Olive Oil: The cultivation of olives was commenced by the Benedictines in the 12th century and over the following centuries caused man to permanently transform the territory and the landscape. The main centre of propagation of this crop-culture is said to have been the commune of Diano at the end of the 15th century. As early as 1531, production exceeded local needs and after 1576 – the Savoys having abolished duty on olive oil -their cultivation expanded greatly (with new terraces on the hills), reaching up to 600 m above sea level.
Step by step, from the olive to the oil: The production cycle takes place in the winter months, usually from November to March. After the harvest, which adopts the beating system (branches are shaken with long flexible poles causing the olives to fall onto nets spread on the ground), the fruit is cleaned and sent to the oil-mill, packed in bags of 50 kg, that correspond, in a traditional expression, to “four fourths”. In the mill (or “gombi”), the olives are crushed in a stone vat (or “pilla”) by a large rotating circular stone called a “colombina”. This used to be operated by a mule or an ox (in the so-called “blood mill”), or by water moved by a blade but today is worked by electricity. The olive paste thus obtained, distributed in layers in fibre containers called “fiscoli” or “sportini”, is subjected to pressure, to squeeze out the oil. A certain Pier Vincenzo Mela, from Ville San Pietro, is to be thanked for the invention of the system which washes the residues for further pressing.
Wine and lavender: Other farming activities practised in the Olivo valleys are viticulture, widespread at Pontedassio, Caravonica, Sarola, Pornassio and in the Diano area with the production of the Riviera Ligure di Ponente Doc wines – Vermentino, Pigato and Ormeasco. Floriculture is present at Dolcedo, Pietrabruna (with its fields of lavender) and in the Diano area.
Herding and dairy products: Cattle rearing is concentrated around Pontedassio, with the production of milk and local cheeses. Mounts Faudo, Guardiabella, Pizzo d’Evigno and the Diano valleys still have “caselle”, ancient seasonal refuges used by shepherds, with a circular plan.
Celebrations and processions: Religious feeling in these valleys is expressed in numerous devout processions. Two processions depart from the old country church of Maro (today the church of Santi Nazario e Celso, at Borgomaro): one on Christmas night and a penitential one on Good Thursday. Vasia has a procession on Easter Monday. At Torria (Chiusanico) in August a procession leads to the sanctuary of the Madonna della Neve and in September another to the “Cappelletta” on Mount Acquarone and to the sanctuary of the Madonna dell’Oliveto at Chiusavecchia.