Continuing on our Tuscany excursion with Accidental Tourist ….

When you drive up to the estate, the main house/building/chapel is on the left, and straight ahead (on the left and right) are various barns and other buildings for the oil/wine making.

We started with the olive oil.

The taste/quality of olive oil totally depends on where it is made (where the olives are grown). Factors in the earth and the amount of sun can change the taste ever so slightly.

This estate has olives growing all the way up to the driveway….

On the estate is this big open work area. The open windows on the right face olive groves and hills of Tuscany. The red crates are for moving the olives. And 2 photos down is the scale for weighing the olives.

italy-3  081

italy-3  082

Because this estate has been making olive oil for generations and generations, many of the local people have been involved in the process for just as long.

The image below are parachute-type pieces of fabric that are laid down under the olive trees to help catch the olives that are picked.

Each of the olive pickers (again, usually locals/neighbors/etc) comes to help gather (and this is usually done as quickly as possible), mark their name on their full crates and get credit for the weight that they picked.

The pickers are helping bring in the olives for a share of the oil that is made. Steve says that many of these families rely on their share of this oil for their supply for the year, which is why local families have been working here year after year after year.

italy-3  083

From the top, ground-level, olives are poured into some kind of chute down to more rooms below. As we walked down to see, we passed this catalog of wine. According to Steve, this is not really wine for drinking, but more of a collection of the wine that they have made over the years.

italy-3  084

italy-3  085

All of us listening to Steve explain the next step – separating dirt/leaves/sticks from the olives:

italy-3  086

italy-3  087

Another level down … I don’t remember what this machine is called, but I think it has to do with working the olive paste so the oil to coalesce.

In this same room was the press, to press all the oil out of the paste. (also in the same room were some of the older machines/technology that are no longer used)

According to Steve, it is possible to put the olive paste through several pressings (up to 7 I think), though of course the first pressing is always the highest quality.

This company (Grignani) ONLY ever does one pressing of the olive oil paste. Then, I think, they sell the remaining paste to other companies who make the low quality stuff. You know, the stuff that’s probably on the shelves here in America.

italy-3  088

italy-3  089

Last room for the olive oil – After everything, the oil is stored in these big (clay, I think) jugs, until it is ready to be bottled. Each one is branded with the family crest, and some are even signed and dated (literally 200+ years old in some cases). Each jug has a little stopper and draining hole at the bottom (kind of like ice chests).

You can see how big they are in the image below of Angela.

italy-3  090

italy-3  091

italy-3  092

Again, I wish I had a video/audio recorder so I could have remembered all the details. But, I did find this link about making olive oil, if you want to try it yourself.

Another thing we learned is you really shouldn’t try to eat olives off the tree. They are just way too bitter. But Steve did teach us that you can squeeze out a bit of olive oil/paste and use it like hand lotion. See the gallery below. I think almost everyone tried it … and smelled so good afterwards.

One final note, because the amount of olive oil made is limited by the size of the grove, and the olive-pickers get a share of the oil made, and the company only does one pressing of the olive oil paste – this olive oil is pretty much not available outside of this neighborhood in Tuscany. Any oil that is not claimed by the workers is sold to local restaurants/businesses.

Lucky for us, Accidental Tourist is a local business.

More on that later.

Have you all ever squeezed olive paste onto your hands?

p.s. I didn’t get a photo of it, but we saw a cat lazing around in the sun up on the first/ground level. Devo told me that when he and Angela were here 2 years ago, they saw a kitten playing in the parachutes in the same part of the estate. How fun if it was the same cat!

Leave a Comment

  • Julie December 11, 2009, 9:24 am

    So interesting.

  • Jessica December 11, 2009, 6:31 pm

    Fun. These are the type of tours I like to go on!

  • MrCheapFlights December 19, 2009, 7:36 am

    Great post. I like it that you’ve covered some ground other than the usual Florence tourist attractions, and I love the photos. I’ve added this to our list of top Florence blog postings.

  • Nancy December 20, 2009, 8:48 pm

    Sounds like an amazing tour! There’s an olive grove/mill just outside of Phoenix that I’ve been wanting to go to, but haven’t had the chance. I bought the “Queen Creek Olive Mill” Meyer Lemon infused olive oil and it’s delicious on chicken, fish or grilled veggies.

    Maybe we should go sometime when you’re here so you can compare notes to see if it’s similar to what you saw in Italy.

{ 4 comments… add one }