Ask Flosca Blog Post: il Corbezzolo
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Il Corbezzolo: Eternal Symbol of Italy

Let’s talk about the strawberry tree, or arbutus unedo, in Italian il corbezzolo, and its importance in Italian culture. This photo was taken during a walk with Frankie, our Sicilian rescue pup, in the woods just outside of Florence.

It’s a place of wonder and the strawberry trees growing wildly are visually striking, their berries all at once fragrant and bitter. Did you know that the corbezzolo is Italy’s national tree and a representation of the country because when in full bloom its colors evoke the Italian flag?  

During the Risorgimento, Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli wrote an ode to it and thus sealed the deal in making it an eternal symbol of Italian unification and nationhood.  

Here are a few lines of the famous poem: 

O verde albero italico, il tuo maggio
è nella bruma: s’anche tutto muora,
tu il giovanile gonfalon selvaggio
spieghi alla bora

Oh, green Italian tree, your May month
is in the mist: if everything die,
you, the youthful wild banner
unfold to the northern wind

Giovanni Pascoli

Although I’ve been enamored of the tree and its fruit for years, I still remember the first time I saw it. I was in southern Tuscany, more specifically at the Parco della Maremma. This is one of my favorite places in Italy, a take-your-breath-away national park, wildlife preserve, and so much more, a spot where land meets sea, in the thick of a deep, cool forest.

After that first encounter, I sought it out and was overjoyed when I found it on subsequent trips to Sardinia (the main producer of corbezzolo honey), Elba, and the Etruscan Coast, as well as on my jaunts with Frankie in our nearby woods and I’ve grown to enjoy the fruits of its fruit. 

Its berries are a common ingredient in honey, jams, liqueurs, herbal remedies, and cosmetics. Full of antioxidants and healing properties, the berries also have a unique flavor which lends itself to a variety of uses.

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