Olive Oil

Italy, and particularly Tuscany, is famous for its extra virgin olive oil.

Artviva: The Original and Best Walking Tours
Average Rating:   4.9
out of 5 stars
   Based on 100 Ratings.

On 2017/09/10
Kim said:
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Best Tours Ever

It was our very first trip to Italy, so my husband and I decided to book tours with ArtViva based on Rick Steves' recommendation. We took the Accademia tour with Ingrid, the Uffizi tour with Klaus, and the Original Florence tour with Tatiana. Each guide was a joy to be with. They were all both extremely knowledgeable about their subjects and were enthusiastic about presenting it. I learned so much about the amazing Florentine art and architecture. It was worth every penny. I would highly recommend ArtViva's tours to everyone!

On 2017/08/31
E said:
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Fantastic walking tour with Hilde. I would recommend it to everyone visiting Florence.

On 2017/08/03
Stephanie said:
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Fantastic Experience!

We took four tours through Artviva, three from Florence and one from Venice--all excellent! We took this tour the next day from Florence, and it was the perfect half-day to get a glimpse of the Tuscan wine country without committing an entire day (we had Florence sightseeing in the morning, wine country in the afternoon). Vito was our tour guide and driver, and he was so much fun. With the group, we got a chance to chat with folks from all over the world, and the collegiality was equally as enjoyable as the estate, wine, and olive oils we tasted when we arrived at the estate. We tried the fares, learned about the history of the estate and wine in Tuscany in general, and then took a tour of the property. Both the wine-making facilities and the private home of the Lord and Lady were open for us to tour. It was incredible! And there was even a rare piece of World War I history too (you'll have to visit to find out)! Truly, a terrific experience.

On 2017/08/03
Stephanie said:
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Fantastic Experience

We took four tours through Artviva, three from Florence and one from Venice. They were each outstanding. Your Own Cinque Terre (private tour): on our last day in Florence, we took a one day private trip to three of the five villages in Cinque Terre. Elenora was our tour guide all day, and our driver was Massimo. Both were fantastic! Elenora especially made our tour truly an experience we will never forget. She's brilliant, easy going, and full of interesting information about the cities and their histories. She even gave us an overview of the towns we traveled through on the drive to the coast. She escorted us through the train system, around the cute and winding cobblestone streets, and even to a fantastic family-owned restaurant for some seafood pasta and wine from the region. It was like having an old friend show you around her hometown. I cannot recommend this tour enough. The sights (!!), the food, the tour guide (seriously, ask for Elenora!)... all were lovely.

On 2017/08/03
Stephanie said:
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Fantastic Experience!

We took four tours through Artviva, three from Florence and one from Venice. They were each outstanding. Smart, friendly, adept tour guides led us around. And, friendly, helpful office staff helped us navigate the booking process (even before we arrived, they helped me process the booking and coordinate with meet-up locations all via email in advance). Original Florence Walk & David Tour (private tour): Corrina was our tour guide, and she was a real joy. She met us in our hotel lobby (super convenient!) and gave us a terrific tour of Florence, emphasizing its architecture, culture, history, and the daily lives of Florentines throughout the centuries. It was capped off by a visit to the David, and arriving with a tour meant that we were able to skip that incredibly LONG LINE. It was the perfect way to become acquainted with the city, and I highly recommend making this your first tour in Florence. Be

On 2017/07/18
Kathy said:
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We were touring with our 17-year-old grandson. The "Off the Beaten Path" tour with Shannon was the best we had I Italy and his favorite too. To see things that are not crowded with other tourists and so unique was a nice change from the "usual." Other tours with Artiva were excellent as well with very knowledgeable guides who seemed to be able to answer every question, even from a teenager who was anxious to know "everything." Thank you, Shannon and Artiva

On 2017/07/14
Joe Fisher said:
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Thank You, Elisabetta!

We enjoyed our wonderful day with you in Firenze. Thank you for your knowledge, humor, guidance, and keeping us in the shade! Your love of Firenze is obvious. The five Elizabeths, and the rest of us thoroughly enjoyed this unique experience and would recommend it to anyone!

On 2017/07/08
Jennifer said:
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Made Florence and Venice come alive!

My Zicasso travel agent booked tours through ArtViva for myself and my husband. We were so pleased she did! In Venice Leticia took us on the water by gondola and speed boat; this is the way to see Venice! Then Tatiana took us through St. Mark's and Doge's Palace, helping us understand the symbolism, art, and history of these places. In Florence, Rodrigo led us to better understand the David and spent time going into our questions with thoughtfulness. A 3 hour walking tour with Kate opened our eyes to what was in plain sight! We would not have understood Florence without her! Finally, the piece de resistance was Klaas and the tour of the Ufizzi Gallery. His storytelling and excitement was effervescent! We adding his tour because of the pleasure we had on the other booked tours, and I'm so glad that Klaas was our last ArtViva tour - what a beautiful ending to being in Florence! Thank you, ArtViva, for making these two cities come alive. I was so pleased with your guides, professional office staff, and joy!

On 2017/07/03
Stan Capper said:
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Great Tour

What a great tour! We were lucky to have Catherine (Cate) as our tour guide. She has such passion for the art and has such a breadth of knowledge that she expertly and clearly imparts from start to finish. I heard her and another guide remarking to each other about never having seen the museum so crowded, but she would not let the crowds keep her from putting us right in front of all the works she wanted to show us. The information she provided illuminated each piece to a stunning degree. It was perhaps the best tour of an art museum we've ever experienced. I highly recommend this tour, especially if you're lucky enough to have Catherine as your guide. I felt bad for her because the heat and crowds put us behind at the start, but she kept her poise and remained calm and got us through a remarkable tour.

On 2017/06/08
Eddie Wong said:
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Ishmael is Excellent

Ishmael led us on a fascinating food tour in and around the famed Mercado in Florence. After sampling tasty pizza dough poppers and lattes, we ventured into the indoor central market (mercado) and met several family owned businesses that sold olive oil, cheese, and other goodies. I'm not a huge foodie but enjoyed the food and learning about the process of aging olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We also had a full lunch at a local restaurant with delicious pasta and oxtail. I can't say enough superlatives about Ishmael. He is knowledgeable, personable and attentive. I would love to invite him over for dinner in San Francisco so that we can continue our conversations about food, music and art. There's so much more than food on a tour with Ishmael. Peace and blessing on to you. Ciao, Florence. We will return.

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The earliest evidence of olive cultivation in the world comes from the Livorno area on Tuscany’s coast.

So important was oil in the past that land would be bequeathed not in terms of metres but in numbers of olive trees.  

Olive trees are planted usually on a hillside to allow for good drainage of the soil. The trees were cultivated to grow tall, with one main trunk and the foliage up nice and high so no one could steal the olives. After a bad frost in the early 1980s however, many trees died. The trees that grew in their place were let to grow freely, making them easier to harvest.

Harvest of olives is done around October-November, just when the olives are a perfect mix of just-ripe and nearly-ripe to ensure the right acidity in the ensuing product. To be officially considered extra virgin olive oil, the acidity level must be less than 0.8%, with late harvesting risks having a too-high acidic level.

Top-quality oil is still to this today produced from olives harvest by hand. There are also olive picker devices that are like a mechanical hand with fingers that are placed in between the leaves to then ‘tickle’ the olives off the branches, however this runs the risk of cutting the olive surfaces and causing bacteria to set in before the milling process.

Once the olives are collected from the trees, they are taken to an official mill. Whilst some larger producers will have their own onsite mill, most smaller producers must go to a local oil press.

As the pressing must occur as soon as possible after harvest, during the oil season the mills take appointments all throughout the day and night.

The olives are placed on a grill that is agitated to rid the olives of dirt, grass and the like. They then go through the a first cold pressing. The extracted product is thus “cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil” that is more green in colour and is delicious consumed raw. The remaining pulp may then be pressed again with heat, resulting in just “extra virgin olive oil” that is used for cooking. A further chemical extraction can be done to have just “olive oil”. Most Italians will say this is best used to polish the furniture however!

Extra virgin olive oil is a good fat that can even reduce cholesterol and other heart issues.

Just-pressed extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Once heated, many of these properties are lost, hence why Italians drizzle this oil over soups, cooked vegetables, salads, meats or on toasted bread with a sprinkle of salt (the original “Bruschetta” recipe), rather than cooking the oil with the dish. Pieces of fresh bread and raw in-season vegetables can also be dipped into oil as a tasty and healthy starter dish.

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My Exclusive Best of Tuscany Tour

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Luxury Tuscany Villa Cooking Class: 4-course

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Marvellous Cooking: Dinner Deluxe

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