Olive oil is green, and may have, with time, yellow highlights. It tastes of mature green olives, and has an added touch of almond, artichoke and herb flavour, as well as the obvious hint of tart and spice (pizzichino).
In Tuscany, the organized production of olive trees for personal consumption and trade dates back to the second half of the 7th century BC.
In fact, when the relic of the ship the Giglio, 600 BC, was recovered it contained Etruscan vases full of preserved olives.
The olive tree was a sacred plant for the Etruscans, so much so that the priestesses paraded with olive branches during the processions. Bitter olives were “sweetened” with various means, from pickling to bathing the olives in water with dry fennel and lentiscus fruit. Olive oil was exported throughout the Tyrrhenian, like wine.
During Medieval times there was a significant increase in olive-growing in Tuscany, especially in the areas of Florence and Siena, thanks to urban land-owners and the share-cropping system. Even rough lands could, therefore, be terraced and put to good use.
In the first half of the 15th century olives were grown intensely in the area around Lucca, and olive groves could be found in the hills near Pisa. Through the years the Tuscan countryside has become agricultural, covered in olive trees alone, or vines and olive trees.
Vast woodlands were, therefore, turned over to the production of wine and olives, thus favouring the exaltation of the extraordinary Tuscan countryside.
In Mugello the colder, more humid climate has not permitted the extensive growth of olive trees, especially at the bottom of the valleys where the frost damages the plants. However, in the past 15 years, based on statistics, the production of olive oil has been rising constantly and is now present throughout the Mugello territory, and, as tests by the chamber of commerce prove, the quality is first-rate.
There are over 100,00 olive trees for the production of olive oil in Mugello today, as well as numerous plants grown for personal use or by plant lovers, and cannot be classified with those for production.
Compared to other areas in Florence, the production is still limited, but it denotes a capacity to grow in quantity and quality.
The production of olive oil in Mugello comes under the Colline Fiorentine IGP.
Where and how it is produced
Olive oil is produced everywhere in Mugello except in Upper Mugello on slopes that go from 300 – 500 m.a.s.l. The olives, which are hand-picked, are moved within 24 hours to the oil-mill where they are cold pressed mechanically (under 28° C). The oil thus produced is then transported to the aziendas and bottled.