One of the things I love about our food tours to Italy, is how much I learn each time I go.  

While we were in Chianti these past few weeks, we saw the region getting ready for the olive harvest which was to start in a few weeks time.

The olives were already starting to turn from their milky lime colour to rich a purple-black and the hills were covered in olive groves as far as the eye could see.   In Castello di Volpaia, where we stay, the olives are still pressed using the traditional method; crushing the olives to a paste beneath a massive granite millstone, kneaded and pressed to separate the liquid from the ‘sansa’ (pulp waste) and finally the last stage, centrifuging, to separate the water from the oil.  It is remarkable to imagine the intensive labour required to make this staple ingredient, but it adds a certain sentimentality too, that the millstone hasn’t been bettered by machinery, and the crushing is still best done in the time old manner.



Olive press frantoio - a highlight of our Taste Cook Travel tour to ItalyThe frantoio, (olive press) at Volpaia not only produces their own oil, but is also the press used by all the local farmers.  You can imagine the anxiety this causes, among farmers who don’t want their fruit mixing in with their neighbour’s – some have been arch rivals for centuries – and each believing their crop to be superior!  But all that anxiety disappears as their green gold elixir emerges – liquid gold.