Corfu Olives

Corfu olives are an important part of this Greek island's economy, with an estimated 3-4 million trees producing olive oil of exceptional quality.

Much of Corfu’s lush green landscape comes from its vast groves of olive trees. For islanders they have long been an economic mainstay. For visitors, there is nothing more magical than a walk or drive through these rustling, sun-dappled groves that cling to the hillsides on stone-banked terraces. Corfu’s olive trees are larger than anywhere else in Greece. Some of these ancient giants with their gnarled and knotted trunks are nearly 500 years old. 

Greek olive tree

Legend has it that Saint Spyridon appeared in an olive grove and forbade the islanders to cut or beat the branches of the trees, because it was cruel. So for centuries they have not pruned the trees, and instead of picking the olives they let them fall to the ground by themselves, spreading nets beneath the trees to catch them. But the Greek government has decreed that olive trees must be pruned in order to maintain peak productivity.

The Venetians were responsible for the widespread, systematic planting of olives on the island, which reached its peak in the 16th century. They wanted to ensure their city would never run short of oil. The Venetians gave ten gold pieces for every grove of 100 olive trees planted, and when they left it is said the islanders had nearly two million trees. 

Olives on an olive tree in Greece

‘A hunk of bread and a Greek tomato the size of a baby’s head need only a saucer of the magic stuff to provide a wonderful meal.’
Emma Tennant on olive oil, from her book Corfu Banquet.

Today there are said to be 3-4 million trees and olives remain one of the main agricultural crops on Corfu. Trees bear fruit only every other year, and new trees may take 12 years to yield a first crop. In a good year the olive harvest lasts from January through till May. 

Corfu’s olive oil is a dark, slightly greenish colour and is of high quality. Despite the abundance of trees, it can be surprisingly hard to find on Corfu. Locals keep most of it for their own use and the rest is exported to Italy.

Olive Trees on CorfuOlive Trees on Corfu

Ancient Fruit

Since ancient times, olives have been part of the staple diet of people throughout the Mediterranean. Olive cultivation and the production of oil date back to the Early Bronze Age (about 3000 BC). Corfu’s land and climate were highly favourable for growing olives. In The Odyssey, Homer tells us that the tree was cultivated here by King Alkinoös.

In addition to being part of the daily diet, olive oil had many other uses. It was used to cleanse and beautify the body, like soap today. Artwork on vases from the 6th and 5th century BC shows young men smearing their bodies with oil, and scraping themselves clean with a curved blade known as a strigil.

Olive oil had therapeutic properties and was used to soothe skin irritations. It could be blended with flower or herbal essences to produce fragrant oils. It was also burned in household lamps and later in the lamps of Christian churches and saints’ shrines. Olive oil was stored and transported in large clay vessels called pithoi or amphoras, which had a closed shape. 

Some Cool Corfu Souvenirs

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Paleokastritsa Luggage Tag

Corfu-Cypresses-Capri-leggings.jpg

Corfu Cypresses Capri Leggings

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Corfu T-shirt

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Corfu Tote Bag

Corfu's Black Gold

Nearly every Corfiot family owns at least a few olive trees. In the 17th century a family’s wealth was determined by the number of trees it possessed. It was customary for large landowners to let out the oil crop to the peasants living on the property, who worked the harvest in return for half the oil.

In Prospero’s Cell, Lawrence Durrell describes the sour, pungent taste of Corfu’s black olives as ‘A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water.’

In rural areas the number of trees is still a factor in calculating land values. Trees and land are often owned separately. When purchasing a piece of land, the buyer must also find out who owns the trees, as they have right of way over the land.

Our Pick of Greek Islands Guides

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Other Corfu Pages

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    A Lawrence Durrell Walk

    This Lawrence Durrell walk takes you from Kaminaki Beach in northern Corfu to the White House in Kalami where the writer Lawrence Durrell lived for four year.

  • Greece Travel Secrets’ pick of where to stay in southern Corfu including hotels in Moraïtika, Paramonas, Messonghi, Agios Georgios, and near Benitses.

    Where to Stay in Southern Corfu

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  • Greece Travel Secrets picks where to stay in northern Corfu with budget and luxury hotels in Sidari, Daphnila Bay, Kontokali, Ipsos, Barbati and more.

    Where to Stay in Northern Corfu

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  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in north-west and central Corfu including luxury mansions, inexpensive rooms, and resort hotels.

    Where to Stay in North-West and Central Corfu

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  • This is the Greece Travel Secrets selection of where to eat in northern Corfu, from classy restaurants and traditional tavernas to beachside fish tavernas.

    Where to Eat in Northern Corfu

    This is the Greece Travel Secrets selection of where to eat in northern Corfu, from classy restaurants and traditional tavernas to beachside fish tavernas.

  • Greece Travel Secrets has its list of favourite places where you can eat in north-west Corfu, including in Paleokastritsa, Pelekas, and Ayios Stefanos.

    Where to Eat in North-West Corfu

    Greece Travel Secrets has its list of favourite places where you can eat in north-west Corfu, including in Paleokastritsa, Pelekas, and Ayios Stefanos.

  • Donna Dailey of Greece Travel Secrets visits Albania by boat from Corfu Town, staying overnight and seeing archaeological sites with Sipa Tours.

    Visiting Albania from Corfu

    Donna Dailey of Greece Travel Secrets visits Albania by boat from Corfu Town, staying overnight and seeing archaeological sites with Sipa Tours.

  • The main two Corfu saints are Saint Spyridon, the patron saint of Corfu who saved the island four times from disaster, and Saint Theodora Augusta.

    Two Corfu Saints

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    The Invasion of Corfu

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    The Corfu Trail

    The Corfu Trail runs from the southernmost point of Corfu at Cape Asprokavos and winds for 220km (137 miles) to the northernmost point near Andinioti Lagoon.

  • The Achilleion Palace is one of the most visited sights on Corfu and contains a museum and impressive gardens with wonderful views over the coast.

    The Achilleion Palace

    The Achilleion Palace is one of the most visited sights on Corfu and contains a museum and impressive gardens with wonderful views over the coast.

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    Southern Corfu

    Southern Corfu has busy beach resorts like Benitses, historical buildings like the Achilleion Palace and Gardiki Castle, and wildlife at the Korision Lagoon.

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    Southern Corfu Drive

    This Southern Corfu drive starts and ends in Moraïtika, taking in hill villages, secluded beaches, lovely views, and a visit to Gardiki Castle.

  • This guide to southern Corfu’s beaches and villages includes busy resorts, quiet beach, hill villages and the southernmost tip of Corfu at Cape Asprókavos.

    Southern Corfu Beaches and Villages

    This guide to southern Corfu’s beaches and villages includes busy resorts, quiet beach, hill villages and the southernmost tip of Corfu at Cape Asprókavos.

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    Sidari

    Sidari is a popular holiday resort on the north coast of Corfu with beaches and unusual rock formations as well as plenty of places to eat and to stay.

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    Paleokastritsa, Corfu

    Paleokastritsa is on the west coast of Corfu and is one of the most popular holiday spots. This page gives information on beaches, boat trips, weather and map.

  • Northern Corfu is the most diverse part of the island, with Corfu's highest point, Mt Pantokrator, and beach resorts like Sidari and Palaiokastritsa.

    Northern Corfu

    Northern Corfu is the most diverse part of the island, with Corfu's highest point, Mt Pantokrator, and beach resorts like Sidari and Palaiokastritsa.

  • If you want to tour northern Corfu in three days you can see busy resorts, quiet fishing villages, Mount Pantokrator, and the Andinioti Lagoon.

    Northern Corfu in Three Days

    If you want to tour northern Corfu in three days you can see busy resorts, quiet fishing villages, Mount Pantokrator, and the Andinioti Lagoon.

  • There are two sides to every Greek island, the tourist and the traditional, and this drive from Corfu Town through northern Corfu shows the two faces of Corfu.

    Northern Corfu Drive

    There are two sides to every Greek island, the tourist and the traditional, and this drive from Corfu Town through northern Corfu shows the two faces of Corfu.

  • Northern Corfu’s beaches and villages include busy resorts and secluded beaches, with several hill and mountain villages well worth visiting.

    Northern Corfu Beaches and Villages

    Northern Corfu’s beaches and villages include busy resorts and secluded beaches, with several hill and mountain villages well worth visiting.

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    North-West Corfu Beaches and Villages

    North-West Corfu’s beaches and villages include busy resorts, quiet beaches, hill villages, and places ideal for watching the sunset,

  • Mount Pantokrator is the highest mountain on Corfu and it’s easy to drive to the top for spectacular views of Albania, Corfu, and even sometimes to Italy.

    Mount Pantokrátor

    Mount Pantokrator is the highest mountain on Corfu and it’s easy to drive to the top for spectacular views of Albania, Corfu, and even sometimes to Italy.

  • This Mount Pantokrator drive takes you to the top of Corfu’s highest mountain with wonderful views to Albania, mainland Greece, and around Corfu.

    Mount Pantokrator Drive

    This Mount Pantokrator drive takes you to the top of Corfu’s highest mountain with wonderful views to Albania, mainland Greece, and around Corfu.

  • The Korission Lagoon on the west coast of Corfu is also called Lake Korission and has abundant wildlife, especially birds, and one of the best beaches on Corfu.

    Korission Lagoon

    The Korission Lagoon on the west coast of Corfu is also called Lake Korission and has abundant wildlife, especially birds, and one of the best beaches on Corfu.

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