La Raccolta 2023
Our 23rd Annual Olive Harvest in Tuscany
- 16-21 October or 23-28 October: Our 23rd annual Tree-to-Table olive harvest program. Includes five nights in double occupancy, all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and ground transportation to scheduled events (pickup/dropoff Chiusi, halfway between Rome and Florence)
- Any time in October: one-day harvest experiences, includes lunch and a visit to the frantoio (according to availability)
- Any time in October: Special discounts for our Raccolta alumni, open to previous attendees of the Raccolta program (according to availability)
This is your opportunity to participate in the production of organic extra-virgin olive oil from tree to table. During the week you will 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 delighted to share one of our year's best moments, La Raccolta, our olive harvest.
We plan to spend part of three days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) in the field with you, weather willing. Nets are spread under the trees, or baskets tied around our waists, and olives are picked by hand. Lunch is an energy-replenishing home-cooked meal. If you prefer to stay and help in the kitchen, that is always an option. If the weather forecast changes, we have alternative activities planned. 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.
The following sample itinerary may be subject to change due to weather, seasonal conditions, and serendipity.
11:00-ish Individual arrivals to Chiusi-Chianciano Terme train station.
We head directly to a small farm with a special breed of pig, the Cinta Senese, a semi feral pig native to the province of Siena. After hearing the history of this breed and talking with the farmer, we head to his brother’s winery to learn about the local wine. Finally, we lunch at the third brother enoteca, for a tasting of wonderful cured meats with their wines.
After lunch, welcome to Poggio Etrusco, our five-hectare working olive farm with over 800 olive trees. Poggio Etrusco means “Etruscan hilltop,” because at one time this area was inhabited by the Etruscans (500-600 BC).
A tomb was found on the property (now too crumbled to visit), and the artifacts removed to the state museum. The farmhouse, constructed in the late 1600s, was originally part of the estate of the noble family Contucci, a family still found in Montepulciano and S.Albino.
After you’ve settled in, we’ll head up to Montepulciano to visit an ancient cantina and have a stroll through our lovely village. Put on your walking shoes, it’s a hilltown! For dinner, Pamela will bring you to the “bellybutton of the world,” the tiny medieval village of Monticchiello where we will be hosted by Daria Cappelli, wine sommelier and owner of Ristorante Daria in Monticchiello. Daria will guide us through a lesson on the spectrum of Sangiovese wines in Tuscany, all 100% Sangiovese wines.... We’ll start with Morellino di Scansano, then move on to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti Classico, Brunello, and finish with a dessert wine made with Sangiovese. Along the way, we will also discuss wine pairing with food.
Our morning starts in the farmhouse kitchen for our first course, Olive Oil 101:
- how to pick it, how to make it, how to taste it,
- what are polyphenols, and why is acidity important
- what to buy, how to use it, and how to store it
Pamela, your certified olive oil expert, will give an overview of olive oil, touching on the different regions, varieties of olives, cultural and agricultural practices (weather, pruning, insects and blights, timing/mode of harvest). She will discuss the traditional method of how olives are pressed, and explain the modern methods and their effect on the oil. She will instruct on how to taste olive oil, how to recognize defects, read the labels, what qualities to look for, how to use it, and how to store it.
And then, to the fields... and get to work! (BTW, joke telling, singing, and gossiping IS permitted... tree-climbing is not).
You can take a break at any time, or come help prep lunch in the kitchen.
Some after-lunch picking, if you’re up for it, or a break until late afternoon when we head to Pienza, a pristine Renaissance jewel. Created in 1458, when Pope Pius II chose the famous Florentine architect Bernardo Rossellino to transform his home village of Corsignano into what is now known as a pearl of the Cinquecento, one of the few examples left of 15th century architecture. Pope Pio was a member of a noble and historic family, the Piccolomini, whose name still survives in the area, although the last noble died in the 1960’s. The Pope’s vision for the city was one of perfection and order. His residence, the Palazzo Piccolomini, is just as he left it when he went to fight his last Crusade, although it is now a museum.
Our dinner will be in a restored monastery in Pienza.
Today we have an early start out to our kitchen garden and the market to purchase ingredients for our ribollita. A quick demo, then a hard push on the olive harvest to meet our minimum to take the the mill.
In the late afternoon, we'll head to La Foce, a local estate with a fascinating history. We'll have a guided tour of the gardens designed by Cecil Pinsent with an iconic view that you will recognize from calendars and postcards, then dinner at the estate's trattoria.
Early farmhouse breakfast to fortify the hearty ones willing to make a final run on the olives. Everyone will return to the kitchen in time to make our local handrolled pici with the classic aglione, a spicy fresh tomato sauce.. After lunch, we’ll load up our olives and bring them to the frantoio (olive mill).
The afternoon will be spent at an organic farm that produces cheese and grows many grains and vegetables. You will meet our friends Ulisse and Sandra and learn how they make their artisan sheep milk and goat milk cheeses. After the visit, you will enjoy dinner made from their organic products.
Truffles. Need I say more? You get to meet Milli, the queen of truffle dogs, and walk in the woods. Eat what we find. Doesn’t get much better than that.
…then on to lunch in a charming village overlooking an ancient Roman bath. Our lunch will feature seasonal wild game and some of our truffles (if we find some!).
One stop at the frantoio...to toast the bread in the frantoio's fireplace, and drizzle it with the freshest oil you've ever tasted.
Dinner tonight at La Grotta, Montepulciano’s best restaurant.
Departures after a breakfast of bruschetta with our own fresh-pressed oil.