Come visit the province of Umbria in central Italy and enjoy
Every November Italians, at least Umbrians, purchase their olive oil for the next year. Olive oil is best right after they have pressed it, full of fruity and/or peppery flavour. We usually visit several presses for olive oil tastings, so we can buy a variety from all over Umbria.
It’s normal for Italians to buy several qualities of oil. A cheaper one for cooking, the fullest flavour for bruschetta or to pour over salads and pasta, and a good quality for vegetables and meats.
The history of olives and cooking is long. Even the Ancient Romans prized Umbrian olive oil.
Trevi, a small town south of Assisi, has some of the best olive oil. There is a story of an olive tree going back to the 9th century. The bishop, now Saint Emiliano and the patron saint of Trevi, was tied to a young olive tree and beheaded for being a Christian. The tree still stands and is just outside of Trevi in Bovara as a tourist attraction.
uy Umbrian Oil?
Olive oil from Umbria has a low acid content. There are many reasons for this, but the most important is the climate. The olives ripen slowly, resulting in a lower acid content.
Trees, Climate And Soil Are The Key
With their delicious fruit, knotted twisted branches and delicate leaves of silver and sage, olive trees are enticing subjects for photos.
There are many species of olives trees. There are olives only for eating and olives only for oil. In Umbria, they grow three main types of olive trees and all of them are for producing olive oil.
- Moraiolo which has an intense flavour
- Leccino which is mild but prolific
- Frantoio which produces a sweet olive oil
What makes Umbrian olive oil diverse from other areas is its bright green colour from the Moraiolo olive. These olives also give it its intense peppery flavour.
Some of the best olive-groves are on the lower slopes of the Apennine mountains, looking out towards west. Olives do well when facing west as it keeps the temperature down in the hot summers. The trees have a few more hours of morning shade. These extra few hours help to protect the olives from parasites that attack the olive fruit in the early autumn.
When friends and family visit in the autumn we like to take them to see an olive oil mill in action. They’ll give you a little tour of how it works and then you can start the olive oil tasting. It’s a great deal like a wine tasting, they give you a shot glass to sip different oils, and then some toasted bread to go with it.
World Class Olive Oil Is Made
The harvest happens at the end of October and in early November depending on the temperatures that year. Harvesting olives is a long, exhausting and physically demanding job.
The hill faces are steep and to pick the olives you have to climb the trees. To make the job of harvesting even harder, the olives need to arrive at the mill for pressing quickly to preserve their low acidity and their freshness.
The hills and the trees have been working together for thousands of years. The loose and stony soil makes it easy for the trees to put down deep roots and deep roots mean that the hills don’t suffer from erosion.
One thing that has changed is picking the olives when they aren’t fully ripe. Picking them when they start to turn black allows for a stronger fruitier flavour, and again, a lower acidity. Earlier means beginning in the second half of October and finished by November.
What Is Cold Pressed Olive Oil?
Once the olives have been picked, they are transported to the mill for washing and pressing. The best quality oil comes when the olives don’t warm up while being pressed. They monitor the temperature of the olives and the oil. The press should be in a dark cool building to keep any sunlight and heat out.
Living here, if you know someone with olive trees, then you’ve helped pick them. It is a process that has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. Family members and friends come to help pick the olives, getting paid in oil and meals, to reduce the hours of the long back-breaking process and make it a community effort.
5 Towns In Umbria To Visit For Olive Oil Tasting
Bevagna: one of my favorite small towns to visit. It is in a valley and has great wine and oil.
Montefalco: on the hill above Bevagna, it is famous for its red wines and olive oil.
Spoleto: A great city for tasting different varieties of olive oils as there are many family businesses located here.
Torgiano: While trying award winning wines at the vineyard Lungarotti, check out their museum where they explain all about olive trees and olive oil.
Trevi: about halfway from Spoleto to Assisi, Trevi’s olive oil is famous. Their winters are colder than average in Umbria, helping to fight disease and have a low acidity. The majority of the trees are Moraiolo, for a strong flavour and green colour. And remember to visit the oldest tree in Umbria, the olive tree of San Emiliano.
What To Look For When Buying Olive Oil:
The olive oil should be in a dark glass bottle or a tin to stop any contact with sunlight. It is also important that it isn’t to cheap. Many olive oils labelled as Italian are made in part or entirely with olives from N. Africa to cut costs. To be sure that the oil is made with olives grown in the area you’re purchasing from, look for a DOP label. Just like with wine, this government certification ensures that the product for sale is authentic.
Olive oil At H
If you buy olive oil in a metal canister (safer for travelling) once you’ve opened it decant all the oil into glass jars to stop the flavor from changing. I’ve heard it can take on a cucumber like flavour. Then store the oil in a cool dark place.
Olive oil makes a great present to bring home. I always bring olive oil home with me in the metal containers. Just be careful, at least Ryanair will not let you check oil because if the bottle breaks the cleanup is a great deal of work.
Olive trees aren’t just a pleasure in autumn, they are great all year long. In the spring we walk through olive groves looking for wild asparagus. But these spots are favorites for vipers sunning themselves after a cold winter, so be careful. In the summer the ancient trees provide much needed shade. Regardless of the time of year, if you have the pleasure of an olive oil tasting or not, Umbrian olive trees are part of the scenery of your trip.