Histria, full of olive groves

When did olive trees first appear in Istria? It may have been during the Bronze Age when Histri tribes inhabited the area or perhaps even earlier. Nobody knows for sure. But what is known is that the olive oil produced in Histria was highly valued by the Romans. So much so that, in his famous first- century work, Naturalis Historia, Pliny the Elder described it as being one of the best in the Empire.

Even the barbarians could not damage the reputation of "Arcadian" olive groves in Istria. So it was that Cassiodorus, who served in the administration of King Theodoric the Great in the 6th century, praised Istria as the region "full of olive trees, adorned with crops and abounding in vineyards" and named it "a corner full of pleasure and joy".

Those were turbulent times when, due to the defence of the fertile valley between Pula, Rovinj and Buzet, the stronghold of Castrum Vallis or present-day Bale was erected at the site of a prehistoric Histrian hill fort. For centuries, the peasants from the surrounding estates took shelter in the fort of Valle and in times of peace they would return to their olive trees, especially Buža, the most important and indigenous Istrian variety. Since then, Bale has remained the true heart of olive-growing in Istria.

Old olive oil mill - New story

To keep up with the changing times, the first modern oil mill was built in Bale In 1927, and it remained in operation until 1965, when it was declared obsolete and closed down. For many years, the building fell into decay, until it was purchased and restored by our family the 1990s. We brought together the past and future of Istrian olive growing. Today, the old mill has been transformed into a unique museum, which is separated from the modern olive oil processing facility by just a glass door.

Next to the old mill, 'Stari Torač' or 'Vecio Torcio' as the locals call it, grows Old Buža, the queen of all Istrian olive trees. Proud and majestic, she embodies Athena's "holy olive" from the times when gods walked the earth. "Everything passes, but the olive trees remain."