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Italian Olive Oil History

The first cultivation of Italian olives started in the VIII century B.C. when southern Italy was colonized by the Greeks and the Magna Grecia was created subsequently. We all know olive oil as “Green Gold” as it soon turned out to be the main driving force of the country’s economy. However, the production of Italian olive oil was completely controlled by the government. The first olive oil classification procedure on the planet was established during this time, and oil was categorized into 5 types.

However, the olive oil sector soon started to decline with the Barbarian invasion and the fall of the Roman Empire. Following the year 1000AD, olive oil production started showing indications of recovery when large areas of land were allocated to monasteries and convents.

After a few centuries more, there was a complete revival with an increase in the international trade between northern and eastern Europe and traders from Florence, Venice, and Genoa. From then onwards, Italian oil became extremely popular and the general public loved it because of its unrivaled quality.

Specialists developed the initial official classification about the different types of olive trees found in the country during the 18th century. The study was based on the geographical origins of each tree.

The 2 biggest regions which were dedicated to the cultivation of olive trees were in Tuscany and Puglia.  Umbria’s olive oil production grew during the subsequent century with many new cultivations of fresh olive groves. Umbria then became Italy’s main producer of the peninsula for the next century.

During the initial half of the 1900s, the olive oil’s domestic production experienced a decline because of the world wars and resultant abandonment of the rural areas.

The modern day Italian olive oil industry has now attained a significant amount of success all over the world. The nutritional benefits of olive oil are thought to be the main reason for this revival.

Types of Italian Olive Oil

Here is our selection of the top 5 olive oil DOP’s in Italy now.

Garda DOP

This type of olive oil usually features notes of almond and freshly-cut grass along with a bitter and pungent feel. The Garda DOP olive oil is produced in mainly 3 different areas; Veneto, Lombardy, and Trentino.

Riviera Ligure DOP

The Riviera Ligure DOP is considered by many to be amongst the best extra virgin olive oils produced in Italy and is made from a local olive cultivar (variety).  This Italian type of olive oil usually has a sweet and delicate taste. The olive oil is also used in preparing the delicious Pesto alla Genovese.

Toscano IGP

Olive Oil professionals usually regard Tuscany as the most reputed olive oil producer in Italy. The entire region can be divided into 5 sub areas; Firenze, Arezzo, Montalbano, Lunigiana, and Monti Pisani. Olive oils produces in these areas tend to be made from Frantoio and Leccino olives.

Umbria DOP

This particular Italian oil type is produced in the whole of Umbria region which is divided into sub areas; Colli Martani, Colli Assisi Spoleto, Colli del Trasimeno, and Colli Amerini. In Umbria, the most common oil varieties are Moraiolo and San Felice.

Colline Pontine DOP

It is only recently since southern Lazio became famous for producing olive oil. This is mainly due to an astounding local olive variety known as Itrana which is  the source of the immensely popular di Gaeta table olives. The regions where it is produced include foothill areas of the Ausoni, Lepini, and Aurunci mountains which overlook the sea. The Colline Pontine DOP boasts of a distinct taste of semi-ripe tomatoes with pleasing balmy and herbal notes.

Olive Oil from Regions of Italy

There is hardly any country on the planet which offers more variety of olive oil than Italy. In fact, the oils from Tuscany, Abruzzo, Liguria, Sicily, and other areas offer distinct textures and flavors which can be used in many diverse ways in the kitchen.

Sicilian olive oils are reputed for their robust as well as ripe flavor.

Olive oils which are produced in Tuscany have an attractive and peppery bite.

On the other hand, top quality extra virgin olive oil from the Lazio region near to Rome. This olive oil features low levels of acidity as well as a creamy texture plus rich and nutty taste which make it ideal for use in soups and salads.

The Sabine Hills region is reputed for producing Villa Laura which is a soft and buttery type of olive oil.