Sicilian olive oil: History of a quality product from ancient traditions
Sicilian traditions

Sicilian olive oil: History of a quality product from ancient traditions


Sicilian oil is one of the most representative products of the island’s cuisine and culture.

It is an extra virgin olive oil obtained from native olive varieties that grow in an area rich in history and unique in its kind.

Sicilian olive oil is a real culinary treasure that has its roots in the millenary history of the island.

Since ancient times, extra virgin olive oil has been a central element in Sicilian cuisine, giving a unique flavor to dishes and conferring health benefits.

In this article, we will explore the history of this product, from its origin to the present day.

History of Sicilian olive oil

The cultivation of olive trees in Sicily dates back to very distant times between the 4th and 8th centuries. B.C..

It is probable that the Phoenicians introduced this plant in the island.

The Greeks made great use of it, making it very important in daily life on the island.

In that period whoever cut down an olive tree was exiled. This makes us understand the importance of this tree in that period.

The Mediterranean climate and the fertility of the Sicilian soil proved to be perfect for the growth of this plant, thus allowing for a rich production of oil.

The first trees were plant in the volcano area. The uniqueness of this land soon made the oil produced a rarity of its kind.

Sicilian olive groves became known throughout the Mediterranean  for the exceptional quality of their oil.

During the Roman domination, Sicily became one of the main suppliers of extra virgin olive oil in the Roman Empire, this olive oil was also produced from wild olives.

The Romans appreciated Sicilian oil for its intense flavor and its healthy properties.

In the 8th century the island was conquered by the Arab people, who introduced new techniques for growing and processing olives.

The Arab influence has had a big impact on Sicilian culture and tradition.

Also in the case of olive oil, the influence of this period of domination has left its traces.

Many words in dialect referring to the milling process come from Arabic ( Giara, Tumminu etc.)

During the Norman period, which followed the Arab domination, the production of Sicilian oil reached its peak and became a fundamental part of the trade.

Over the centuries, Sicilian oil has continued to be a symbol of tradition and quality, passing from generation to generation.

The Sicilian Olive Trees: The Cultivars of the island

The main species of Sicilian olive trees are:

– Biancolilla:

The Biancolilla olive tree, an iconic Sicilian cultivar, embodies the authentic essence of the island in its precious production of olive oil.

Its fruits, which change color from light green almost white to deep red during the ripening process, are a real feast for the eyes.

Cultivated mainly in the western part of Sicily, this variety benefits from the ideal climatic conditions offered by the island.

The oil produced from this cultivar is renowned for its exceptional taste and unique aromatic notes, offering an unforgettable culinary experience for the most refined palates.

The Sicilian olive cultivar Biancolilla is renowned for its exceptional quality.

This extra virgin olive oil has a bright golden green color, a delicate taste and an aromatic scent that evokes fruity and herbaceous notes.

The cultivation of the Biancolilla olive tree in Sicily benefits from ideal climatic conditions, with warm sunny days and sea breezes that contribute to the richness of its oils.

Sicily is one of the most important regions for the production of high quality olive oil, and the Biancolilla cultivar is an excellent representation of its richness and culinary tradition.

– Nocellara del Belice:

The Sicilian cultivar Nocellara del Belice is particularly admired for the production of high quality extra virgin olive oil.

Nocellara del Belice olives are generously sized, with a juicy pulp and a characteristic taste of fresh grass and citrus.

This oil features a deep green color and low acidity, making it a highly sought-after product on the market.

Its sensory complexity, ranging from fruity to bitter to spicy, gives it extraordinary culinary versatility.

The Nocellara del Belice extra virgin olive oil is a real jewel of the Sicilian gastronomic heritage.

Appreciated for its unique flavor and its ability to enrich Mediterranean dishes with notes of freshness and authenticity.

The extra virgin olive oil obtained from these olives has a unique sensory profile, with intense notes of freshly cut grass, fresh tomato and sweet almonds.

  Its balanced acidity gives it a soft and harmonious taste, making it ideal for dressing salads, soups, fish dishes and delicate meats.

The oil produced from Nocellara del Belice is a true gastronomic marvel, which embodies the essence of Sicilian cuisine and enhances each dish with its authentic and refined taste.

– Tonda Iblea:

The Sicilian cultivar Tonda Iblea is loved for its exceptional quality and distinctive flavour.

Tonda Iblea olives are characterized by their rounded shape and thin skin.

The extra virgin olive oil obtained from these olives has a unique and complex taste, combining herbaceous, fruity and slightly spicy notes.

Its golden color and low acidity make it a fine option for olive oil connoisseurs.

Tonda Iblea oil is perfect for a variety of culinary uses, from the preparation of sauces and condiments to pairing with meat dishes and grilled vegetables.

With its distinctive taste profile, the Sicilian Tonda Iblea cultivar is a treasure of Sicilian gastronomic heritage and stands out for its unique value in the realm of high quality olive oil.

The Sicilian cultivar Tonda Iblea represents a real treat for the most demanding palates.

These rounded olives give an extra virgin olive oil of the highest level.

Thanks to its limited production, Tonda Iblea oil is a culinary treasure coveted by chefs and gourmets from all over the world.

Its dark golden color gives it an atmosphere of refined elegance.

Tonda Iblea olive oil is an essential component for flavoring traditional Sicilian dishes such as bread, bruschetta, fish and grilled vegetables, enriching every bite with its intensity and depth of flavour.

Let yourself be overwhelmed by the unmistakable culinary experience offered by the Sicilian Tonda Iblea cultivar, a real jewel of the art of olive growing.

– Moorish:

The Moresca cultivar is an important variety of olive tree grown in Sicily.

Its origins date back to ancient times, and it is still widespread on the island today.

This variety is notable for its high productivity and disease resistance, making it a popular choice among farmers.

  Moresca olives are medium in size and have a slightly elongated shape. Their flavor is delicate and aromatic, with fruity and slightly bitter notes.

Thanks to these characteristics, Moresca olives are highly appreciated for the production of high quality extra virgin olive oil.

The oil obtained from this cultivar has a golden yellow colour, an intense aroma and a balanced taste.

It is ideal for dressing salads, fish and vegetable dishes. Furthermore, Moresca is also used to prepare pickle olives, which undergo careful processing to enhance their flavor and make them a tasty appetizer.

Thanks to its reputation for quality, the Moresca cultivar has earned a prestigious place in the Sicilian agricultural tradition and continues to be a popular choice for lovers of quality olive oil.

– Ceriseola:

The Sicilian olive cultivar, Cerasuola, is highly regarded in the olive oil industry for its unique characteristics. This variety of olive tree is native to Sicily, one of the most renowned Italian regions for the production of high quality olive oil.

Cerasuola is known for its medium-sized fruit and slightly cylindrical shape.

  Its skin is deep green during the harvest season, then matures to a dark purplish tone.

This makes the variety particularly attractive from an aesthetic point of view.

However, it is the flavor of the oil produced with Cerasuola olives that makes it truly special.

The olive oil obtained from these olives is characterized by a fruity and sweet taste, with slight notes of bitterness and spiciness.

The aroma is often reminiscent of apples and almonds, giving a unique sensory experience.

This species is highly appreciated by expert olive oil tasters for its culinary versatility.

This oil lends itself well to being used in many preparations, in particular in salad dressing, in marinating meat and vegetables, and even in the preparation of sweets and desserts.

The cultivation of the variety requires special attention to ensure high quality production.

Its resistance to diseases and climatic adversities makes it suitable for the Mediterranean climate of Sicily.

Farmers must adopt sustainable cultivation techniques and meticulous harvesting processes to preserve their unique characteristics.

In conclusion, the Sicilian olive cultivar Cerasuola is a jewel in the olive oil industry. 

Its exceptional flavor, culinary versatility and health benefits make it an ideal choice for consumers who pay attention to the quality and authenticity of food products.

– Nocellara dell’Etna:

Nocellara Etnea is a fine Sicilian cultivar widely appreciated for its quality and delicious flavour. Originally from the Etna region, this olive variety has unique characteristics that distinguish it from other cultivars.

Nocellara Etnea olives are distinguished by their bright and intense green colour. They are medium in size and have an oval shape with a thick skin. Their fleshy and juicy pulp makes these olives perfect for the extraction of a high quality extra virgin olive oil.

What makes Nocellara Etnea so special is their balanced and rich flavour. The olive oil obtained from these olives has a fruity aroma with notes of cut grass and a slight spicy aftertaste. It is a versatile oil that is well suited to a variety of dishes, from dressing salads to preparing sauces and fish dishes.

Furthermore, the Nocellara Etnea are also highly appreciated as pickle olives. Their firm pulp and slightly sweet taste make them perfect to be enjoyed alone or accompanied by cheeses and cold cuts typical of the Sicilian tradition.

From a nutritional point of view, Nocellara Etnea olives are rich in antioxidants, group E vitamins, polyphenols and monounsaturated fatty acids. These nutrients are known for their health benefits, such as protecting against inflammation and improving cardiovascular health.

In conclusion, Nocellara Etnea olives are a true excellence of the Sicilian culinary heritage.

Both for the production of high quality extra virgin olive oil and for use as pickle olives, this variety offers a unique sensory experience and a touch of authentic Mediterranean tradition to dishes. For all lovers of Sicilian delicacies, Nocellara Etnea are a real treasure.

– Messina Ogliarola:

The Messina Ogliarola: An excellence of the Sicilian olive cultivar

The Messina Ogliarola is one of the most precious and characteristic cultivars of Sicily. This variety of olive, which takes its name from the city of Messina, stands out for its unique organoleptic qualities and its versatility in the kitchen.

The Ogliarola Messina olives are small in size and have an elongated shape. Their maturation takes place in autumn, when the skin takes on an intense green color with red hues. This helps to give the olives an aesthetically pleasing and attractive appearance.

From the point of view of taste, Ogliarola from Messina offers an extraordinary sensory experience. The oil obtained from these olives has a fruity and slightly sweet taste, with a barely perceptible bitter note. Its scent is reminiscent of freshly cut grass and contains nuances of fresh almonds.

The extra virgin olive oil produced from Ogliarola Messina is appreciated both in Italy and abroad. Its high quality and unique taste make it one of the most sought after olive oils by connoisseurs. It can be used to dress salads, vegetables, meats, fish and also to prepare traditional Sicilian dishes, such as “pasta alla norma” or “caponata”.

Furthermore, Ogliarola Messina is a cultivar very resistant to olive tree diseases, which makes it an excellent choice for both growers and farmers. The plant adapts well to the Mediterranean climate and to the Sicilian land, offering an excellent yield.

In conclusion, Ogliarola from Messina represents true excellence in the panorama of Sicilian cultivars. Its beauty, unique flavor and versatility in the kitchen make it a coveted olive for gourmets and an ideal option for olive growers. Discovering and appreciating Ogliarola from Messina is an experience that will make you fall in love with Sicilian tradition and gastronomy.

– Santagatese:

Santagatese: the Sicilian cultivar that delights the palate

Santagatese is a Sicilian cultivar that is gaining popularity for its unique flavor profile and exceptional quality. Originally from the municipality of Santa Caterina Villarmosa, in the province of Caltanissetta, this extra virgin olive oil has conquered the palates of chefs and enthusiasts from all over the world.

The distinctive characteristics of Santagatese are its fruity taste, which recalls notes of green olives and almonds, and its slightly spicy aftertaste. Its acidity is extremely low, which makes it a very delicate and palatable oil.

Olive growing in Sicily has a centuries-old tradition, and the Santagatese is the result of a long care and mastery in the cultivation of olives. The olive trees of this cultivar are grown in volcanic soils and enjoy an ideal Mediterranean climate: sunny days, mild temperatures and sea breezes. These optimal conditions help to give the Santagatese its unique organoleptic characteristics.

Santagatese extra virgin olive oil is appreciated not only for its refined flavour, but also for its health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamins, which make it an ally for heart health and the immune system. Furthermore, it is also used in cosmetics for its moisturizing and emollient properties.

Internationally renowned chefs appreciate Santagatese for its versatility in the kitchen. It lends itself to being used both raw to flavor salads, grilled vegetables and fish dishes, and for more elaborate preparations such as sauces and condiments. Its elegance and harmony of flavors make it an ideal ingredient to enhance the most refined culinary preparations.

In conclusion, Santagatese is a Sicilian cultivar that deserves to be known and appreciated. With its unique aromatic profile, its high quality and its multiple benefits, it is confirmed as a true treasure of Sicilian gastronomy. Trying Santagatese means immersing yourself in the authentic olive-growing tradition of Sicily and discovering an olive oil that is synonymous with excellence and passion.

Healthy properties of Sicilian olive oil

Sicilian olive oil: a treasure trove of healthy properties

Sicilian olive oil is an authentic treasure of healthy properties. Derived from olives grown on the fertile lands of Sicily, this precious oil is known for its many health benefits. Rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids, Sicilian olive oil offers a wide range of wellness benefits.

One of the main benefits of Sicilian olive oil is its potential protective effect on the cardiovascular system. The monounsaturated fatty acids present in the oil help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). This can help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Furthermore, Sicilian olive oil is an ally in the fight against inflammation in the body. The antioxidants in the oil help counteract oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, which can be associated with numerous medical conditions, including arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases, and some chronic conditions.

The beneficial effects of Sicilian olive oil are not limited to the heart and inflammation.

Scientific studies have shown that olive oil can help regulate blood sugar levels, promoting better diabetes management. Furthermore, the presence of vitamin E in the oil helps protect cells from oxidative stress and can have positive effects on skin health.

Another aspect to consider is the importance of Sicilian olive oil in the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest diets in the world.

Olive oil is an essential food in this diet, which is associated with numerous health benefits, including the prevention of cardiovascular disease, weight control and improved longevity.

The Sicilian provinces each have their own typical varieties of oil:

• Trapani and Agrigento are famous for Cerasuola and Biancolilla which produce light and delicate oils.

• The province of Palermo excels for the Nocellara Etnea and the Giarraffa variety with its excellent bitter and spicy oil.

• Catania and Etna are renowned for the monovarietal oils of Nocellara, with an intense taste of artichoke and tomato.

• In the province of Syracuse, the aromatic and structured oils of Tonda Iblea stand out.

• Messina and the inland areas produce the typical bitter and spicy Moresca oil.

Uses in the kitchen

Sicilian oil finds numerous uses in the kitchen:

• As a condiment for salads, steamed vegetables, bruschetta and croutons

• For marinating and seasoning white meats, fish and cheeses

• For cooking risottos, pasta, soups and soups

• As a base for sauces, gravies and condiments

• To flavor balsamic vinegar and wines

• To flavor sandwiches, chops and roasts

• To prepare desserts such as stuffed olives, focaccia, biscuits and tarts


The great biodiversity of olive trees in Sicily and the specificities of the various territories give Sicilian olive oils a high quality due to the unique combination of natural, historical and cultural factors. The many types, skilfully mixed, create oils with inimitable and versatile notes in the kitchen.

The rediscovery of the ancient native cultivars and the commitment of quality-conscious producers have led Sicilian oils to become ambassadors of the Mediterranean taste and diet in the world, demonstrating that tradition combined with innovation can create products of excellence.

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