Tuscany’s Olive Oil Celebrations
“Buona bruschetta, Katharina!
– Buona what?
– Buona bruschetta! You’ve never heard this before?!”
No, I had never heard this greeting phrase before – I think I was in my late twenties back then. Its equivalent in English would probably be something like “Happy Toast” or “Happy Toasted Bread”. Buona bruschetta is an expression you will hear throughout Tuscany during the last months of the year, when olives are picked and turned into Italy’s liquid gold.
The bruschetta is basically an antipasto consisting of toasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil. In Tuscany it is often called fettunta and is usually served in November and December as a way to taste the extra virgin oil freshly pressed from the harvested olives.
The bruschetta tasting custom is centuries old and quite an event in Tuscany. Several olive oil festivals have even been created to celebrate it. The Festa dell’olio of San Quirico d’Orcia is one of the oldest; and San Quirico, one of the five towns which make up the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Orcia valley. It is not as well-known as Pienza and Montalcino, but it has a historic centre that is just as beautiful.
The Festa dell’olio of San Quirico takes place every year on the second weekend of December and usually features exhibitions, guided walks, concerts and wine tasting courses. The main “attraction”, however, is the visit to the frantoio, the traditional olive oil mill. Working from dawn to dusk, San Quirico’s frantoio is a must-see. After they have had a look at the oil production process, visitors are invited to taste the freshly pressed oil on delicious bruschettas toasted on fire.
If you want to explore San Quirico a little bit further, I suggest you join the Trekking dell’olio, a guided walk organized twice a day on both Saturday and Sunday (at 10:45am and 3pm). It will take you to some of the town’s most famous sites – the Horti Leonini Renaissance garden and the beautifully decorated Collegiata church being two of them. The tour lasts about 1½ hour and ends with nothing less than a generous and highly appreciated bruschetta tasting…
So, Buona bruschetta!