Organic and PDO Producers at Heart of Italy’s Latest Oleotourism Initiative

A new tourism consortium seeks to help producers work more closely with tourism agencies to promote their extra virgin olive oils.
Jul 30, 2021 11:38 AM EDT
Paolo DeAndreis

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Italy’s olive oil cul­ture and its unique con­nec­tion to the land are fuel­ing sev­eral new oleo­tourism ini­tia­tives in the world’s sec­ond-largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing nation.

New olive oil tourism pack­ages are spring­ing up as the Covid-19 vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign speeds up and national and inter­na­tional tourists search for new post-pan­demic hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions.

We need to think of the olive orchard as an open-air museum whose guardian and keeper is the farmer who invites peo­ple to come, expe­ri­ence and learn.- Mariagrazia Bertaroli, founder, Tourism Consortium of Organic and PDO EVOO

This has been par­tially fueled by the recently-passed Oleotourism Act, which has helped newly-formed orga­ni­za­tions cre­ate, develop and sup­port oleo­tourism activ­i­ties.

Our goal is to help pro­duc­ers nar­rate the cul­ture of qual­ity of their prod­ucts,” Mariagrazia Bertaroli, the founder and pres­i­dent of the Tourism Consortium of Organic and PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) Extra Virgin Olive Oils, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also: Olive Oil Tourism Returns to the Colosseum as Italy Reopens

Bertaroli’s con­sor­tium mim­ics what is already hap­pen­ing in the wine sec­tor, con­nect­ing tourist agen­cies, insti­tu­tions, and tourists to the olive oil pro­duc­ers.

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She added that the goal of the con­sor­tium is to help farm­ers develop a new way to earn money while pro­mot­ing the true value of their high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, which often suf­fers from the com­pe­ti­tion of cheaper extra vir­gin olive oils sold on super­mar­ket shelves.

Many con­sumers may spend big money for the oil they put in their cars but do not have the cul­tural aware­ness to focus on what kind of olive oil they eat,” Bertaroli said. What we need is to let olive oil cul­ture be known. We need to trans­form the con­sumer into an olive oil lover, let­ting them under­stand the value of what they are buy­ing. It is not a mat­ter of price; it is a mat­ter of value.”

Tradition is impor­tant, but today’s best olive oils also come from inno­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy. It is pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion that really make a dif­fer­ence,” she added. The con­sor­tium is giv­ing pro­duc­ers know-how and train­ing so that they can learn how to nar­rate the story of their prod­uct and the out­stand­ing qual­ity of their olive oil.”

We help pro­duc­ers by learn­ing more about their prod­uct since not all of them have an olive oil taster and not all farm­ers pos­sess a deep tech­ni­cal knowl­edge of their prod­ucts,” Bertaroli con­tin­ued.

To date, small or medium olive farms that focus on high-qual­ity prod­ucts, own and man­age their olive orchards and are often the care­givers to cen­tury-old trees in breath­tak­ing loca­tions have expressed the most inter­est in join­ing the new oleo­tourism asso­ci­a­tions.

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Masseria Trapana, Lecce

Oil mill vis­its are fine, but oil mills are open only dur­ing spe­cific peri­ods of the year. Olive orchards are open all year round, and they carry with them piv­otal ele­ments of envi­ron­men­tal and land­scape pro­tec­tion,” Bertaroli said. We need to think of the olive orchard as an open-air museum whose guardian and keeper is the farmer who invites peo­ple to come, expe­ri­ence and learn.”

Within the con­sor­tium, pro­duc­ers learn the basics of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, how to man­age a reser­va­tion and how to deal with a tourist agency,” she added, empha­siz­ing that the con­sor­tium is pri­mar­ily a touris­tic ini­tia­tive.

See Also: Passion and Inspiration Drive Success at Marina Colonna’s Farm

The con­sor­tium takes care of the tourists, which means tak­ing care of the coun­try­side,” Bertaroli said. We needed a new agency, the con­sor­tium because while there are many play­ers and insti­tu­tions in the farm­ing indus­try, there are none in the tourist sec­tor devoted to this.”

We are a plat­form for ser­vices to touris­tic oper­a­tors, insti­tu­tions and olive oil pro­duc­ers, there­fore favor­ing strate­gic con­nec­tions that can cre­ate value for the whole ter­ri­tory, involv­ing all inter­ested play­ers,” she added.

The newly-formed oleo­tourism asso­ci­a­tions will not orga­nize spe­cific events. Instead, the goal is to help pro­duc­ers adhere to a cer­tain touris­tic for­mat and have them and the tourist oper­a­tors orga­nize dates and hol­i­day spe­cials.

Given the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of each farm, the con­sor­tium part­ners will offer tai­lor-made expe­ri­ences to their guests fol­low­ing a pro­vided for­mat,” Bertaroli said.

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This will cre­ate a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence that can be repli­cated by all types and sizes of pro­duc­ers around the coun­try.

After join­ing the con­sor­tium, the farm­ers will need to com­ply with its for­mats and rules. A qual­ity man­ager from the orga­ni­za­tion will peri­od­i­cally check how the olive grow­ers are apply­ing these.

A rel­e­vant por­tion of the incom­ing train­ing ini­tia­tives will be ded­i­cated to dig­i­tal and tech­nol­ogy classes. According to Bertaroli, this could bring new oppor­tu­ni­ties for the gen­er­a­tional shift needed in a coun­try where older grow­ers run the vast major­ity of olive farms.

In a fam­ily farm, the younger ones could learn to man­age the dig­i­tal side of their busi­ness,” Bertarol said.

Restaurants and farm­houses will also play a rel­e­vant part in the new association’s ini­tia­tives. Their con­nec­tion with and ded­i­ca­tion to high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil and its cul­ture will help them develop oleo­tourism-spe­cific pack­ages with the tourist agen­cies and par­tic­i­pat­ing farms.

While the new orga­ni­za­tions take shape and regional asso­ci­a­tions team up to develop oleo­tourism, many in the hos­pi­tal­ity and restau­rant sec­tor are already propos­ing events focused on olive oil through­out the coun­try.

Tastings, walks, pic­nics and work­shops are already offered spo­rad­i­cally in many of the most renowned olive oil-pro­duc­ing areas.

Restaurants and farm­houses that nur­ture olive oil cul­ture are work­ing with the con­sor­tium and are there­fore des­tined to become part of a strate­gic net­work des­tined to give value back to the ter­ri­tory, to olive oil pro­duc­ers and to tourism,” Bertaroli con­cluded.





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