By David Orr – Writer –
Olio nuovo, or “new olive oil”, is Tuscany’s end-of-year prize. Unlike wine, where longevity is associated with prestige, olio nuovo is best right off the branch, crushed and consumed immediately. Every year farmers all across Tuscany hand-pick thousands of mature olives from their fattorias, and the trees, freed of their heaviness can finally rise and sway with the expectancy of the Florence Olive Oil Festival on Sunday, November 15. Held at Piazza Santo Spirito, from 9 am to 7 pm, the festival is free, and there are countless stands offering Tuscany’s finest seasonal goods: olive oil of course, but also honey, wine, organic produce, and more. As for the olive oil itself, new oil is spicy, earth-like, and dripping with an unexpected honey lily-pad sweetness. The peppery and earthen undertones are like grinding a balm of the deepest green woods through a mortar and pestle, and the result is a deep golden green oil. Farmers harvest the olives and on the same day truck them to the nearby olive mills that dot the countryside. During November, the mills operate around the clock, and it is not unusual for farmers to claim the vampire shift to produce their oil, in an effort to claim a timeslot amongst the competition. Once crushed, the master farmer will sip the oil like a fine wine, to confirm the oil’s texture and taste. There is much speculation of this year’s crop, given the disastrous 2014 season, otherwise known as the “Black Year”, where olive oil production was down by more than 50% due to bad weather and an invasion of olive fruit flies. Everyone hopes that this year the harvest is better, but no matter what, the Olive Oil Festival will go on and is one of Tuscany’s can’t miss Autumn events.