You're strolling through an Italian olive grove. The sun is bright and hot, the sky impossibly blue, the olives, hanging from the surprisingly tall trees, are various shades of green to purple to black. They look so delicious that you can't stop yourself from plucking one. You turn it around in your hand, feeling the warmth of the sun, the smoothness of the skin, the plump ripeness of the fruit. You pop it in your mouth and bite down.
This is where this idyllic scene comes to a screeching halt.
Whoa! I love marinated olives, olive oil, olive paste, olive bread…but have you ever tried to eat a fresh olive? I do not recommend it! How could something that produces such a smooth, silky oil be so uncomfortably bitter in its natural state? How could something that beautiful taste so unpleasant?
It felt like a bit of a betrayal. It also gave the other travelers on the tour a good laugh as I screwed up my face and spit out the olive. Yuck.
I had been visiting Milan, which is a great launching point for day trips to smaller towns in Lombardy. Many beautiful places are within an hour or two by train. Desenzano del Garda seems a world away from the bustle of Milan, and the olive grove at Frantoio Montecroce even quieter and more serene.
On a tour of the facilities, I had a chance to see the equipment that is used to transform the olives into oil. Two huge stone wheels crush the olives, then through the process of centrifugation, the oil, water, and residue are separated. A filtering process is employed, and the oils are stored at specific controlled temperatures.
We then moved into the tasting room. Of course, this is the best part of any tour. A variety of oils are available for purchase, and it is really interesting to participate in a guided tasting and try to distinguish the differences in color, aroma, and taste.
Discovering this olive oil in Lombardy was an absolute pleasure. Nothing beats walking through the farm, seeing the fruit in its natural state, learning about the process that is involved in creating the oils, then tasting them right there where they were made. I encourage you, whenever you can while you're traveling, to try local food and drink in the place where the ingredients are grown, harvested, and transformed into delicious representations of the land and culture.
For more information about travel in Lombardy, check out inLombardia, the Official Travel Guide of the Lombardy Region. You can also follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, G+, and YouTube.
This trip was part of the #BlogVille campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Lombardy Tourism. All stories, impressions, and experiences will be my own, as they always are on Solo Traveler.