New Rules in Italy Set Standards for Oleotourism Operators

The rules create guidelines for certified operators two years after oletourism's inclusion in the national budget.

Feb. 10, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis

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New oppor­tu­ni­ties for tourism con­nected to extra vir­gin olive oil have come one step closer for Italian olive farm­ers and pro­duc­ers.

The gov­ern­ment has signed new tech­ni­cal rules, which offi­cials say will allow oleo­tourism to pros­per through­out Italy.

New, very inter­est­ing sce­nar­ios are open­ing up for the olive ter­ri­to­ries and pro­duc­ers.- David Granieri, Unaprol

The rules come on the heels of oleo­touris­m’s inclu­sion in the national bud­get in 2020 and the meet­ings that fol­lowed among stake­hold­ers, includ­ing farm­ers’ and pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tions.

The new decree sets out a series of stan­dards that poten­tial oper­a­tors would need to meet to become a reg­is­tered oleo­tourism venue, includ­ing the space to offer tast­ings and the abil­ity to meet safety and san­i­tary reg­u­la­tions.

See Also:Centonze, a Forward-Looking Farm Rooted in Sicily’s History

The stated goals of the new rules are to advance and pro­mote extra vir­gin olive oil cul­ture and serve as a new source of income for pro­duc­ers who have faced chal­leng­ing years due to extreme weather events, drought and the Covid-19 pan­demic.

The rules seek to estab­lish pro­fes­sional stan­dards among tourism oper­a­tors, while also serv­ing to define who will ben­e­fit from new funds ear­marked by the 2020 bud­get law.

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The focus of the new act is specif­i­cally on extra vir­gin olive oil prod­ucts cer­ti­fied by the European Union with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

Tourists will be offered the chance to learn about mak­ing and tast­ing extra vir­gin olive oil and expe­ri­ences such as par­tic­i­pat­ing in har­vest activ­i­ties man­aged by trained per­son­nel on the farms.

According to the new rules, tast­ings and courses may include small food prepa­ra­tions. Producers will also need to be acces­si­ble online using ded­i­cated web­sites writ­ten in Italian and at least one other lan­guage.

Some pro­duc­ers had asked for a qual­ity logo to be intro­duced to iden­tify and cer­tify only autho­rized oleo­tourism farm­houses, which the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Agriculture plans to pro­mote, yet the details of such a cam­paign were not offered.

The new rules were greeted with enthu­si­asm by many in the indus­try.

We are today cel­e­brat­ing news that we have been wait­ing for some time,” Michele Sonnessa, pres­i­dent of the Città dell’Olio asso­ci­a­tion, which coor­di­nates hun­dreds of munic­i­pal­i­ties in olive-pro­duc­ing ter­ri­to­ries, told Olive Oil Times.

Sonnessa added that the next steps in deploy­ing the ini­tia­tive sit with the regional author­i­ties.

They now have the most rel­e­vant task, which is to adapt the local reg­u­la­tions to the guide­lines fixed by the decree about require­ments and qual­ity stan­dards for the new oleo­tourism activ­i­ties,” he said.

For extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers, this means the chance to receive ded­i­cated train­ing and cre­ate an increas­ingly more qual­i­fied offer of food and expe­ri­ences,” Sonnessa added.

Together with other promi­nent farm­ers’ asso­ci­a­tions, such as Unaprol and Coldiretti, Città dell’Olio has just con­cluded the national olive oil tourism com­pe­ti­tion, which the Ministry of Agriculture had also pro­moted to high­light the best projects cur­rently in the field.

It’s a small step for­ward, which will be fol­lowed by other ini­tia­tives in the spring such as Merenda nell’Oliveta, or next fal­l’s Olive Walk, a series of activ­i­ties to pro­mote the rich diver­sity and the oppor­tu­ni­ties of the olive oil world,” Sonnessa said.

Among the win­ners of this year’s com­pe­ti­tions was Alessandro Gilotti, the owner of the Passo Palomba farm, for his expe­ri­ence named Tutorial.

It is tar­geted at the spe­cific back­grounds of those who come to our olive farm,” he told Olive Oil Times. The first step hap­pens out­door among the olive trees, where tourists get in touch with the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the trees, their prun­ing, their cul­ti­vars.”

The fact that hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent olive tree vari­eties have been grown by farm­ers every­where is always so inter­est­ing for our vis­i­tors,” Gilotti added, not­ing how oleo­tourists wel­come the wide vari­ety of expe­ri­ences.

After the first con­tact with our trees, I bring them over to our small museum where they admire an old mill­stone, dated in the first years of the 18th Century,” he con­tin­ued. I show them a decanter from 1640, an exca­vated stone where the olive paste was poured. And I get to tell them about the ancient his­tory of the olive tree. Finally, I show them ancient jars used for trad­ing olive oil in the Mediterranean.”

The expe­ri­ence might dive deeper with dis­cus­sions of chem­istry and bio­chem­istry. A par­tic­u­lar focus is given to polyphe­nols and antiox­i­dants and how they build up in the olive dru­pes dur­ing ripen­ing.

We also get to dis­cus­sions about the con­tain­ers and how they were in the past and how they are made today, when a given cul­ti­var should be har­vested and so on,” Gilotti added.

Gilotti is con­vinced that the expe­ri­ence can be espe­cially enrich­ing for chil­dren, allow­ing them to learn how extra vir­gin olive oil can play a role in their health as they grow.

We play games with them,” Gilotti said. One of those being a cas­tle with a princess. Extra vir­gin olive oil rep­re­sents the princess, and the cas­tle is rep­re­sented by a bot­tle. The draw­bridge is its cork.”

In that sce­nario, the sol­diers are the polyphe­nols which have to pro­tect the princess from three mon­sters called light, high tem­per­a­tures and oxy­gen, the three ene­mies of high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils,” he added. So they learn that the more sol­diers there are, the more the princess is pro­tected.”

See Also:Olive Oil Tourism Venues

Through the tast­ings, Gilotti said many dis­cover for the first time the dif­fer­ence between lower qual­ity olive oil and truly high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils.

At first, I let them smell dif­fer­ent aro­mas, such as those from pieces of apples, recently mowed grass, toma­toes or other extra vir­gin olive oil scents,” he said. Then they smell some ran­cid olive oil, or oil with typ­i­cal defects, and that is when some­one comes up say­ing that the smell reminds him or her of the olive oil they are cur­rently using at home.”

From there, I can teach them how to read a label cor­rectly, what kind of infor­ma­tion is there and I tell them the dif­fer­ence between olive oil types and qual­i­ties,” Gilotti added.

Gilotti said tourists describe the Tutorial expe­ri­ence as an eye-opener” about olive oil.

It ends with the tast­ing of our high-end mono­va­ri­etals, dis­cus­sions about what kind of extra vir­gin olive oil is best suited for spe­cific recipes and a brief visit to our own mod­ern olive oil mill,” he con­cluded. After that, many of them buy our extra vir­gin olive oils.”

According to David Granieri, Unaprol’s pres­i­dent, oleo­tourism paves the way to a new age for Italian extra vir­gin olive oils.

New, very inter­est­ing sce­nar­ios are open­ing up for the olive ter­ri­to­ries and pro­duc­ers,” he said. We can give value to this extra­or­di­nary prod­uct directly reach­ing the con­sumers by nar­rat­ing sto­ries, bonds, emo­tions of the pro­duc­ers and from the pro­duc­tion ter­ri­to­ries.”

The House of Representatives Agricultural com­mis­sion pres­i­dent, Filippo Gallinella, added in a press release that these rules help sup­port the coun­tries myr­iad small farm­ers and pro­duc­ers who can­not always ensure a suf­fi­cient income.”

We pro­duce half the olive oil we con­sume, with rel­e­vant exports, but have small farms and many oil mills scat­tered through the ter­ri­tory,” he said. If we start work­ing on mar­ket­ing poli­cies not focused on the shelf but cen­tered on the con­sumer, dredg­ing the con­sumers in the his­tory, taste and wide bio­di­ver­sity of our olive oils, then we will be able to ensure a decent income even to those who have just one hectare.”

That is the big chal­lenge to give value to the work of the farmer, care­taker of his or her ter­ri­tory,” Gallinella con­cluded.



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