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Visit the mills in the Valdichiana Senese: new oil and bread

Autumn in Valdichiana Senese: harvesting grapes and oil

The Valdichiana Senese is a land of cereals and vineyards, but also of olive groves. Thanks to the microclimate of this area, they yield high quality crops, and don't require major treatments. Here, the olive tree is not only a fruit plant, it's also considered an ornamental plant. Every year between November and December, the olive groves of the Valdichiana Senese come alive with many people who still pick by hand. Their only help is the rakes and baskets tied at the waist, or at most, with the help of mechanical systems that still respect both the product and the plant. It's a job that often involves entire families, even if it can sometimes be a little uncomfortable due to the cold, and bad weather can sometimes force interruptions. However, when there are nice days, even a hard enough job like this becomes enjoyable and many participate just for the sake of the feeling of community. The prize is a "toast" next to the hearth and a bottle of oil.

Olive harvest in Valdichiana Senese
Olive harvest in Valdichiana Senese

In the fields that are usually silent, everything resounds with voices, calls, and noises, the movements of vehicles that make an infinite back and forth between the olive groves and the mills. Perhaps not many have had the opportunity to see the activity of an oil mill and this could be just the reason to visit and explore how oil is produced. It's also a chance to share the experience of farmers who wait their turn by queuing up, day and night to supervise the pressing of their olives in order to follow the milling step by step as well as the pressing, centrifugation to remove water and, finally, to seize the magical moment when the fragrant and rich green-gold rivulet fill the steel containers.

Visitors are always welcomed, and tables are set up for them in all oil mills. You will be served slices of crunchy bread and you can taste the freshly produced oil. Its flavour is almost indescribable: fruity, frequently spicy, scented with olives and savory, yet velvety. The color will perplex those accustomed to supermarket oil, which is always ultra-refined and filtered. This, however, is dark green with golden reflections and is not transparent – it's as intense as its flavor. If you are in Chianciano Terme, unwinding in the Theia pools, why not also visit one of the nearby oil mills and enjoy a nice slice of bruschetta in the company of the hardworking farmers. 

Terme Theia, Chianciano Terme
Terme Theia, Chianciano Terme - Credit: Stefano Cannas

Montepulciano is well known as the homeland of Vino Nobile, however, you will discover that it also produces an equally noteworthy oil. There are several oil mills here, one in the center and others in the hamlets. Following the ridge and moving slightly north, you'll find a small village known as the "place of oil". We are talking about Castelmuzio, a very small faction of the very small municipality of Trequanda. To get there, you encounter many curves and ups and downs. Here, everything is dedicated to oil and the most representative flavors of the Sienese territory. Seeing is believing.

Finally, it would be worthwhile to come here just for this, to see for yourself how oil is made, taking children to see firsthand how these mysterious fruits are harvested, then exploring their processing in the incessantly active oil mills of the Valdichiana Senese.

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