While summer is the most popular time to visit Tuscany, many travellers will agree that Autumn is one of the most exciting and unforgettable moments in the year. Harvest season is in full swing which means new wine and olive oil tasting, and the hunt for winter white truffles begins.
Tuscany is considered the leading producer of extra-virgin olive oil in the world. This region in Central Italy is blessed with luscious olive groves and rolling vineyards, growing several types of olives, including the four main varieties: Frantoio, Moraiolio, Leccino and Pendolino. You’ll often hear Tuscans refer to extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) as oro verde (“green gold”). Unlike regular olive oil, extra-virgin is pressed without heat and chemicals, making it the most expensive and desirable oil in the world. From the culture and tradition rooted in the extra-virgin olive oil harvest to the experience of pressing olives at the mill, discover the art and skill behind the production of Tuscany's green gold.
Our short guide to the olive oil harvest in Tuscany
Tapping the green gold
In Tuscany, the extra-virgin olive oil harvest traditionally begins at the start of September and concludes mid-November. This is the best time of year for la raccolta (“the harvest”), as olives showcase the perfect ripeness desired by producers to deliver a harmonious blend of pungent fruitiness and earthy olive oil.
While the art of harvesting olives is enjoyed and embraced by all Tuscans, the process is also very exhausting. Despite that modern development has introduced man-made machines to facilitate the process, most of the intricate work of the harvest is done by hand.
A hand-held olive harvester helps to speed up the removal of olives from the trees, leaving them to fall on big rolls of net tightly wrapped around the tree trunks. Olives are gathered in the nets and the process of removing leaves and branches begins. This important step is performed by hand to guarantee precision, as twigs and leaves might influence the flavour, composition and colour of the oil during the pressing.
While the atmosphere at the oil mill is as unique and festive as picking the olives, nothing quite compares to the love, sweat and effort put into working the groves. Families and friends work long days together to harvest Tuscany’s substantial olive groves, honouring a regional tradition passed down through generations to come.
Producing the green gold
The scale of extra-virgin olive oil production goes beyond a singular row of trees. La raccolta leads to the distribution of one of the world’s most popular cooking ingredients, with olive oil even gaining a valuable reputation in cosmetics and skincare.
Unlike wine, another defining Tuscan gem, extra-virgin olive oil comes directly from the tree. Freshness and authenticity are rich in Tuscan EVOO, reminding you of its natural sourcing with every taste. The adoration for oro verde (“green gold”) is so profound in Tuscany that extra-virgin olive oil tastings can occur as frequently as wine tastings.
If you want to learn more about the production of extra-virgin olive oil, have our Concierge Team organise a tour of the best olive oil mills in Tuscany — all are within easy range of our vacation rentals and luxury villas in Tuscany.