Starting from the XII century in Umbria, as in the rest of Italy, were mainly the monastic orders to give new impetus and new life to the cultivation of olive trees and the production of olive oil, whose use and consumption had been scarce throughout the early medieval period because of the numerous destructions suffered by the countryside, which had led to a consequent impoverishment of olive groves.
Olive oil returned, after the Roman period, to be a precious product with countless functions; thanks to it the lights were turned on on the sacred altars and was never missing in the most important religious rituals, such as confirmation and extreme unction.
Unlike the ancient Roman cuisine, however, of which it had been a fundamental element, oil was not among the most important foods of the gastronomy of the Middle Ages, since it was far more expensive than other fats that were certainly less healthy but cheap such as lard and lard; the usefulness of oil in many circumstances, imposed a rather sparing use. The monks also used it as a medicine thanks to its soothing, decongestant, moisturizing and nourishing properties. It seems that it was used to treat headache and scabies, an annoying contagious skin disease that was very frequent at the time, but also to combat alopecia and dandruff. Among the many natural remedies, oil was used together with wine as a medicine, called Samaritan Balm, it was used for burns and to soothe the pain of ulcers; but they were known since ancient times for their healthy effects: by soothing wounds the oil prevented them from drying out, and to its action was added the slightly bactericidal action of wine.
The Benedictine monks of San Felice were therefore no less; faithful to their rule “ora et labora”, they would transplant, to resume the cultivation of the land after the period of abandonment, a type of olive tree, later called Cultivar San Felice, which has taken root spreading in some limited areas and producing an excellent quality of olives. The Augustinians then continued the agricultural vocation of the old owners; inside the abbey there was in fact a real animal-drawn mill that remained in use for many centuries.
San Felice Olive Variety is an autochthonous cultivar which contributes today to characterize the DOP Umbria, subzone “Colli Martani”, together with Moraiolo (which is the most widespread variety on the hills of the region) and other cultivars such as Leccino, Frantoio and, to a lesser extent, Rajo and Vocio. The combination of different varieties and the particularly favorable microclimatic environment guarantee the organoleptic quality and uniqueness of Giano dell’Umbria oil, which has been exported to Tuscany, Romagna and Marche since the 18th century.
The harvesting of the San Felice olive variety, earlier than in the past, is carried out mainly by hand grazing, while the processing in the six still active mills uses modern extraction technologies, generally continuous cycle, to obtain high quality standards.