Territory and environment
The Mahnič olive grove is situated on a slightly undulated marly sandstone slope in the heart of Breg, a town in the municipality of Dolina in the hinterland of Trieste. The Mahnič grove is considered to be among the northernest olive groves in that area of Central Europe. The vicinity of the sea and its influence, the geological and lithological characteristics of the Istrian soil and the attachment of the local people to this eternal plant ensure the highest quality of the product.
On this border land, which has always represented a meeting point of nations and cultures, we are reunited again today by the love for our noble olive sort, the . “Belica”.
The origin of the “Belica” olive variety in the area around Trieste and Istria is to be found in the times before the arrival of the Romans. The Phoenician and Greek colonists who sailed the Adriatic Sea not only introduced the art of cultivating olive trees to this area, they brought along a great knowledge about the plant and the techniques used to produce olive oil.
The fact that the cultivation of olives became of great importance in the times of the Roman Empire is confirmed by the remains of an ancient Roman oil press (its stone plinth), found in 1996 in Boljunec, a village in the municipality of Dolina. The press was used by the so-called “X Regio Venetia et Histria”.
A very important document was found in the renowned Venetian archive, which contains an annotated provision from the 26th of April 847 written by Maru, a nun from Trieste. The provision binds the abbey of Sesto to 55 wicker-baskets of olives.
In the 14th century, according to the historian Caprin, cultivating olives represented a significant part of the business in the area and a reliable source of income. Some wooded tracts in the area were allotted for clearing and to be turned into olive plantations by way of public competition. The historian also mentions that they have already reclaimed the land around Farnet and Breg and have planted olive tree saplings in the month of February. As we learn from his account, olive trees surrounded the bay, while the city boasted with numerous cellars with oil and grape presses. It is thus that wine and oil represent the wealthy heritage of this fruitful land.
In the 15th century, during the numerous battles with the Venetians, the city was frequently besieged, but there was never any shortage of wine or olive oil; even though the Venetians were encamped outside the city (in the Breg valley), where they destroyed the vineyards and built tents from olive tree branches.
In the very statute of the city, dating back to the 16th century, there is an interesting chapter – De Trapetis sive Torcolaribus Olearijs – dedicated to the city’s oil presses. It also contains the rules and regulations about their use and the related tax system.
In the year 1847, the historian Pietro Deviak described the Belica olive oil, praised it for its good qualities and peculiarities, and added that because of these very characteristics they were sending it to Austria, to the queen Mary Theresa herself.
Among the events in the 20th century, two very harsh winters should be mentioned: those from the years 1929 and 1956, when the cold and frost damaged and ruined the olive trees.
The eighties then witnessed the revival and flourishing of the olive oil production. All the merit for this renaissance goes to the few stubborn enthusiasts who broke fresh ground and set new guidelines for the future.