Montecastelli™ is the name of our 11th century hilltop monastery in central Tuscany, about 15 miles North West of Siena. We bought it ten years ago as a home in a beautiful part of the world. Ostensibly a ruin when we moved in, the restoration was (and still is!) an enormous task. It had not occurred to us that the grove of a few hundred bedraggled olive trees outside of what would become our kitchen window, was to be a source of such fascination and devotion.
Olive Grove The renovated stone walls
Aggressive pruning in the first year reduced the already minuscule harvest to almost nothing, but yielded some encouraging results and each year since then has slowly culminated into what we care for most: a grove of about 1200 trees - including those that we started with - and an understanding of how to yield the very finest oil from this, nature's (or Athena's!) gift. Primo Olio™ is the name of the oil produced at Montecastelli™.
Our learning curve was sharp. In many ways we were disadvantaged by our inexperience - locals and neighbors already had their own knowledge of the vagaries of the olive tree. This disadvantage was easily offset by an equivalent advantage - we were not bound by the laws and lores of our ancestry. Once the decision to produce olive oil had been made, an obsession with quality ensued - an obsession whose path was unhindered by the sometimes obstructive branches of tradition.
"Tufo" soil is volcanic ash
Our obsession reached some local friends and producers - some of whom were inspired by our vision and were in a position to follow an equally dedicated path to quality. Two such local producers are Simone Santini and Vabro, and our friends in Sicily Di Giovanna, all of whom we help to represent in America.
Map of Italy showing area of enlargement Map of Tuscany showing location of estates