Apr 232008

Our Quest for Olive Wood

We have logged many miles on the winding roads of central Italy in our search for the perfect products for our web site www.poggibonsigifts.com. We often get tips from other suppliers or people we meet in restaurants or shops. Sometimes these tips lead to something wonderful and other times they lead to a dead end. It took us two years and a few dead ends to find an olive wood supplier.

We have logged many miles on the winding roads of central Italy in our search for the perfect products for our web site www.poggibonsigifts.com. We often get tips from other suppliers or people we meet in restaurants or shops. Sometimes these tips lead to something wonderful and other times they lead to a dead end. It took us two years and a few dead ends to find an olive wood supplier.

We knew we wanted to add olive wood utensils and boards to our Italian ceramics and linens so on one of our first buying trips we started to ask around. We visited our friend who owns an enoteca in Montalcino. Yes, he knew of someone, “There is an old man in Chianti who makes beautiful olive wood utensils, the best in all of Toscana.” That got our attention and we were all ears. “You must go to Castellina in Chianti,” he said. “Do you have his address?” we inquired. “No, no, it is simple. Go to Castellina to the main piazza and there you will see a bar, ask for Salvatore, they will know him.” This sounded like a wild-goose-chase to us and we hesitantly inquired “Are you sure? How do you know he will be at the bar?” He assured us, “He is always there, it will be easy to find him. Ask for Salvatore, everyone knows him.” He sounded so convincing that we set out for Castellina the next morning.

After a scenic 1-1/2 hour drive we arrived in Castellina in Chianti the capitol of the Chianti Classico the world-famous wine growing region. We made our way to the main piazza and found that there were in fact two bars. We asked everyone in each place, “Do you know Salavatore? Do you know anyone who sells olive wood?” We received plenty of strange looks but no one knew Salvatore or anyone else who made olive wood utensils. We felt a more than a little depressed and very silly so we consoled ourselves by lunching on prosciutto paninis and fat glasses of rich Chianti. We couldn’t stay in Tuscany any longer as we were scheduled to head to Venice the next day–olive wood would have to wait.

Legno di Olive AlleyThe following year we were staying in a small village near Deruta–the ceramic capital of Umbria. The hills surrounding the village were dotted with groves of olive trees and we were optimistic. One morning while walking down the steep hill from our hotel to the “parchaggio” we heard a wood saw buzzing. We looked at each other and both had the same thought—we ran down a little narrow stone alley toward the noise. We saw a sign above a doorway “Legno di Olive!” We gingerly peered inside and saw an elderly man at a lathe working on some sort of spoon. In halting Italian we asked if he sold the items he was making. “Si, si, but you must speak to my son and he won’t be back until tomorrow morning.” He told us to come back at around 10:00am.

The next morning we arrived promptly at 10:00 and the door was locked tight, no sign of anyone. We waited for 30 minutes or so and no one arrived so we went down the street for a coronetto (a delicious croissant filled with apricot jam) and a cappuccino. We arrived back at the door around 11:00, still closed. We waited, and waited until a little after noon and, just as we were about to call it a day, a little blue truck came sputtering up the hill! Could it be? Yes! It was our man, he lead us into a tiny showroom filled with a display of beautiful olive wood. Yes, he would sell to us and, yes, he would ship to the United States. We had finally found our olive wood suppler!

Olive Wood Group PhotoNow, nearly six years later we are one of the largest importers of Italian olive wood in the United States and have an extensive collection. Visit our web site to see our full line of Italian Olive Wood.

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About Keli Sim DeRitis

Keli Sim DeRitis is an artist, designer, passionate cook, teacher, and tour guide. Keli founded Poggi Bonsi in 2001 to share her love of European travel, food, wine, and culture. Connect with me on Google+