You are probably thinking I have lost my mind, right? Well, this story begins with me and Jeremy wanting to experience a taste of Italian life while we were in Tuscany. We wanted to experience something more than just seeing all the tourist places. We wanted something authentic and memorable. Could we somehow get a taste or glimpse into how Italians live their lives? Would it be possible to meet and talk with Italians and see what life is actually like in Tuscany?
We had some friends recommend a company called "Arianna & Friends". The owners of the company are from Tuscany and offer a wonderful way to experience Tuscany. They offer all sorts of tours and activities. They have cooking classes, cultural tours, food tours and lots of other amazing things to do. If you are going to Tuscany, I highly, highly recommend Arianna & Friends. It will be the highlight of your trip. For more info, you can check them out at http://www.ariannandfriends.com/.
After checking out what Arianna & Friends had available, we decided on the "Olive Oil and Cheese Tasting Tour". We spent the entire day learning about extra virgin olive oil and peccorino cheese. It was magnificent!
Olive Oil Tour
We headed to the office of Arianna & Friends and met up with Massimo. Massimo was our tour guide for the day. We drove to an olive mill and learned all about olives and extra virgin olive oil. We tasted real, authentic and delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). My eyes were truly opened and as well as my taste buds. We did a taste test of the real Extra Virgin Olive Oil and then store bought Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It was such a difference. I learned so much that day.
Here are just a few things I learned.
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil can only be extracted from olives that are mechanically pressed. This means that the olives are crushed and out drops the oil.
2. Olive Oil is different than Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Olive Oil is made by using chemicals to extract the oil. Olive Oil is not as healthy for you because many of the health benefits were destroyed by the chemicals to extract the olive oil.
3. In 1985, there was an extremely cold and long winter and 95% of the olive trees died. A few olive trees survived but sadly, olive trees that were centuries old died. Most of the olive trees today in Tuscany are no older than 28 years old.
4. In Tuscany, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is pressed from 9 different varieties of olives. These different varieties give it a distinctive and balanced taste.
5. In Tuscany, irrigation is not allowed. There is not enough water to irrigate all the olive trees.
And now you know why I want to move to Tuscany and become an olive farmer.
Inside of the Olive Mill.
Here is a look at the machine that presses the olives
Conveyor belt that takes the olives up to be crushed.
Our tour guide Massimo showing us how the extra virgin olive oil is made.
Part of the machine that presses the olives
Learning all about making extra virgin olive oil.
Family photo with Anna Maria.
Anna Maria own's the olive mill.
Here is a picture of the girls with Anna Maria.
Anna Maria was so kind and sweet!
Outside of the olive mill
Fields next to the olive mill
Here is what the olives look like after they have been pressed.
Jeremy in front of the press
Massimo showing us how the extra virgin olive oil is made
Tasting the extra virgin olive oils
Claire enjoying the bread.
After learning all about olives and EVOO, we headed to Fattoria Lischeto. It is a farm in Tuscany that specializes in making Peccorino cheese. Peccorino cheese is made from sheep's milk.
The farm is certified organic and I loved seeing the sheep grazing in the fields. They have the life, I tell you. The sheep were happy as could be.
Our first stop was to see the barn where the new baby lambs were. It was so cute to see baby lambs. Some of the lambs were just a few hours old and were still quite wobbly when they would walk. Seriously, so cute. This was Claire and Isabella's favorite part of the tour!
Next we headed off to see where the sheep were milked. Then it was off to see how the cheese was made from the milk. We learned so much and it was fascinating to see the milk turn into cheese.
On the farm they also had pigs. They were really big pigs and seemed to be quite happy living the life on the farm. We also met Orazio the donkey.
After our tour, we had lunch with our tour guide Massimo. He told us all about life and growing up in Tuscany. It was so interesting to listen to all of his stories. I also loved hearing him talk with his Italian accent.
During our lunch we were introduced to the owner of the farm, Giovanni Cannas. We also met his daughter and her beautiful baby boy. He was such a happy baby. Claire and Isabella loved to make him laugh. He would giggle every time the girls jumped up and down. It was really cute.
Where making peccorino cheese begins...in the barn.
The girls loved seeing the lambs!
This baby lamb was just hours old.
Mama Sheep and her baby lamb.
The Milking Room
The machines to milk the sheep
Holding Tanks for the sheep's milk
Massimo showing us how the milk is made into cheese
Fresh cheese. It was good!
Here the cheese has just been made.
The cheese is now in the fridge and will age for months.
This cheese has been aging for quite a while.
Look at all the mold on that cheese!
Here is a closer photo to see the mold on the cheese
Cheese is ready to be sold and eaten!
Our yummy Italian Lunch.
A cheese tray and salad for lunch. Delicious!
Claire meeting Orizio the Donkey.
Girls with some decorative art at the farm.
Girls looking out at the farm. I love this photo.
Me with my girls at the farm
Here is the farm in the middle of Tuscany.
Another view of the farm.
Us at the farm.
Isabella loved the farmer's dog.
Pigs taking a nap.
Our family with Massimo at the sheep farm.
Here is the happy baby boy that my girls loved
to make giggle by jumping up and down.
We had an amazing day and we loved our tour. Our tour guide Massimo was excellent. Being able to see the olive mill and cheese farm was exactly what we were hoping for. It was the highlight of our trip. On our next trip to Tuscany, I think we will try a cooking class or an art class. It was wonderful!