A few drops of olive oil in a small plate. A slice of bread. I still remember the way a fancy restaurant used to introduce Italian food culture to foreign guests. In Tuscany, and Siena is no exception to the rule, bread has to be salt-free, in order to bring out the flavor of olive oil. Salt-free bread is so intrinsic to Tuscan mentality when it comes to food, that even Dante, in his Comedy, remarked, about his own exile from Florence, that strangers’ bread was salty. Like teardrops, in his own case.
Here, at Villa Santa Chiara, some 500 olive trees cover a huge part of the property. They were planted back in 1985. One of the harshest winters in the second half of last century, had killed all the olive trees, and the grandad of Santa Chiara’s current owner, Anna, Prof Luigi Bernabei, decided the tradition of olive oil production couldn’t be stopped by a few weeks of bad weather.
Nowadays, you can easily spot a family of roe deer play hide and seek among the rows of olive trees. They disappear at the end of October, when it’s time for harvesting: time to find whether this year’s oil production has been generous, and the quality of the product is just okay or, as it happens more often than not, simply amazing.
Imagine buying a bottle of oil at the supermarket: you just pick it up and pay at the cash: how simple and boring! Now, think of the place where olives are still hanging from trees, and a thunderstorm at the wrong time or some stupid fly can spoil the year’s entire harvest: and this is just the pilot episode of the saga.
An olive harvest is essentially a piece of teamwork, where everybody plays their own role: you hire people who beat down the trees and collect the olives. Maybe they think they are paid to help you carry the cassettes of olives to the road, maybe not, thus you must help yourself.
Then you discover this was a lucky harvest: maybe a mixed blessing? You don’t have enough cassettes for the olives you were able to collect and start using nets. Olives everywhere, and the clock starts ticking, faster and faster: the truck that must carry the olives to the oil mill has arrived. The guy is in hurry: every available family member helps load the cassettes on the truck. Tick-tock.
The truck leaves, destination mill. It’s somewhere in the countryside around Siena. It’s night. The oil mill is crowded. Maybe you’ll come back tomorrow morning, to pick up the barrels of oil. You are back home: it’s time to test the result. Now what you need is the freshly produced oil, some slices of bread, a grill, a bottle of red wine: put the bread on the grill, then pour the oil on it: what you get is the simplest version of bruschetta, the one that allows you to better analyze the taste of this year’s olive oil: a glass of red one, and you have learned about Tuscan material culture much more than you can understand after reading scores of books: simple and elegant, kind of pricky, that’s it.
The welcome ceremony we offer our guests is a repetition of this ritual: in case they like it, they can buy a bottle of olive oil and bring it back home. It will remind them, in the most pleasant way, of Siena, of Villa Santa Chiara, and ultimately of our own culture.
OLIVE OIL FROM VILLA SANTA CHIARA: WORTH A TRIP TO SIENA!
We fertilize and prune the olive trees, pick by hand the olives every year based on the
ancient rules: cold pressing of olives at Frantoio L’Etrusco every year at the end of October.
Our varieties of olive trees:
The above varieties are among the most common in Liguria, Tuscany, and Umbria regions in Italy.
Robust (Fruity and Peppery)
Organoleptic Properties (according to laboratory tests):
- Very low acidity level (0.25, where the maximum allowed level for extra-virgin olive oil is 0.80).
- Extremely low peroxide level (2.2, where 12 is considered good, 7 means excellent, and 20 is the maximum allowed level for extra-virgin olive oil) .
The above properties allow for keeping the original flavor and
properties for a long time.
Our extra-virgin olive oil is organic: we don’t use pesticides. Our bees help increase the production thanks to pollination.
Enjoy it on a slice of Tuscan bread and on a number of different meals: vegetables, soups, pasta, meat and fish.