Olive Oil Harvest & Pressing-La Spremitura Delle Olive (Part 1)

Posted by Laney Sachs on November 09, 2011 0 Comments

The drive from Verona was picturesque and traveling up the road to Residence San Rocco, I heard a gentle buzzing noise – louder than an airplane but quieter than a lawn mower. I got out of my (very fun) rental car and smack dab in the middle of the olive grove, I saw the first step in what I had traveled to Italy to see  - the harvesting and pressing of olive oil at Frantoio Manestrini. The adventure was about to begin…

A couple of guys were using something that looked like an electric powered rake called a rastrello that gently vibrated and pulled the olives from the trees. Laid out underneath the olive trees were large burlap tarps to catch the fallen olives and I watched as the tarps were gradually maneuvered so the olives collected in the center and were then transferred to large plastic crates called vasche (which is the plural of vasca if you're interested).

Harvesting olives with a rastrello

And when I picked up an olive and poked my finger in it, guess what came out…olive oil! And you want to know what it smelled like? Olive Oil!  This was already pretty cool and I couldn’t wait to see more.

The crates were moved by a tractor and brought down the driveway to the frantoio, which is the olive mill/olive press and sits at the bottom of the hill.  And one by one, each crate was brought inside to start the job of making olive oil.

tractor and olives in crates (vasca)Olives in the hopper (tramoggia)

The smell inside the frantoio was somewhat pungent and the machines loud but Paolo and his father Egidio were wonderful guides in the production of their amazing extra virgin olive oil. Considering olive oil has been made for thousands of years, the process isn’t much different; it just involves a bit more technology.

The olives first traveled up a conveyer belt, which I thought was interesting that they didn’t roll back down but I guess that’s the technology part.


The next machine had two jobs – it rinsed the olives with water, and then removed the leaves and since pesticides aren’t used it was a pretty simple process.

Then they go into the musher (that’s Italian for the machine that mushes) – okay it’s not called that but that’s what it does - mashes everything up, olives, skins and pits. The next step was the separation of the olive oil from the paste-like pulp that traveled through a plastic hose and voilà – extra virgin olive oil!

Signor Egidio Manestrini    

Is this a happy guy or what? Signor Egidio Manestrini doing what he loves....

Unfiltered olive oil, which is cloudy with sediment, has a somewhat stronger taste and doesn’t last as long as filtered oil, only about 6 months.  Filtered versus unfiltered is a personal preference but it’s so incredibly natural and unrefined, you just feel like there’s nothing purer on earth.

My dreams of stomping olives like Lucy & Ethel did with grapes didn’t pan out which was just as well since it was rather chilly…maybe next year.

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