La Raccolta 2019
Olive Harvest in Tuscany
14 - 19 October: Our 19th annual Tree-to-Table olive harvest program
21 - 26 October: Raccolta alumni, open to previous attendees of the Raccolta program
Euro 2650 per person includes five nights shared accommodations, all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, ground transportation to scheduled events (pickup/dropoff Chiusi, halfway between Rome and Florence)
Poggio Etrusco is Pamela and Johnny Johns’ 15-acre working olive farm which completed organic certification in 2005. During our week together, we think you will begin to feel some of the passion of our local food artisans and understand their connection to the land. The message is pure and simple… sitting at the table together, eating in season, using quality ingredients, and treating them simply.
Our first olive harvest in 2001 taught us a lot. We bottled 125 litres of extra-virgin olive oil. Pruning, fertilizing, and turning the soil produced 9 quintale (900 kilos, over 2000 pounds) of olives in 2002 (about 150 litres of oil). In 2003, due to harsh weather conditions (early spring freeze, summer drought), we only harvested enough olives to get 10 litres of oil. Last year treated us better with over 1000 kilos (over 2200 pounds of olives) and 200 litres of oil. In the typical Tuscan way, we will refrain from making predictions (we don’t want to jinx ourselves), but, let’s just say that this year is looking even better.
We will probably spend two to three days harvesting. Each day after breakfast, we begin picking the olives. Nets are spread under the trees, baskets tied around our waists, and olives are picked by hand. Lunch will be an energy-replenishing home-cooked meal. If you get tired of picking, you can always take a break in your room, or lend a hand in the kitchen. You will see the olives from tree to table and will be able to taste the truly unique moment when the olive oil is at its ultimate…just pressed and drizzled on a fire-toasted slice of bread.
We are very proud of our oil and pleased to share one of our year’s best moments, La Raccolta, our olive harvest.
This sample itinerary is to give you an idea of what we usually do. Much depends on weather, so the days might change or there will be additional activities (cooking classes, probably) if we are unable to pick.
Arrive to Chiusi train station (halfway between Florence and Rome) at approximately 11:00 am (we will help organize your arrival; you can see train schedules at www.trenitalia.com). We will head for the old part of Chiusi, the heart of the Etruscan world. Our first stop is the celebrated Etruscan museum for a quick overview of Etruscan civilization, then visit the underground labyrinths. Our historian guide will take us to see one of the seldom visited ancient tombs near the Lake of Chiusi. Our lunch at a lakeside trattoria will be one imagined to be similar to what Etruscans ate: fresh perch from the lake smoked over canes and dressed with local olive oil, pici (the local pasta with ancient roots), and the local Sangiovese wine.
Once we have settled into Poggio Etrusco, we will head to the medieval village of Monticchiello where we will have a demonstration of a dish using farro, an ancient strain of wheat. We’ll have some time to stroll around charming Monticchiello, then return for dinner and a lesson from a wine master on the spectrum of wines in Tuscany.
This morning we have a hands-on cooking class to will make the classic Tuscan lunch: crostini fegatini, Ribollita, roasted chicken and potatoes. Dessert is a fig crostata.
In the afternoon we explore the charming Renaissance hilltown of Pienza, famous for its Pecorino cheese. We will learn about pecorino cheese and salume from an artisanal cheesemaker.
Dinner will be ravioli made with Pienza’s fresh ricotta, stuffed guinea hen, and a chestnut meringata.
Dinner will be at a acountryside trattoria with handmade pasta and farm-raised meats.
Morning harvest, farmhouse lunch. Today we boost our energy with risotto al porcini, braised lamb with olives, seasonal vegetable, and fresh ricotta with chestnut honey.
After we freshen up, we will head to a countryside trattoria with farm-raised meats and handmade pasta.
Morning harvest, farmhouse lunch of affetatti (sliced meats and cheeses), pasta al forno (lasagna), polpettone (like a meatloaf), garden greens, and torta della nonna (grandmother’s cake).
After lunch, we will plan to bring our olives to the frantoio (olive pressing mill). After our olives are pressed, we will toast fresh bread, rub it with garlic, and drizzle on our very own fresher-than-fresh olive oil. If there is time, we will also visit a mill that uses modern techniques.
In the afternoon we go to Montepulciano for a cooking demonstration at the highly acclaimed Ristorante La Grotta followed by some free time to explore, then back to the restaurant to enjoy an elegant dinner.
This morning we have the opportunity to go out with a truffle hunter, and his dog. Not far from here is San Giovanni d’Asso, a tiny zone for white truffles. We will end up at a traditional trattoria for lunch with local truffles.
Our farewell dinner is at Mondo X, in Cetona - very special!
Cetona is a beautiful little wooded village is at the very edge of Tuscany and home to a unique restaurant. Mondo "X" is in the Convent of St. Francesco which dates back to 1212. This convent was in a total state of disrepair when Father Eligio assumed possession. With a crew of reformed and reforming drug-users, the convent was restored to a magnificent state. The residents then began growing their own vegetables and fruit, raising meat, and learned to cook in an unbelieveably gourmet style. We will arrive early to enjoy the grounds, perfectly maintained by the residents who are learning the trades of gardening, as the others work at cooking and restaurant and hotel jobs.