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Discovering the Olive Oil Route of the Monte Pisano in Tuscany

About the Route

 Italy is renowned for its olive oil, and within a short distance from Casa Colomba is the Strada dell’Olio Monte Pisani, or the Olive Oil Route of the Monte Pisano. 

From the small town of Buti (of Roman origin) on the eastern slopes of the Monte Pisano, the olive oil route descends through a varied landscape of pine-covered hills, chestnut woods, and silvery olive groves down to the Medieval town of Vicopisano.

The olive oil route descends for the small route of Buti 

Medieval Vicopisano with Brunelleschi’s fortress

The route then snakes through to the district of Calci known as the gracious valley (notable for its Carthusian monastery – the Certosa di Pisa) then onto the spa town of San Giuliano Terme and finally ending in the district of Vecchiano close to the Tyrrhenian sea.

The baroque Carthusian monastery of Pisa – the Certosa di Pisa

The small Spa town of San Giuliano Terme

The entire route of the Strada dell’Olio Monte Pisani is the perfect territory for hikers, mountain bikers and foragers, with dedicated hiking routes passing through a varied landscape of olive groves, pine woods and poppy-covered hills in springtime. Some of the olive trees are hundreds of years old and many have been planted on ancient terraces made by century old dry-stone walls. 

The hiking trails are well marked 

A favourite itinerary for Mountain bikers 

Amongst the olive trees and pine forests, there is wild thyme, asparagus, garlic, and greens waiting to be foraged as well as figs which are abundant in the autumn. There are lots of incredible experiences along the route for both locals and tourists, including beautiful Medieval architecture and fortifications, local artisan crafts and (depending on the time of year) vibrant and colourful festivals, and, of course, the incredible extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) that is produced in the region. However, while all areas in Tuscany produce olive oil what makes this unique is the route itself. 

Springtime poppies in the meadows which surround the Monte

The Tower of Caprona on the hiking trail

Want to find out more about the Strada dell’Olio Monte Pisani? Visit this great website!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Production

The production of extra virgin olive oil has been practised in the region for centuries and still follows traditional and organic methods which have been passed down through the generations. The olive harvest and pressing start at the beginning of October, running through to December and all of the olives are picked by hand. The timing of this is important – nets are laid out beneath the trees and the olives are gently harvested just before the olives ripen from green to black, creating the best quality extra virgin olive oil.

At harvest time nets are laid beneath the olive trees

Collecting the olives in the nets

While there are olive farmers who produce olive oil for commercial purposes, it may be surprising to know that there are plenty of ordinary local people who have olive trees which provide them with olive oil for the entire year. During a walk along the trails of the Monte Pisano at harvest time, it is likely that you will see entire groups of families and friends harvesting their olives from dawn to dusk – a celebratory moment of coming together at a time when the region is usually blessed with good weather.

Locals bring their olive to the olive mill to be pressed 

Once the olives have been harvested, olive producers take their olives to be pressed at a mill, known as a Frantoio. There are three olive mills within the Monte Pisano district: two are run by cooperatives but the one in Vicopisano is private and has state of the art equipment.

The organic Il Frantoio di Vicopisano owns 3,000 olive trees and hand-pick their olives when they have reached optimum ripeness, ensuring that they don’t come into contact with the ground and the olives are pressed in the oil mill within just a few hours of being harvested.

Once upon a time! How the olive used to be pressed

It may be interesting to know that organically produced extra virgin olive oil, where the olives are harvested by hand is often much more expensive due to the amount of manpower that is put into the production. In addition, organic olive oil producers are at the mercy of weather conditions and it could happen that an unusual frost, too much rain or the dreaded olive fly could wipe out a whole crop. 

The process that the olives go through to create extra virgin olive oil involves a “cold-pressing” method, in which the olives are ground into a paste and “pressed” to extract the oil. The Ancient Tuscan Oil Press of “Rio Grifone” (named after the stream running next to it) in Vicopisano has multiple stages in which it produces the very best extra virgin olive oil. [1] 

As explained on their website:

“…a series of defoliation, washing, grinder and/or crusher, malaxation, three phases decanter, centrifuge, acidity, peroxide and polyphenol analysis, storage in a stainless steel container at a stable temperature under 18°C and bottling.”

Today modern pressing equipment ensures the highest quality extra virgin olive oi

The more the olives are processed, the more flavour and nutrients are stripped away. As the extra virgin olive oil at Vicopisano has undergone the least processing, it is more authentic, flavourful, healthier and has a higher nutritional value which means that it is a superior product compared to mass-produced supermarket oils. 

The end product is a beautiful green-gold oil, in which the taste changes over time. When first tasted immediately after pressing, the extra virgin olive oil has been described as ‘lively’ but softens and mellows the longer it is left.

Gold green extra virgin olive oil straight off the press 

In addition to olive oil production, the farm also produces unique flavoured oils made by pressing fresh raw ingredients with the olives, a unique process only available to those producers who have their own olive mill. These unique oils are perfect natural condiments for salad, fish, meat, pasta dishes, and more. Rosemary, basil, garlic, and chilli oil are prepared with organic produce grown on the farm and the lemon oil is produced with the best lemons from Sicily.

Olive Oil Experiences for You

At Casa Colomba, we love helping the local olive farmers harvest their produce and we offer a unique opportunity for our guests to visit the olive groves and small vineyard which is just a ten-minute walk from Vicopisano’s village centre. Visitors can meet the local olive farmers, see how the olives are pressed at the mill, and learn how to taste the olive oil just like a professional olive oil taster. Find out more about our Extra Virgin Olive Oil Experience here.

The blue glass is for tasting the olive oil like a professional

 Learning olive oil tasting techniques 

Want to have an authentic taste of Tuscany in your very own home? We are delighted to be collaborating with the local olive farm in Vicopisano to bring their Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a selection of their other special olive oils directly to you.

If you would like to know more about how you can purchase Vicopisano olive oil and have it shipped to your home contact us via our contact page!