White Olives from Gaeta: a Culinary Destination in Lazio
Gaeta, a secret destination for the lovers of olives and beaches. A blue osasis between Rome and Naples.
Gaeta is a little Italian port city in the province of Latina, in Lazio, situated on the coast between Rome and Naples. It is famous for its olives, precisely the black Gaeta Olives. Only those olives grown and harvested in Gaeta, Itri, Formia, Campodimele and in the adjacent towns can to be sold under the denomination “Olive di Gaeta”, thus Gaeta Olives. Whether these olives are treated and packed at Gaeta or not it doesn't absolutely matter.
But have you ever heard of the white Gaeta Olives? Well, the white Gaeta Olives are the younger sisters of the black Gaeta Olives. They mature on the same olive trees. But white Gaeta Olives are gathered prematurely between November and December, when they are still green, and put in brine before being ripened. Actually, white Gaeta Olives are not white, but green-golden with pinkish shadows. Of course, they are called white to be distinguished from the black Gaeta Olives.
And indeed, "white Gaeta Olive" is not a recognized designation in Italy. Only black olives can be sold under the name “Gaeta Olives”. For that reason, many producers sell the green Gaeta Olives under the name “Oliva itrana”, thus Olives from the town of Itri. Compared to the black sistersoli, the white Gaeta Olives are firmer, more compact and slightly acid. They are mainly used to make olive appetizers whereas the black olives are ideal for cooking.
Gaeta Olives and the Tiella
Tiella is the most typical dish of Gaeta and is recognized as a PAT product, thus a traditional Italian regional food product. It consists in two layers of crispypizza dough stuffed traditionally with seafood, spinach, escarole, zucchini, onions, olives and plenty of olive oil made from Gaeta Olives. Of course today, the Tiella may come along with various fillings: escarole and cheese, seafood and tomatoes, cheese and onions...
Only one thing hasn't changed: the Tiella must contain so much olive oil from Gaeta that, as a proverb says, "it should run down your arms to your elbows at the first bite".
Gaeta: a secret travel destination
Gaeta is a nice touristic destination near Rome, not only because of its many treats and fish dishes, but also because of its famous beaches and monuments. Though, even if the small port city is one of the favorite destinations for Italians from Lazio and Campania, foreign tourists are very rare in this area.
Gaeta is situated in southern Lazio, close to the borders with Campania, the region surrounding Naples. Unfortunately, it has no train station, but you can reach it easily by bus from the train station of Formia.
The small city set on top of a promontory has seven beaches, but probably the most beautiful one is Trecento gradini (three hundred steps), located not far from the town. Inside the town instead, a walk through the narrow streets and town gates in old medieval Gaeta takes you up to the Church of San Francesco from where you have a splendid view over the gulf of Gaeta. If you continue upwards, you will reach the Angevine-Aragonese Castle, until a few years ago a military prison, and now transformed into a space for exhibitions and meetings.
Walking back to the port of Gaeta, you should have a break in one of the numerous and excellent fish restaurants in the old town. Once arrived at the waterfront, the Cathedral of Gaeta with its characteristic bell tower is waiting for your admiring glances.
Though, the most famous attractions of Gaeta are located outside the city: the Monte Orlando and the Grotta del Turco. Monte Orlando is a mountain behind Gaeta which came to fame thanks to its Montagna spaccata,the split mountain which is said to have split when Jesus was crucified. On its foot you can visit a 15th century pilgrimage church, a popular destination for pilgrims.
Walking down the steps from there, you will see the Grotta Turca, a beautiful grotto which can only be reached by boat and against payment.