Much is spoken of the Salt Road and the Anchovy Road, but little is known of the mysterious Oil Road because this precious dressing reached Piedmont either via the official routes (therefore subject to taxes and duties) or following less well-known itineraries.
One of these, already used in Roman times, passed near Mondovì, through the town of Viola, whose name, Via Olei, mean Oil Road.
The prices applied by the merchants (who then sold the oil door-to-door) were a great deal lower than those on the Savoy roads. Yet despite this, in Piedmont olive oil was still considered a product for the wel-to-do right up to the last war.
According to the superstition, it was unlucky to break the cruet containing the valuable dressing, but the real logic behind this was the costly fact of having to set aside a good part of the family’s scanty income to buy a new one.
Oil was therefore a treasure, and it was the treasure that Desiderio Rinaldi set out to find at the end of the Second World War.
The first of seven brother, in 1949 he decided to try his fortune, leaving behind his father’s farm to undertake a new lifelong project.
The disasters of the war had won down the meagre finances of the family, and so it was the Desiderio travelled back over ancient roads, bygone vocations and deep-rooted traditions, laying the foundations for the company of today.
Within a short time, his intuition, commitment, and focus on top quality products were bringing in excellent results, and he was joined by his brother Franco, Teresio and Dante.
Dante still heads the business today alongside his sons Mauro and Sergio.
The company is well-known, and continues to sell house-to-house. These days its marker is far wider, having grown beyond Piedmont and Italy to occupy a place not only in the international catering sector but also in those gastronomic centers offering all the classic Italian specialities.
An expanding market based on an appreciation of the quality underlying the product selection, and the checks at every stage of the production process. To reach optimum levels, express the best sensory characteristics and maintain its high nutritional value, extra virgin olive oil must follow a path which, starting right from the olive grove, undergoes careful and strict transformation techniques, concluding with preservation and storage.
For years, Olio Desiderio has chosen its olives from within Italy alone, keeping an eye on the harvesting, which is carried out manually with the comb method and at just the right moment of ripening; this prevents the olives falling to the ground and becoming bruised and spoilt. After being placed in baskets, the olives are taken to the oil mill where the cold pressing and subsequent centrifugation allow the oil to be separated from the vegetation water. This is how Desiderio extra virgin olive oil is created, on a continuously cross-checked journey to the dining table to ensure that the consumer receives genuine fragrance and authentic flavors.
Among all trees, the most important one
For all the civilisations that sprung up around the coasts of the Mediterranean, the olive tree was considered sacred and the oil extracted from its fruit was used not only in the kitchen but also for rites and religious ceremonies, for polishing statues, for refining precious stones, for beauty treatments, for medicines, and for hygiene purposes.
The oil also had magical powers to defeat darkness, because in ancient times light was provided solely by oil-burning lamps. And that’s precisely why the sacred writings, legends and knowledge of the Mediterranean people abound in references to the sacred plant and its precious liquid.
The first evidence of the use of the oil and the cultivation of the olive tree goes back over 7000 years, but prehistoric findings reveal the plant was already present in Italy in its wild state about one million years ago. It was near Brisighella, the oil-producing town in Romagna, that some fossilised leaves of an olive tree were found.
In medieval times, the plant was cultivated in the Langhe and Monferrato areas of Piedmont, and to this day, there are many towns in these hills whose name or coat of arms bears some reference to the olive tree. The ancient Roman city of Alba has always had close ties with olive oil: thanks to the trading of goods with nearby Liguria, it became not only the capital of wine and truffles, but also the Piedmont oil capital.