Posts Tagged ‘frantoio’

We woke up to the news that our friends’ organic Tuscan olive oil won First Prize last night at the local Tuscan competition!

Complimenti, Keith and Helen!

Here’s their website for Boggioli, pictured below–1100 olive trees on a hillside in the Valdarno south of Florence: http://www.boggioli.com/


The judges got it right–the oil we brought back last week is exceptional.


We arrived at Boggioli this year, as last, in a rainstorm that disrupted the olive picking process.

Our usual contribution to the work–gathering the olives into the plastic paniers and pulling out any twigs and small branches that have fallen in–was minimal–limited this year to one afternoon.


The torrential rain had made it impossible for the five-man team of professional pickers to work. This left Keith with a problem: He had booked a visit to the frantoio (oil processing plant) but only had a small quantity of olives waiting to be transported from the previous day’s limited picking.

Olives begin to degrade fast and waiting more than two days might affect the overall quality of this year’s yield. So to make up the quantity a little, Keith, Helen, Meredith and I picked some trees nearest to the house where the ground is flat and relatively dry.


Pas grand choses but it was fun and made more sense of the next morning’s trip to the frantoio.


The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are well known–and Tuscan oils are especially highly prized.
Keith and Helen’s dedication to the cause has been justly rewarded.
We sped home last week with our precious cargo on board–highly prized now in more senses than one!

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Keith is driving the white van loaded with red and yellow crates brimming with the last two days olive harvest.

We’re bunched in beside him–Meredith finishing off her oat flake breakfast as the sun begins to warm the hillside vines and olive groves.

It is 8.30 in the morning, at the start of a long day.

Through the windows of the van as it negotiates the holes in the unmade-up road–the central Tuscan hills come into historic perspective.

What’s that tower up there?

Tuscan hills with the tower in the dip between.

Dates back to 800AD.

The hills are smirking in the shade–they’ve been here a lot longer.

By nine we are at the Frantoio.

By 9:15am the olives have been emptied into the steel shute and are in the system, soon to come out as liquid gold–as we thought.

We wait in the sunny waiting room, reading.

After half-an-hour Keith comes in looking daggers.

There’s a fault in the heating mechanism–they don’t know how long it’ll take.

This is a problem for us–we have to be in Florence by lunchtime.

Meredith spotted a conference being held over the weekend at the New York University Florence campus analyzing the recent American elections.

(She spent six months at Stanford University’s campus in Florence in her student days–so this kind of event resonates.)

I’ll take you back home and check train times.

Keith, keeping his good temper but worried about his olive oil, ferries us back through the sunny hills.

Within an hour we are on a train to Florence.

Soon after we manage a quick lunch (research!) before heading to the event.

Polpo e piselli (octopus and peas)

The conference is being held at the magnificent Villa Pietra up in the hills north of Florence.

(Sir Harold Acton was born and lived there most of his life. It is now the NYU campus in Florence.)

Pollsters, pundits and campaign managers from both sides sit on panels and talk amicably about what happened on November 6th, why and how the parties will adjust to the result.

(One afternoon’s talking shop does for me and I’m able to watch the following morning from the comfort of the hotel room as it’s streamed live over the internet.

From the low drone of garroulous expertise a voice arises that I recognise! Delighted I turn up the volume to hear my wife making a succinct point to the room while the large panel of experts look on in wonder!)

Late afternoon, now, we make our way back into Florence and catch our first sight of the Duomo this trip.

It sits benign and vast in the centre of the city as the evening lights come on round it.

We check into our hotel down by the river and think about dinner!

La Sostanza is a short walk away and they have room at 7.30.

Tortino carciofi (artichoke omelette) and fagioli e olio (beans and oil) and a happy punter!

I discovered this modest restaurant by chance in 1977 and have been a regular ever since.

It serves simple fare at communal tables in an unassuming room.

The cooking is done on a wood fire in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp.

Same photos and paintings on the walls–and two of the waiters are sons of ones I met on my first visit!

We are weary, but happy to have heard from Keith that the machinery at the frantoio

was fixed quicker than expected and no harm done to the olives already being processed.

End of a day and a half and back to the hotel and a final photo op.

Closest I’ll get now! RIP Marilyn.

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Bottled gold--aka--olive oil

Our friends Helen and Keith just left–heading back to the Tuscan hills where they make world class green-gold nectar from the olives on their farm.

They have a thousand trees high above the valley of the Arno, south east of Florence.

Last November we went to “help” with the harvest.

Our job was to sort the leaves and branches from the purple green fruit–

–while trying not to crush the newly fallen olives underfoot, and get in the way of the real workers.

These were five and it took them three weeks–(rain stopped play every other day when we were there, which

gave our backs a chance to recover.)

They brush the trees with long poles in downward strokes, teasing the olives onto the nets laid out below.

Fitted to the ends of the poles are what look like pairs of hands, which “clap” pneumatically.

“Well done, olives–but time to go to the press!”

Every two days Keith loads up the van and heads to the frantoio where the olives make the journey from fruit to oil.

Stone pressing is a thing of the past; now the olives are processed by centrifugation–a horrible word but a cleaner method that produces better quality oil.

The unromantic centrifuge

The liquid gold emerging.

A proud moment–for a beginner!

Proud parvenu!

Keith says he gets about a litre of oil per tree.

Last November’s harvest was his all-time second best–that pleased us!

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