After our rental car broke down, we had to go to Florence to pick up another car. Our landlord connected us with a driver who was born and raised in Montepulciano. The driver entertained and educated us for the entire ride to Florence.
He told us about a local crop and and article of family pride — extra virgin olive oil. Some of our photos have olive trees — they’re everywhere. Our driver explained that every family grows olives and takes them to an olive press each year, to produce extra virgin olive oil from their own olives. People might acknowledge that another family’s olive oil is good, but every Italian family knows that their own olive oil is the best.
From the time you pick the olives, you have 48 hours to press the olives before they deteriorate. During the olive harvest season, the town olive press is reserved 24×7 so that every family can press their olives while they’re fresh. As a boy, our driver went to the olive press with his father, to see their olive oil being made.
We were lucky — we were in Montepulciano during olive season. Our driver wrote out the name of Montepulciano’s olive press “Frantoio di Montepulciano” and told us it’s near the bus station. We found the bus station and, with some help, found the frantoio.
Here’s the sign and the building. Our driver said there are four recognized categories of extra virgin olive oil, based on the locale and growing of the olives. Tighter locales and organic are better. The sign talks about some of these categories: Tuscany, Siena, and organic. Vendita diretta means factory outlet.
We walked in and asked if we could see the olive press. A young man gave us a tour. The first step is to wash the olives and separate out any leaves and twigs.
The next step is to cold press the olives. The machine is the olive press. The lady’s left hand is on the pipe where green liquid comes out of the press. There’s a glass window in the pipe where you can see the liquid flowing.
At the end of the process, extra virgin olive oil streams out. Perhaps the apparatus separates out water, leaving pure oil.
Here’s the proud owner with his olive oil.
When a family gets the new batch, they use last year’s oil for cooking and reserve this year’s oil for fresh use, such as salads.
At the end, I extended my right hand to palm a tip to the young man, but he waved it off as he went back upstairs. In an earlier post we talked about the reasons we initially chose to stay in Montepulciano. We’re grateful for the warmth and kindness of the people of Montepulciano, and that makes it so easy for us to return to Montepulciano again and again.