Italy, and particularly Tuscany, is famous for its extra virgin olive oil.
Italy, and particularly Tuscany, is famous for its extra virgin olive oil.
The earliest evidence of olive cultivation in the world comes from the Livorno area on Tuscany’s coast.
So important was oil in the past that land would be bequeathed not in terms of metres but in numbers of olive trees.
Olive trees are planted usually on a hillside to allow for good drainage of the soil. The trees were cultivated to grow tall, with one main trunk and the foliage up nice and high so no one could steal the olives. After a bad frost in the early 1980s however, many trees died. The trees that grew in their place were let to grow freely, making them easier to harvest.
Harvest of olives is done around October-November, just when the olives are a perfect mix of just-ripe and nearly-ripe to ensure the right acidity in the ensuing product. To be officially considered extra virgin olive oil, the acidity level must be less than 0.8%, with late harvesting risks having a too-high acidic level.
Top-quality oil is still to this today produced from olives harvest by hand. There are also olive picker devices that are like a mechanical hand with fingers that are placed in between the leaves to then ‘tickle’ the olives off the branches, however this runs the risk of cutting the olive surfaces and causing bacteria to set in before the milling process.
Once the olives are collected from the trees, they are taken to an official mill. Whilst some larger producers will have their own onsite mill, most smaller producers must go to a local oil press.
As the pressing must occur as soon as possible after harvest, during the oil season the mills take appointments all throughout the day and night.
The olives are placed on a grill that is agitated to rid the olives of dirt, grass and the like. They then go through the a first cold pressing. The extracted product is thus “cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil” that is more green in colour and is delicious consumed raw. The remaining pulp may then be pressed again with heat, resulting in just “extra virgin olive oil” that is used for cooking. A further chemical extraction can be done to have just “olive oil”. Most Italians will say this is best used to polish the furniture however!
Extra virgin olive oil is a good fat that can even reduce cholesterol and other heart issues.
Just-pressed extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Once heated, many of these properties are lost, hence why Italians drizzle this oil over soups, cooked vegetables, salads, meats or on toasted bread with a sprinkle of salt (the original “Bruschetta” recipe), rather than cooking the oil with the dish. Pieces of fresh bread and raw in-season vegetables can also be dipped into oil as a tasty and healthy starter dish.
Wine - Art & Galleries - Countryside - Families & Kids - Special Discounted Packages - Cities & History - Food - € 179.00
The original Best of Tuscany tour with a small group-Savour the sights, smells and tastes of the region on this visit to three captivating hilltop towns. Our small-group expeditions, led by fabulous local guides, also offer a delicious lunch and wine tasting at a traditional estate.
Wine - Families & Kids - Eco-Friendly Tours - Food - € 94.00
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Active & Outdoors - Wine - Countryside - Eco-Friendly Tours - € 80.00
Riding out from Florence, experience a fun and fabulous half-day ride through the splendid countryside. Have a light Tuscan snack, a cellar visit and wine tasting at a stunning Renaissance villa, this excursion will exercise your legs and your tastebuds!
Active & Outdoors - Wine - Art & Galleries - Countryside - € 89.00
Enjoy a slice of the good life on this ultimate local experience. Be treated to a wine tasting of a traditional estate’s award-winning wines, as well as a cellar visit and gourmet lunch, before having time to laze beside a private pool with stunning views of hilly countryside.
Wine - Private & Exclusive Tours - Countryside - € 69.00
Immerse yourself in the classic Tuscan countryside for a few hours. Relax poolside at an exclusive private estate with stunning views of the landscape. What’s more, you can also enjoy a traditional lunch with superb local wine!
Wine - Families & Kids - Eco-Friendly Tours - Food - Cooking Classes - € 69.00
Join a hands-on cookery session in the heart of Florence. You'll savour the fruits of your labour as you dine with your fellow students in the convivial atmosphere of like-minded gourmands.
Wine - Exclusive Experiences - Eco-Friendly Tours - Food - Cooking Classes - Artisans & Crafts - € 73.00
Visit Florence's historical central market, learn about the great seasonal produce, then head to the kitchen to cook a delicious three-course lunch!
Wine - Private & Exclusive Tours - Eco-Friendly Tours - from € 129.00
Visit two private estates in the heart of Chianti for an exclusive tasting experience. Relax and enjoy some of the best, and most authentic, sights and tastes of one of Italy's most famous wine counties.
Wine - Art & Galleries - Private & Exclusive Tours - Countryside - from € 200.00
Your own private guide and transport to experience the beauty and authenticity of Italy’s most beloved region-Tuscany. Enjoy a full-day’s exploration of this stunning landscape during a visit that is professionally tailored for you. Take in breathtaking views complete with the tapestry of vineyards and shimmering olive groves. This truly authentic experience will lead you through amazing medieval hilltop towns (Tuscany's most famous) to explore the beautiful frescoes that adorn the walls of many of the local churches. Afterwards, sample some regional wines during lunch at one of the nearby traditional Tuscan estates.
Wine - Private & Exclusive Tours - Families & Kids - Eco-Friendly Tours - Romance - Food - Cooking Classes - from € 110.00
Enjoy preparing classic Italian dishes in the heart of Florence during this easy session. Then, savour the fruits of your labour with a glass of Tuscan wine.
Wine - Families & Kids - Eco-Friendly Tours - Food - Cooking Classes - € 59.00
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Wine - Private & Exclusive Tours - Exclusive Experiences - from € 390.00
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Two of Italy's most loved dishes perfectly paired in one hands-on cooking class in Florence. Learn to make two Italian delicacies: pizza as it was intended to be and homemade gelato.
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