Olive harvest experiences in Italy

Italy is renowned to have one of the best olive oils in the world. And as an Italian myself, I can’t disagree! But there’s quite a lot of work that goes into making the perfect extra virgin olive oil. And you get to experience some of that hard work when you do the olive harvest. Among the most unforgettable experiences one can have in Italy, harvesting olives is at the top of the list.

I’ve recently experienced my first olive harvest ever in October. It was in Castiglione in Teverina, a few hours from Rome. Culture Discovery invited me, I had a blast and won’t definitely miss it next year! So let’s get into the technicalities, shall we?

The olive harvest in Italy

The olive harvest in Italy

The olive harvest in Italy

The olive harvest starts with picking olives. You head out to the fields and you spread out huge nets below the trees, which will be used to gather the olives when they fall. You’re given gloves and a rake, and one branch at a time, you rake down the olives by hand. It’s super important that you don’t step on the olives!

After you’ve raked down the olives, the nets are gathered, olives collected and placed in baskets which are taken to the olive mill. It’s super important that the olives are pressed on the same day they’re picked to ensure a high quality olive oil. Once the olives are at the mill, they get separated from the leaves and dirt and cleaned.

The olive harvest in Italy

The olive harvest in Italy

The olives are then placed in a tank, where they get sucked up and then grounded. The result is a homogenous paste which is stirred for a while. The paste is then put into a “cold press “which compresses the olive paste–this is a key step because the the solid part is divided from the liquid part. The liquid part is then sent into a vertical centrifuge that separates the olive oil from the water, and voilà, what’s left is olive oil!

But not all olive oil is the same! What’s the difference between extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil and olive oil? The classification depends on the acidity parameter of the olive oil, which is tested in a lab. For extra virgin olive oil, the acidity must be lower than or equal to 0.8, for virgin olive oil it’s between 0.8 and 2, while for regular olive oil it should be more than or equal to 2. The less acidic the olive oil, the better the olive oil. Why? Because the acidity checks the amount of saturated fat, less saturated fat means higher quality olive oil.

Olive oil harvest in Italy

So the question is: how do you obtain the low acidity needed to produce extra virgin olive oil? There are three steps you should follow.

  1. Pick the olives in autumn. We don’t harvest olives in autumn just for the pretty colors! Olives are greener during the fall, while in wintertime they become black and the acidity levels increase. And you know what that means–high acidity levels equals lower quality olive oil.
  2. You should press the olives on the same day they are picked. The maximum amount of time you should wait to press the olives is 48 hours since you’ve harvested them. That’s because after 48 hours, the olives start becoming moldy and become more acidic.
  3. Cold press the olive paste! When you press the olive paste it must be cold. If the paste is hot, the acidity increases when they get pressed.

So there you have it, if you want to produce top quality extra virgin olive oil, follow these steps.

I know… easier said than done!

Olive Oil Tasting Tours in Italy

If you’re an olive oil enthusiast or just curious about the golden nectar that graces Italian tables, you’re in for a treat with olive oil tasting tours across Italy. Imagine tasting different types of olive oils, uncovering the secrets behind their production, and getting schooled on what makes each one uniquely delicious. These tours aren’t just about tasting; they’re a deep dive into the world of Italian olive oil, where every drop tells a story of tradition, terroir, and passion.

Olive Oil Tour Puglia

In Puglia, known as Italy’s olive oil heartland, you can immerse yourself in the world of olive oil with various tours across the region, from the picturesque white city of Ostuni to the charming trulli of Alberobello. Each place offers a unique insight into Puglia’s ancient olive groves and the robust, fruity flavors of its olive oils. Notably, tours in Barletta and Cisternino reveal the diverse profiles of Apulian olive oils, ranging from strong and pungent to harmoniously aromatic, while Villa Castelli showcases the depth and variety of flavors that Puglia has to offer.

Olive Oil Tasting Tuscany

Tuscany, a region synonymous with picturesque landscapes and culinary excellence, offers a variety of olive oil tasting experiences that are as rich and diverse as the region itself. In the heart of Tuscany, Firenze provides a gateway to exploring the nuanced flavors of Tuscan olive oil, known for its grassy notes and peppery finish. Moving into the countryside, the tours in Capannori and Lucca present an opportunity to delve into the traditional methods of olive oil production set against the backdrop of stunning Tuscan scenery. Further enriched by the historical charm of San Gimignano, these tastings not only allow you to savor the exquisite flavors of Tuscan olive oils but also to appreciate the deep-rooted traditions that go into making them.

Olive Oil Tour Sicily

Sicily, with its varied landscape, produces olive oils that range from sweet and delicate to intense and spicy. The island’s rich history and diverse terroir are reflected in the unique characteristics of its olive oils. Experiences in Baleastre, Partinico, Castelbuono, Agrigento and Trapani take you on a journey through Sicily’s olive oil flavors, from bold and fruity coastal oils to complex and herb-infused varieties from the inland regions.

Olive Oil Tasting Sardinia

Sardinia’s rugged terrain and coastal breezes contribute to producing olive oils that are bold and peppery, often with notes of artichoke and almond. In Oristano and Alghero, you’ll discover olive oils that perfectly represent Sardinia’s intense and diverse olive oil profile, from robust and flavor-packed oils to those balancing fruity and spicy nuances.

Author

I'm the daughter of an Italian family of diplomats, the second of three children, and a global citizen. I've lived in 7 cities around the world, I have a gigantic crush on Italy and my name has been mispronounced more times than I can remember.

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