Crete, the largest island of Greece, the birthplace of Minos and Kazantzakis, birthplace of the Minoan civilization, primitive and blessed place, steady in customs and traditions. Customs with their roots so deep in time as the roots of ancient olive trees which visitors can see in various parts of the island. Olive trees that continue to contribute to society with the same consistency the most important element of the Cretan diet, olive oil. Harvesting the fruit is one of the strongest traditions of the place and of course an important factor of development of the economy of the island, from the Minoan era until today.


The valley

The seemingly never-ending ascend through a winding road away from the hustle and bustle of Heraklion, the capital of Crete, reaches its peak in the village of Aghia Varvara and from then on its all downhill; then you are startled: stretching literally as far as the eye can see, there’s Messara valley, a 45 sq mile plain covering most of the south-west of Heraklion prefecture, a carpet of a hundred shades of green, of olive groves and vineyards mixing together, growing side by side as they have been doing for the last 20 centuries… Then, there’s the blue sea, embracing the island, eternally chiseling its fine curves.

A sea of fertility

This huge stretch of plentiful land used to be part of the Aegean Sea, sea water that made its way into a Jurassic flatland, surrounded by a natural wall of mountains to the South and North, creating a natural haven. Then, only 34 centuries ago, the water gradually started to withdraw, strong earthquakes lifting the tectonic plate to form what is today the fertile valley of Messara, the garden of Crete.
Neolithic man walked this plain, learned every inch of it, held its warm argyle soil in his handful, built shrines and small settlements, hunted the local fauna and eventually entered the farming period, inventing farming methods still used to this day, nurturing the sacred olive tree and vine, his inseparable companions in a good life: well nourished and firm on his feet, the Neolithic man will form what is widely known as “Minoan”, the Neolithic Cretan civilization of a hundred cities that will introduce Europe to her future.


The good host

Messara valley has played a continual part in Crete’s history: her peoples and conquering claimants–and there were several of the latter- disciplined her with simple tools: the ox and the plough. In return, Messara, eagerly rendered a cornucopia of foods for the dinner table: golden wheat and barley, olives and olive oil, wild fruit and seed, a diversity of foods that would put together the basis of one of the most wholesome and nutritious diets in the world.


  • 70200 Vori, Messara, Greece
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