Have you ever though of picking olives in Italy as a fun activity to do while on holiday? Until a few months ago, I hadn’t, but then I met a lovely woman from Umbria who made me change my mind!
Picking olives in Italy, where and when
- Trip length: 4 days
- Next available dates: from 5th to 19th November 2015
- Where: near Perugia, Umbria, Italy
- Activities: Culinary, cultural exploration, olive harvest
Olive oil seems to be at the height of its fame lately. Even here in Ireland, far from the sunny lands of the olive trees, restaurants are proud to list ‘extra virgin olive oil’ as a star ingredient in their starters, specialty shops stock it and even supermarkets sport shelves full of shiny oil bottles, flaunting their made in Italy (or sometimes Spain) labels.
I used to be baffled by it. Growing up in Italy, I never devoted a lot of thinking to olive oil: I would pour it on my bread to make PANE, OLIO E SALE (brad with oil and salt) to bring to school as a snack, but I never thought of it of a luxury good or a ‘super food’ as now it is often called.
But then one evening I got invited to an olive oil tasting, here in Dublin, and discovered the world of oil has a lot in common with the world of wine and you can really become an expert of this product.
If you like Italian food you probably have already figured out the oil you like the most and you might even be an expert in terms such as extra virgin and first cold press.
But if you wanted to learn even more about it and get stuck into the process of getting the fruits from the trees and turn them into the lovely condiment on our table, what you might want to consider is an olive picking break in Umbria.
This olive picking experience in beautiful Umbria takes place every year uniquely during the olive harvest season. This year it is available on the following dates: 5 -9 November 2015
Picking olives in Italy, why
Olive harvesting is a traditional activity in Italy and one that it is still of great importance to the Italian economy. Olive trees grow well in Italy and since Etruscan times the area of central Italy around Tuscany and Umbria has been an active producer of high quality extra virgin olive oil.
So if you are looking for a holiday that will really put you in touch with the local traditions and bring you away form the usual tourists traps, Umbria is the place to be!
The holiday is hosted by the lovely agriturismo ‘La volpe e l’uva’, which is a lovely country homes nested on a luscious hill just outside the historical city of Perugia, in Umbria. You can read about my cooking morning there in this post
The olive picking holiday is for anybody interested in learning about Italian food and has a special focus on, of course the production of olive oil.
No special level of fitness is required to take part in the harvest, but this is a hands on experience so be ready for some physical labour in the groves!
Picking olives in Italy: day by day programme
Day 1 – Arrival at the agriturismo
Day 2 – Olive harvest
After breakfast, the day starts with a tour of the countryside surrounding the agriturismo, during which you will get to know the different species of olive tress growing in the area. Then, along with the rest of the group, you will start the actual harvest: the olive picking is done by hand and through mechanical means which is the best way to ensure olives do not get damaged in the process.
The work is carried out in small teams and is always supervised so that you can work quickly and safely. Olive picking begins with the careful spreading of nets under the trees in order to collect the crop, then the combing or the knocking down of the olives begins: you will be surprised how satisfying this process is!
Olive picking often involves climbing a ladder in order to reach the higher branches. If you don’t fancy this don’t worry: there are plenty of opportunities to work from the ground and no shortage of willing volunteers to scale the heights! Olive trees are very obliging and there are plenty of branches to hang onto while you work.
After the harvest you will head back to the main house and have a cooking lesson: during the cooking class you will prepare a 4 course dinner that you will then of course polish off with your classmates along with local wines courtesy of your host, Raffaella. This is usually a fun evening: one of the things I love the most about cooking classes in their bonding effect between the participants, made even stronger by the hard work in the groves!
Day 3 – Cooking + Tour in the Mill in Trevi
This third day starts with a cooking class, followed by lunch in the farmhouse.
In the afternoon, you will take off your aprons and visit Trevi and its Frantoio Gaudenzi (Frantoio is the Italian for press), to witness the last step in the production of oil. Situated in central-west Umbria between Foligno and Spoleto, Trevi rises from the slopes of Mount Serano, which are carpeted in olive tree plantations overlooking the Spoleto Valley.
Churches, towers and palaces give a noble silhouette to the town and are the reason why Trevi has become part of the club The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy. Thanks to the good quality of olive oil locally produced, Trevi is also known as the capital of olive oil.
Day 4 – Cooking + Ceramic and wine Tour
Again, a cooking morning followed by a delicious lunch. In the afternoon, you will visit two more companies that are at the heart of the local traditional economy: the ceramics laboratory of Deruta, with its wonderful hand made majolicas and a local winery, producing D.O.C. Colli Perugini and IGT dell’Umbria white, red and rosè wines
- Day 5- Departure
Now that you are familiar with the whole process of olive oil making and have a wealth of Umbrian recipes under your belt, your can go home and impress your friends (I have learned to make the most amazing chocolate and pear cake and I can promise you: it goes down a treat!), or of course you can stay longer and just enjoy Umbria. Raffaella has lovely apartments and they are available for rent all year round.
What is the accommodation like, where will I stay?
Accommodation in a lovely apartment of the Farmhouse La volpe e l’uva near Perugia.
Have you ever picked olives or have you been to La volpe e l’uva? If so, I’d love to hear your impressions and stories!
Please note: I haven’t taken part in this specific holiday offered by La volpe e l’uva but I participated in the great cooking classes held at her agriturismo and am confident this holiday would carried out with the same high level of friendliness and professionalism, which is why I decided to write about it. If, like me, you want to know more and make a booking, I will be happy to put you in touch with Raffaella directly or to help organise your stay. I did not receive payment or sponsorship for this post and all opinions are, as always, my own.