How I became an olive oil snob

It has finally happened: when I return home, I will no longer be able to buy the grocery-store olive oil that I was happily purchasing before. Thanks to Italy, I have become an olive oil snob. Farewell, money!

I’m kidding (kind of). What has finally pushed me over the edge, you ask? On Friday, I had the very cool experience of going to both an olive grove and an olive oil press. We visited this beautiful farm where they were shaking down the olive trees and then gathering up the olives that fall on the ground. It was extremely cool to watch them – they use this electric hand-type thing, for lack of a better description, that vibrates the trees and olives go flying everywhere like popcorn.

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The farm itself was situated in these rolling green hills. It was like looking at something out of a picture.

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After we visited the farm, we went to the actual press, where they squeeze the olives to get the oil. They have these massive wheels (they remind me of medieval torture devices, somehow) that squish the olives into a paste. The paste is layered onto round boards and then pressed down to squeeze the oil out. We were able to taste it – it’s this funky green colour but it was the best olive oil I’ve ever had in my life. Apparently, if olive oil is yellow, it’s old. It’s supposed to have some green in it, which I definitely did not know.

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I think that may have been one of my favourite things I’ve done in Italy so far.

We also went to Siena on Thursday, which was pretty cool. It had a different feel from Lucca and Assisi – more commercialized, somehow. I was really interested in how Siena is divided into different districts, and as you walk through the city you can see the little signs on each street corner displaying which district you’re in. Sometimes you can be walking on one side of the street and the other side belongs to a different district.

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I really enjoyed the Piazza del Campo, where they hold the Paleo, or horse race. It’s a very large seashell-shaped square, which forces you to sit looking towards the city hall. I was very impressed when I looked closer at the street around the square and tried to imagine ten horses hurtling down it – I’m not sure if I’d be excited or scared for my life.

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We also saw a pretty impressive cathedral (the Duomo di Siena). The outside of it was very richly decorated with statues and such. Inside there was a room that had just opened to the public with these really colourful frescoes, which I thought was really beautiful.

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The rest of my weekend was mainly homework. Crunch time is upon us! We have a break next week, though, and we’re going to Sicily, so I have something to look forwards to.

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