The stable is the first environment to visit in the MOOM. Placed near the courtyard by the entrance, the room was used to make food and have the donkeys rest. The donkeys used to turn the mill took turns in order for the press to run 24 hours a day. When one was tired, another was rested and fed ready to replace it.
In the room of the mill were brought olives to start the oil extraction process. These were carried by hand or made to fall from the upper floor by means of a small slit and a timber guide. Probably what we see in the museum today is the evolution of a single grinding wheel. Over time, in fact, the use of multiple wheels (2, 3, or even 4), placed at different distance from the central axis, were seen as a more efficient alternative allowing a higher speed. The use of the grinders – today made of food-grade stainless steel and with motor – is still present in modern mills.
The large central hall was the heart of the crusher, an area where there was a continuous succession of different operations. The olive paste that came out of the mill had to be placed on the fiscoli (vegetable fiber discs with an opening at the centre). This operation was performed on a base of slightly inclined stone to enable the collection of any liquid (mixture of water and oil), which leaked from the olive paste just produced. Once the fiscoli filled, these were placed under the wooden presses, which allowed the stacking of a large amount of filled fiscoli. The liquid flowing out of the fiscoli was collected in small wells below the base of the presses. Depending on the amount of work to be carried out, the liquid was left here, for the oil to come to the surface or it was immediately transferred into tanks of larger dimension allowing for a subsequent separation step. In this same hall dug in the side walls, the old ‘olivai’ – spaces for the storage of the olives before being crushed – can also be seen. Some of them were also probably used for the storage of olive residues, once the extraction finished.
The outcrop tubs were discovered during the renovations and are placed in the lower part of the underground olive press. The mixture of water and oil coming from the pressed olive paste was poured into the tanks, all communicating with each other. Here oil surfaced because of its lower specific weight than water. The filling level of the tanks could then be reduced in two ways: by removing the oil from the surface or by opening a cap placed at the bottom, which allowed the passage of water from the tanks to the well. These spaces were initially considered ‘olivai’, but the most accredited theory is now that these were outcrop tanks.
The bed of the miller was the area where the 4 or 5 people who were involved in the different processes could take turns resting on a stone litter softened by the presence of straw. The press operators could also wash and quench their thirst thanks to the presence of the well in which rainwater was collected.
The upper Olivaio – the upstairs room – was realized in the late 1800s and early 1900s and was intended as a deposit for the olives. This building became necessary after the number of presses increased, to be able to increase the storage capacity. An opening in the floor allowed for the dropping of the olives directly into the press. This room is currently used as a tasting area of local products, including naturally extra virgin olive oil of Basilicata.