According to legend, it was the Goddess Athena who gave the olive tree as a gift to the Athenians. There was a competition between her and the God of the Seas, Poseidon, as to who would have the city-state named after them – Poseidon gave flowing salt water and Athena struck the ground with her staff, which turned into an olive tree. Since the olive tree provided wood, nourishment and trade, she won and the olive tree became a symbol of peace because of this victory.
The Mediterranean climate of mild winters and hot, dry summers is ideal for olive trees. Corfu, which is Greece’s northernmost region for olive cultivation, has greater rainfall than the rest of Greece, and its micro-climate is ideal for the Lianolia olive. With an estimated 4 million trees, olives and olive oil form a significant part of the local economy – 3% of the world’s olive oil comes from Corfu olives – and provided the main income for the island before the growth of tourism.
When visiting Corfu, perhaps the most impressive sight is that of the olive groves that cover most of the island. Many of the trees are centuries old – some have been here for over 500 years! In fact, Corfu has some of the world’s oldest olive groves – in the 16th century, when the island was under Venetian rule, it produced olive oil for the Vatican.
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and olive oil, which is an integral part of the diet, are well-known. The Olive Oil Times tells us, “We are only just beginning to understand the countless ways olive oil can improve our health, and our lives”.
At Crystal Travel, an experienced local DMC, we are proud of our cultural heritage and would be happy to arrange tours and events to allow visitors to discover for themselves the beauty of the centuries-old groves, to visit old olive presses and witness how the oil is produced and, of course, to taste this ‘liquid gold’ for themselves!