clear tasting glasses at Villa Campestri

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I’ve just come home from two glorious days at Villa Campestri in the Mugello, a beautiful green valley northeast of Florence that is blessedly free of tourist hordes. With Paolo Pasquali, who owns Villa Campestri, and his daughter Gemma, I’ve been plotting a week-long olive oil intensive for next October, starting Saturday the 15th, when the villa’s olive harvest will begin.

We call it AmorOlio: For Love of Olive Oil, but you could call it a graduate seminar in extra-virgin olive oil, meant for anyone who thinks they know what it’s all about, as well as for the rest of us who know we don’t know what it’s all about. Intended for food writers and anyone else who is more than just a little curious, our program is as full of flavors as it is of information. Attendees, we think, will come away with a rich, new understanding of this critical ingredient in the modern kitchen.

We’ve developed a range of activities for the week, from olive oil tastings to harvesting olives and pressing our own oil, from splendid cooking classes with a wide range of dishes, to visits to local food producers—including cheese makers, wineries, restaurants, and the place to go for the finest biscotti di Prato, aka cantucci, those crisp, nutty cookies that go so well with a little glass of vin santo. Making cantucci with olive oil is a challenge—but we’re prepared to rise to it. As for extra-virgin ice cream? We’ve got it licked!

Villa Campestri, part of the exclusive Relais du Silence chain, is called “an olive oil resort” with good reason. Acres of Tuscany’s finest frantoio, leccino, pendolino, and moraiolo trees extend in all directions across the broad hilltops of the estate, blending with tall cypresses and historic pasture oaks. Olio di Cosimo is the premium extra-virgin produced here and it is a superb oil, with a typical Tuscan balanced olive fruitiness underlined by a pleasantly bitter pungency. But beyond making an outstanding oil, Paolo has also developed something unique. His Villa Campestri Oleoteca preserves the fresh appeal of new oil, straight from the frantoio, so that consumers can taste, appreciate, and understand the wide range of flavors of fine oils from top producers from all around the Mediterranean (and from California as well).

Villa Campestri’s Oleoteca is a featured part of the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus in the Napa Valley. Of course it’s also prominent at its home base where the Oleoteca will play an important role in the many olive oil tastings we’ve planned for AmorOlio, October 16th-21st.

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  • Reply Ellen Shick July 22, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    Hi Nancy,
    I love your work! As a fledgling food writer with Italian roots, I resonate with your books and ideas. I will be in the Campania region in Sept.-Oct. 2019 and am looking for cooking classes/schools. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you so much!

    • Reply Nancy Harmon Jenkins September 4, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      The one cooking school I know of in Campania is in Seliano, very near to Paestum (marvelous town), south of Napoli. It is at the very comfortable agriturismo of Baronessa Cecilia Belleli Baratta, at the farm where she raises buffalo cows whose milk goes into mozzarella di bufala. Here’s a Lin: If you go, be sure to tell Cecilia that Nancy sent you!

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