If you love Italian food, you probably know that extra virgin olive oil is one of the main ingredients of Italian cuisine and for us Italians oil is a cult, just like wine.
That’s why we suggest not to miss an olive oil experience when you’re traveling to Italy.
Ligurian olive oil and the Taggiasca olive
In Italy, you will find different varieties of extra virgin olive oil depending on the region where it is produced and on the blend of olives they use.
In the southern regions, you will find an oil with a more intense flavor while, climbing up the boot, the oil will become more delicate.
Here in Liguria, we produce one of the finest oils obtained from the Taggiasca olive, dark and small olives but pulpy and with a fruity flavor.
The olive trees are resistant, tend to be thin and tall, cultivated on the slopes of the high hills overlooking the sea on the typical terraced land creating a truly unique landscape.
The silver foliage of the olive trees characterize the entire Ligurian landscape but the most famous area for the production of oil is the western part of Liguria, in particular the area of Imperia, between Genoa and the French border.
Here, just following one of the valleys that climb from the coast towards the mountains you will find small villages immersed in the olive groves.
Here time seems to have stopped and it is possible to discover “the secret Liguria”.
If, like us, you love slow, sustainable and off-the-beaten-track tourism, what’s better than meeting a small local producer and spending a day among the olive grove, the oil mill, and typical recipes, based on oil, of course, handed down by generations?
So follow us on our olive harvesting day.
Olive harvesting in Liguria
Driving for a few kilometers towards the hinterland of Imperia, we will immediately find ourselves immersed in a bucolic landscape made up of immense olive groves and small villages perched on the top of the hills.
It is in one of these villages that Cristina and Adriano await us.
They are part of a family that has been producing oil for generations.
From the olive grove to the bottle, it is all a family business in which everyone is committed with the utmost passion to produce one of the best extra virgin olive oils in Liguria.
Cristina and grandmother Silvana welcome us smiling and immediately offer us a good cup of coffee and a slice of tart in their cozy home right at the entrance to the village.
Here we are ready to start our “working” day.
In a few steps, we reach the olive grove to start harvesting.
This is a very delicate phase because the trees must be treated with care in order not to damage them and the olives must be kept as intact as possible to avoid fermentation processes.
That’s why first of all we stretch the nets on which the olives will fall.
There are many ways to harvest olives.
We use the more traditional one, with a long wooden cane we shake the leaves of the plants trying not to beat the branches.
The olives fall easily but it certainly is good gymnastics!
To tell the truth, we also have a more modern tool available, a sort of vibrating comb but we like the old-fashioned method better.
You have to see the grandfather’s skill…
Meanwhile, Adriano tells us about the cultivation of the olive tree and how he has now even learned to communicate with trees.
For example, he can forecast the weather just by looking at the appearance of the olives.
The trees are slow but they can feel what is going to happen before us and they get ready well in advance… fascinating isn’t it?
But lunchtime is approaching …
We carefully wrap the nets and fill the panniers with olives to take to the mill. But first, a delicious lunch prepared by grandmother Silvana awaits us.
Lunch with traditional Ligurian recipes
Our lunch is a discovery of the most typical recipes of these country valleys.
Simple and healthy recipes based on aromatic herbs and vegetables.
Let’s start with the delicious fried sage, and then taste the “pan fritu”, a simple “homemade” bread-fried dough wrapped in a soft slice of bacon.
Then, here are the “tagliatelle” mixed with aromatic herbs and seasoned only with oil, simple but so tasty!
Then the Badalucco beans, a local variety protected by Slow Food movement; a real treat seasoned with a drizzle of oil!
Finally, the handmade cookies mixed with lavender, another typical product of these valleys.
An important note: the table is completely plastic-free. Well done!
Discovering the oil mill
After lunch, the oil mill awaits us.
First comes the selection of olives. You have to know that the Taggiasca olive is very precious and the best ones are put in brine, a simple mixture of water and salt that is used to eliminate the olives’ bitterness.
There’s such a high demand for Taggiasca olives in brine that for local producers they represent a source of income even higher than oil.
This is one of the reasons why the production of Ligurian oil is limited: many olives are not pressed.
But here we are ready to witness the magic of the oil mill!
Everything needs to be done quickly so that the olives don’t start oxidizing.
This is the kingdom of Adriano who explains each step of the process with great passion.
Everything has to be done at a cold temperature.
The pressing processes mustn’t heat the olives’ pulp in order not to lose the organoleptic and nutritional properties of the oil.
This is why it is so fragrant. It is a scent that remembers freshly cut grass with a touch of spiciness…. unforgettable.
Eventually, the magic is done and the oil, the golden elixir of Liguria, begins to flow.
Cristina is ready to fill a bottle of freshly squeezed oil that she gives us as a gift and that will help us to remember for days the flavor of this authentic and wonderful experience.
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