Italy is a land of contrasts and culinary wonders and one of its most precious gems is extra virgin olive oil. Not just a delicious condiment, but also a gateway to a unique tourist experience. Over time, olive harvesting in Italy has turned into an authentic, healthy, and virtuous form of tourism, opening doors to food lovers from all over the world. The advantage of this practice is being able to experience nature to the full, going directly to the source of an element that is as precious as it is delicate.
An ancient tradition that delights the world
Olive harvesting in Italy is not just an agricultural task, it is a centuries-old tradition that captures the imagination of anyone witnessing it. During the autumn season, thousands of olive groves across the peninsula are animated with farmers and volunteers ready to harvest the golden fruit. This is the time when everyone can immerse themselves – as workers, onlookers, or mere spectators – in Italian culture and take an active part in the olive harvest.
Discovering olive terroirs
The range of soils and climates is vast, and this reflects in the diversity of olives and their oils. Along the Amalfi coast in Campania, for example, olives grown on panoramic cultivation terraces produce delicate and fruity oils, perfect for fish-based dishes.
A delicacy that is also in Ligurian oils from olives of the Taggiasca variety, with notes of pine nuts and dried fruit.
In contrast, in Tuscany and neighbouring regions, olive trees grow on steep hills, creating a more robust oil, ideal for meat dishes.
Moving southwards, the oils become gradually more robust, with an intense fruity flavour and slightly spicy, herbaceous hints. This geographical variety offers visitors the unique opportunity to discover and taste oils from all over the country.
A ritual to be experienced first-hand
In Italy, many farms and agritourism facilities open their doors to guests eager to experience the olive harvest. These facilities not only offer an opportunity to be actively involved in the harvest, but also the chance to stay in an authentic environment and to taste the local cuisine, prepared with fresh ingredients, including freshly extracted olive oil that can then be bought and taken home as a year-round supply.
The dedicated portal turismodellolio.com provides a series of recommendations and proposals for E.V.O. oil-related experiences throughout Italy. These range from the olive harvest process with the farmers themselves, to bike tours through the olive groves, tasting courses and tours of the oil mills.
Noteworthy among these initiatives are:
- the annual Frantoi Aperti event, which takes place every year in Umbria between October and November;
- the Camminata tra gli Olivi, which involves more than one hundred locations in Italy, in all regions, from north to south;
- the cittadellolio.it portal, of the National Association that brings together municipalities, provinces, chambers of commerce, local action groups and parks in Italy connected to the production of extra virgin olive oil: all themed events, fairs and related initiatives are available on the website.
The link between olive harvest and Italian gastronomy
The olive harvest in Italy is not only an agricultural experience, but also a cooking lesson and a full immersion in the country’s gastronomic culture. Participants learn not only how to harvest olives, but also how to use extra virgin olive oil to make traditional dishes. From pasta dishes to side dishes and desserts, olive oil is a constant in Italian cuisine and visitors can take not only a bottle of fresh oil home with them, but also the know-how to use it to best effect.
With good extra virgin olive oil, you can give any dish a special edge. Here are some simple recipes, chosen from our best picks, to enjoy high-quality oil: