Buying the very best olive oil in Tuscany
Tuscan olive oil, along with unsalted, freshly baked bread, has always been a staple of the Tuscan diet, and is a highly versatile ingredient, used extensively in cooked dishes as well as a condiment with breads and salads. The variety of choice is extra virgin (extra vergine) olive oil, the highest possible quality, which contains a level of fatty acid content below 0.3%.
Regulation of the quality of olive oil can be extremely lax, even in Italy, and so it is important that you know where your olive oil is coming from. In Tuscany, many families either grow their own olives on a patch of ground, or buy directly from a grower. When buying directly from the mill, the oil is sold by weight rather than in litres, with a kilogram of oil equivalent to just over a litre. Almost every wine producer in Tuscany also produces olive oil, so it can also be bought at any place designated on the map as “Vendita Diretta” and “Degustazione”.
Our Tuscany representative, Zaira, buys her annual supply of olive oil from Villa del Ferrale, a mill near Vinci, the hometown of Leonardo da Vinci. Techniques have been handed down here for hundreds of years, with the olives harvested when ripe and then cold pressed. The olive harvest normally takes place in late October and early November, meaning that oils on sale in December and January are at their best. Look out for “olio nuovo”, or new oil, which is olive oil still within three months of harvest, much-loved for its peppery taste. Cold pressing the olives to create olive oil is a technique rarely used anymore, using a mechanical press. Villa del Ferrale also bottle their olive oil in dark green bottles, which prevents any breakdown of the oil caused by light.
If you’re planning on heading to Italy to sample and bring home some locally-made high-quality olive oil, we have a collection of Tuscany holiday villas near Villa del Ferrale perfect for your stay. Casa Nova is a spacious villa which sleeps 8-12 with a fully-equipped kitchen perfect for putting your olive oil to good use, while Villa L’Arco is a grand villa sleeping up to 10, with a wonderful pool and gardens.