/Urban Olive Harvest in Rome, The Edible City

Urban Olive Harvest in Rome, The Edible City

Won’t you join our urban foraging cult? Think about it!

Rome isn’t exactly known as an economical place these days and the crisis has only added insult to injury. Dining out and shopping for ingredients may be costly, but there is plenty of readily available free food all over town. Not only are there arugula, mallow, and prickly pears out there, but there are thousands of olive trees bursting with fruit, ripe for the taking. Some are easier to reach than others and last weekend Parla Food contributor chef John Regefalk and I hit the Celio to harvest trees just steps from the Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus.

We focused our efforts on an easy to reach public area just beside the Church of San Gregorio. Even though the adjacent Palatine Hill is absolutely packed with olive trees, admission to the site is €12 per person and this was meant to be an exercise in frugality. So we went for the free (and likely more smog-caked) variety. The plumper olives were near the tops of the trees and reaching them required some climbing.

In about an hour we harvested just over 6 kg (13 lb) of olives. John is testing out a few different curing methods and will publish a guest post on his progress in the near future. If all goes according the plan, we will not be poisoned by our experiment…the fruit’s epicuticular wax showed signs of pollution. Here it is on our hands!

If you want to try out an urban olive harvest yourself, you may want to avoid trees near busy roads. It is probably illegal to harvest fruit from trees on public land, but trust us the vigili are not watching.

2017-02-17T15:16:59+00:00 November 15th, 2012|Categories: Culture, Food & Wine, Gastronomic Traditions, Rome & Lazio, Rome on a Budget|9 Comments


  1. Christine November 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    There are figs in the park off the Balzani stop on the trenino Laziale, and oranges and lemons back in the Villini section off via Casilina (at least the ones that fall from trees on private properties into the street!).

  2. Sarah May (AntiquaTours) November 15, 2012 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    I feel like you cheated on me. 🙁 Wah wah wah.

  3. Emiko November 16, 2012 at 8:28 am - Reply

    Ha, that last shot is hilarious! Last season I “harvested” some beautiful olives from a tree on the footpath near my house – as far as I know, no one else was going to get to them (they had already turned black) and not even the possums were interested! Even if urban foraging is such a big thing in Melbourne, some skeptics are worried about pollution. But hey, I think if Ben Shewry forages for herbs along the train tracks, I will too!

  4. Nathalie (@spacedlaw) November 16, 2012 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Careful with lye, you all!

    I might get an opportunity to pilfer (errr… rescue?) some olives at work. Apparently the people who come each year to harvest our olives have left a lot of trees untouched for some reason. No idea why.

  5. ciaochowlinda November 19, 2012 at 1:15 am - Reply

    Oh you are so funny – and resourceful. I remember when we lived in Rome, I’d walk a few blocks and harvest bay leaves from a hedge when I needed them for a recipe.

  6. e November 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    i visited the mosque a few weeks ago and they had great olive trees. i snatched a few but wonder if/how they harvest them.

  7. Heather November 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    My two year old son fills the stroller with olives every day on the way home from school. I keep meaning to find out how to cure them at home. I await your next post!

  8. erica November 19, 2012 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    I am a berry harvester– but i feel like i should rethink it since I tend to poach them from the bushes that line the Gianicolo roads, and maybe that piquant taste is exhaust…

  9. […] stole liberated olives from the trees in front of San Gregorio near the Circus Maximus. In all, we harvested more than 6kg (13 lbs) of olives, to which John added a few hundred additional grams from a 151-year-old tree on Via dei Fori […]

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