Olive oil and Autumn in Tuscany

It’s Autumn in Italy and Autumn is the time of the Tuscan olive harvest.

Some of the best olive oil in Tuscany comes from the Castello di Cafaggio in the hill top village of Impruneta.

La Raccolta (the harvest), is still done throughout Italy, more or less as it has been for thousands of years. It happens in the autumn, but is usually a bit earlier in Tuscany than in other regions. The cool frosts in the valleys can mean that the olives are ready anywhere from early October onwards.

Olives and vines first came to Italy from Greece with the Greek colonisers who brought grafted trees to Sicily. In Australia olive oil was not always for eating. When I was a child you bought it in small bottles from the Chemist, for rubbing on the skin. Not to be ingested. Greek athletes used it, perfumed, to oil their sculpted, naked bodies for The Games. The Olive branch is a symbol of peace and was of course carried by the dove back to Noah’s Ark to show that the flood was over. To the Greeks the dove was the bird of the goddess Athene and symbolised the renewal of life.

The Olive too was a plant of Athene, a gift to her people, to sustain life. The olive wreath was the highest symbol of rank a citizen in ancient Greece could earn. Ironic that both the United States in their Great Seal of the USA and the League of the United Arab States in their flag, use the symbol of peace—an olive wreath. Lawrence Durrell said of olives that they had a mythical taste, ‘a taste older than meat, older than wine, as old as cold water.’