean and the equipment is high tech. So I went first and had everything checked. I had my new prescription. And then John and the doctor said his cataract is very bad “molto brutto”. So John was put on the list to remove it.
A week or so later we had a call for John to go to the hospital in Cetraro to have analysis and tests. So we went to the hospital and John went in to the room to have his checks. I was in the waiting room, it seemed to take ages. But out he came and then we thought we would have a look around the Centro Storico (historic centre) of Cetraro as we hadn’t visited there before.
The Centro Storico is located like many in Calabria on top of a rocky hill. It can be seen from the coast road but it is a little awkward to get to especially if you miss the sign. There is a point from the SS18 where you have to go basically back on yourself, see Lidl twice and go a little inland to follow the road that takes you up to the centre.
On arrival we noticed that it is quite a busy place, full of life, things happening. We arrived at the main piazza called Piazza del Popolo which has a statue of Neptune situated on a fountain on a small roundabout in the middle of the road. There was a lovely viewpoint with benches and bars nearby. We stopped at one for a drink and a relax. After that we had a walk around and we found a museum called Museo dei Brettii e del Mare. So we decided to go inside. The museum is on three floors and contains many artefacts from the Bretti (in English The Bruttians). They were ancient inhabitants of what is now Calabria during 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. It also houses a library and historic map collection from throughout history. It is fascinating to see.
After the museum visit we had another walk around Cetraro but didn’t see any place open for food. I guess it was the wrong time of day. So we made our way home stopping at the La Dolce Vita on the SS18 near Diamante for their amazing pizza.
A request to a Visit to Belvedere Marittimo
We were kindly invited by Alex to go to a restaurant he loves for lunch in Belvedere Marittimo called La Pergola. We went with his family and friends from Sweden Jan and Helena.
The food was really good. We had sharing plates for each course which was nice. First was antipasti with cured meats, cheeses, fried polpette, mini cornetti with cured meat inside. Then we skipped the pasta and had mixed grilled meats with potatoes and finally we had a mix of desserts with tiramisu, lemon granita and chocolate fondant. It was a feast! Everything was very tasty. I was so full. I was very happy when Alex suggested we all took a walk together along the seafront afterwards. The weather was beautiful it was a very nice afternoon spending it with nice people having a relaxing day. During our walk we stopped at a gelateria and had a gelato. There’s always room for a gelato! John and I definitely didn’t eat for the rest of the day.
Halloween celebration, well sort of
We finished of the month celebrating Justin and Michael’s anniversary. John and I invited them to ours for a typical British Sunday roast dinner along with Corina. As it was Halloween we decorated the table a little. We started off with Gin and Tonic, then we had prawn cocktail as a starter. The main event was a large roast chicken with two types of potatoes, roasted and mashed with vegetables. For dessert, I made a traditional Victoria sponge with buttercream and jam and Corina brought doughnuts. Throughout the afternoon/evening we had cocktails. Corina brought the ingredients for Aperol Spritz. We had that with the dinner. After dinner I made the Birthday Cake cocktail from the book The Cocktail Bible by Olly Smith. John thought it was too sweet so he made himself an Espresso Martini. John and I were so busy having fun, we did not take any photos. But the evening is featured on Prego Italia You Tube Channel episode 147.
So that was the end of a lovely October dodging the rain but when the sun came out it was very warm.
I wonder what November will bring us…