Italy Food Roots take you to the real foodies
I use olive oil or consume it just about every day. In fact, I’m sure most of you do. But after my recent Italy Food Roots tour I will never think about it in the same way.
Last weekend I attended their Olive Oil Grove & Mill Tour in north east Lazio.
Founded by friends Louise and Adam earlier this year, the aim of the initiative is to promote the concept of farm to table and make the real foodies – that is, the people that grow or produce the food we eat regularly – accessible to a wide audience.
Louise says, “Our tours are all seasonal and we aim at taking you to places where you can actually see, hear, smell and of course taste all the goodness around farm-to-table food.”
This tour was no exception.
(Especially for me) the day started early at 8:20am at Rome’s Tuscolana metro station where the 12 of us headed an hour out of the city to Poggio Mirteto, in the province of Rieti. On arrival, we were picked up and whisked away to the frantoio – oil mill / farm (and a new word I learnt on this tour) where we met Orlando and his family.
Given we are currently in the peak of olive picking season, I just knew we were in for a treat of a day.
You can tell from the get-go that Orlando still loves what he does. His energy and passion is contagious and it’s not before long he has our undivided attention – we are like putty in his hands!
This family run frantoio has been in operation since 1877 and boasts around 2,500 trees.
Not only do they produce their own olive oil here (among other products) but they service locals who come with their own olives to use their processes and machineries.
We head out with Orlando to the grove and see his trees and family members picking away. Only recently has machinery been introduced and until then olives were picked by hand. It still remains a very physical job.
Some of the people working didn’t know a group was coming to watch and were super excited and proud to show off a little!
A couple of us tried our hand before we headed back to the frantoio to pick our very own tree – this was the fun part. In total we picked 16kg which Orlando says will eventually produce 2 litres of olive oil.
He then took us through all the machinery and process for production. In the space of an hour we went from seeing olives hanging on a tree ready for picking to the final product of bottled olive oil sitting on a pallet ready to be dispatched for commercial use.
And it’s this that truly gets you thinking about the farm to table process.
By this stage we were all a little hungry and Orlando served up his olive oil on toasted bread that had been baked by his wife. I can’t describe how delicious this was, so you’re stuck only with a photo.
And then came lunch. No less than a 5 course homemade feast made completely with local produce.
Entree was a mixed antipasto of salumi and cheese; followed by two pasta courses – homemade egg pasta with cinghiale (wild boar) and then fresh tomato sauce; and then two main courses of flame grilled veal and then pork sausage served with hand picked chicory.
Throw in some homemade ciambelline al vino (traditional roman wine biscuits) at the end and we were just about ready to roll back to the big smoke.
But not before we had an opportunity to buy some local goodies (like truffle!) and were even gifted a bottle of Orlando’s oil.
Bellies and heart content we bid Orlando and his family goodbye and were Rome bound.
I have told so many people about this tour since. In fact I can’t stop talking about it – it is up there with one of the best days I’ve had in Rome to date.
What I loved the most?
Surprisingly it wasn’t the food (although I loved loved loved that too!).
It was the entire concept. Seeing how the goods I use or see in a supermarket daily were born.
It was the pride I saw in a family that for generations has been working hard and also gives back to their community.
And finally, it was the honoring of the local foodie heroes who often get overlooked in discourse about food and what it means to be a ‘foodie’.
Thanks Adam and Louise and Italy Food Roots for a day I won’t soon forget.
Here’s a 15 second video snapshot of our day:
Tours are currently running a couple of times a month. For more information about activities (like veggie picking and cheese making, just to name a few) visit: www.italyfoodroots.com.
Signing off from Trastevere