The Ebla excavations document the presence of the oil trade in the Syrian-Palestinian area since the 3rd millennium B.C., it was the only one where the royal appointment took place by anointing. Once reached Greece, oil is immediately found in food, cosmetics, religion, rituals and sport; in medicine it is employed for relief, as an emollient and component of medicinal ointments. In the economy of the Villa of the slave age, olive growing takes on the same relevance as viticulture. The miniature model in room VI is indicative of this, it shows the complex of a Roman Villa in Umbria, consisting of the pars urbana and the pars fructuaria with all the individual items of equipment represented. In imperial Rome, the extensive use of spas increases the demand for ointments, and cosmetics that of perfumed oils. In the age of Roman thalassocracy, the general use of oil is recalled by the analytical reproduction of a large freight ship carrying an oil cargo, exhibited in Rome at the Ara Pacis in 2015 on the occasion of the exhibition Feeding the Empire. Food stories from Rome and Pompeii.

Christianity, aiming at the spirit, will abolish the care of the body, but Christianisation will exalt oil as a medicine and even more as a remedy. The barbaric invasions and the demise of the empire led to the dispersion of the Greek-Roman medical texts; medicine survived in monasteries where oil was liturgy, food, light. The Islamic invasion brought back to light the classic texts: the oil is again understood as a potential architect for the harmony between human and plant nature, which is at the base of the teachings of the Medical School of Salerno, dating back to the 10th century. The improved living conditions, the intercultural contacts, the invention of the press, the Renaissance fervour will increasingly refer to the semplici, found in the Botanical Gardens and in the Herbaria studied in the Universities. With the advance of the Renaissance and the split between academic and popular medicine, oil remains unchallenged, whether in the scientific orientation of the former or in the ever more inclined towards the magic-religious dimension of the latter.


At the museum, the path illustrating olive growing begins with the botanical premise concerning the plant, supported by the plates by Adelaide Leoni, illustrator of the CNR (National Research Council), depicting the cultivars found in Umbria. To the same CNR we owe the panels detailing the phases, places and diffusion of olive growing, from the origins to the present. To the Georgofili Academy we owe the reproduction of the precious archive papers that represent the olive tree cultivation, from planting to harvesting; the reproductions are accompanied by actual tools of the trade. To professor Giuseppe Fontanazza we owe the images and notes on the current olive growing trends. Still to the Georgofili belongs the photograph (early 20th century) enlarged as a backdrop, it depicts the harvesting from a millennial olive tree in Apulia. The history of the mill and the presence of typologies – animal and hydraulic traction – are followed by the updating on techniques in use.

In room VI we find a set of “cabrei”; these are cadastral maps, specifically in use in the 17th and 19th centuries, documenting the land ownership of religious communities or noble families, of which they carry the coats of arms. The documents minutely describe the cultivated typologies, witnessing to the wide diffusion of olive growing in Umbria.

Nella sala VI, un gruppo di “cabrei” (carte catastali, particolarmente in uso nei secoli XVII e XIX, di possedimenti di Comunità religiose o di famiglie nobiliari di cui portano l’arme) reca minutamente descritti i coltivati, testimoniando la frequenza dell’olivicoltura in Umbria.