SIERRA DE TRAMUNTANA
The Serra de Tramuntana is the most rugged part of the island predominated by olive cultivation and sheep rearing.
The organization of the mountain terrain had until that time been based around possessions, large farms which influenced both the landscape and the local economy. The active population depended on work from these “fincas” or farms, above all when the time came to harvest the cereals and olives and, the rest of the year they would be cultivating small plots of land or making use of the forest’s resources for such as charcoal or lime production, or collecting firewood.
For centuries the main source of income for the mountain based possessions was olive oil which was exported in large quantities to other European destinations such as Italy, France and Holland. Olive oil production came to be very important to the island to the extent that, in 1784, here were as many as five hundred olive oils mills. These mills employed many workers. Hundreds of women from other districts came to the mountains to collect olives during the harvesting season whilst the men took care of the oil mill for the oil production.
Other traditional activities, also of fundamental importance, included wood gathering, acquiring fodder for the livestock and hunting, above all thrush.
The production of charcoal and lime as well as snow collecting are activities which have also left an important anthropological legacy, something still visible from some of the mountain roads.
The latter activities were an important addition to the economy of many households. Charcoal production was usually carried out in spring and summer and often involved the entire family participating. Firstly the wood had to be chopped, whether it was Holm oak, pine or other trees and bushes, after which it had to be stacked and covered with slender green branches. The wood was finally set alight and burned slowly. Later the charcoal was selected and taken to towns or to Palma to be sold.
The abundance of chalky stone also made it possible to produce significant amounts of lime, used in construction, supplied to people with a recognized calcium deficiency and also used to insulate houses and to disinfect cisterns. Another important resource was the snow which, in bygone times, was a product with both medicinal and gastronomic properties. Snow was collected and stored in snow houses (cases de neu), which were actually holes dug in the ground with dry stone walls and a paved floor.
One of the landscapes most typical of the mountains is that of the horizontal terraces painstakingly cut into the mountainside to gain land for cultivation and which also help to retain the rainwater. These terraces, delineated by dry stone walls, were usually used to plant olive, almond and carob trees.
Nowadays the cultivated areas are mostly the valleys which are occupied by irrigated lands of Sóller, inundated with citrus trees, Pollença and the terraces of Banyalbufar, Estellencs and Deià. The crops most typically found on the dry un-irrigated lands continue to be the olive trees, at times combined with cereals and carob trees. The olive oil produced from the fruit of these olive trees is sweet and of an excellent quality.
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