Many of us are familiar with the idea of wine tasting, especially in wine-rich regions like Tuscany, and sampling the local wines is a great way to explore the flavor of a new travel destination. How many of us, however, think about tasting olive oil? Really, how many of us think of olive oil at all, beyond being a key ingredient in our favorite salad dressings? Olive oil, like wine, is produced in Tuscany and tastes extremely different depending on who makes it, where it comes from, and the quality of the olives.
The harvest season for olives in Tuscany is the fall, sometimes starting as early as September and usually going through November. This is a great time to visit Italy, when crowds are less prevalent and prices have dropped from their summer high points, but the added bonus of the harvest season (and its accompanying food festivals) makes the fall a delicious time to be in Italy.
Tuscan olives are harvested slightly earlier than those in many other countries in the Mediterranean, meaning the fruit is not quite as ripe. This is, in part, what we have to thank for that distinct peppery flavor in Tuscan olive oil. Olive oil made in Tuscany is no shrinking violet, bringing its own powerful flavor to any dish to which it’s added. Along with a tour of olive oil producers in Tuscany (and tasting some of their wares) you might consider taking a cooking class in Tuscany to learn the best ways to use the region’s “liquid gold.”
On Viator, you can book food tastings right in Florence that include olive oil, as well as other Tuscan treats. There’s a one-hour Florence Wine and Cheese Tasting that includes olive oil tastings as well, and a Small Group Florence Food Walking Tour that lasts for 3.5 hours and includes not just the tastings of local specialties (wine, cheese, olive oil, gelato, coffee, and more) but also a visit to Florence’s historic food market and a local winery. There’s also a Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour departing from Florence that includes stops in Siena, Pisa, and San Gimignano, along with wine and olive oil tastings in the Chianti region.