Tuscany holiday highlights are supposed to be admiring Michelangelo’s statue of David in the Galleria dell ‘Accademia in Florence, or visiting the many duomos (domes) of cities like Siena with their frescos and marble carvings. We didn’t see David – that’s for next time. We did visit Siena’s Duoma, which is so spectacular it would take at least a day to really take it all in. But one of the highlights of our trip to the Toscana was the visit to Beatrice Massaza’s olive press and farm.
Beatrice, like Serena from our resort, took over the 13 hectare olive farm from her father. She also runs an agritourismo business, providing rooms or small apartments for up to 20 people with meals in the century old farmhouse. But her passion is producing a top quality olive oil. That passion has paid off in the prestigious Italian first prize for organic extra virgin olive oil. Her son Amedeo told us that. His mother doesn’t really care much about winning, he says.
The oil from Podere SS. Annunziata II is better than hers, Serena says. Part of that is size – they can pick faster and press fresher than she can. But it’s more, Serena thinks – Beatrice invests much more time and effort in the care of her trees.
Waving her arm at the olive groves in the valley around us, Beatrice says, “These trees are for my children and grandchildren.” She’s working for their future. The olive press and the windmill to pump water for irrigating the trees are for now, for her.
Serena says, “But maybe our children won’t care about the farm when they’re grown.” It seems at least one of Beatrice’s children, her son Amedeo, does care. In excellent English (he’s studying human rights at the University of Pisa) he tells us of staying up nights to communicate with the FDA personnel in the USA. He wants to export his mother’s oil, and that of other farmers whose olives she presses, directly into the US market.
The olive press building, powered by the solar panels tiling the roof, reminds me of a winery with its shiny chrome vats and press. The words Beatrice uses are similar to that of wine – they produce a Grand Cru with the fruity flavour of artichokes. But there is no fermented smell of grapes, just of lightly spicy oil. During the olive harvest, which lasts from October to November, Beatrice spends 20 hours a day here, personally watching over the pressing process to make sure each bottle of oil is the very best.
SS. Annunziata produces an average of 2000 bottles of their own oil a year, with Beatrice’s trees averaging 40 kilograms of olives per tree. Recently Beatrice has begun producing soap from her Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
We go home with the gift of a bottle of prize winning oil, a bar of the special soap and the inspiration a passionate farmer always is for another farmer. That she is a woman is even more inspiration to me…