Until Monday, Trieste will be the capital of Italian olive oil as the city hosts the Olio Capitale exhibition, and extra virgin goes beyond the conference hall in a pacific and tasteful invasion.

A relaxing open-air meal beside the sea, with a good seafood plate sprinkled with an excellent extra virgin olive oil, and maybe a great coffee after that. These are the perks of visiting the shining port city for the annual exhibition at the Stazione Marittima in Trieste’s harbor near the magnificent Piazza dell’Unità with its historic cafés.

With its 8th edition, the fair confirms itself as a succesful showcase for Italian excellence in extra virgin olive oil. Since its opening ceremony Saturday, attended by Japan’s ambassador to Italy, a steady crowd of Italian and foreign buyers, professional tasters, journalists and extra virgin enthusiasts have streamed through the pavilions packed with displays of olive oils, table olives and other delicacies.

The exhibition once again posted an increase in the number of exhibitors to 300 — 25 percent more than last year, according to its organizers.

“We are very satisfied,” said Cristina Scarpa, event manager for Aries, the company that organizes the event on behalf of Trieste’s Chamber of Commerce. “This year we had many buyers coming from abroad, even from Japan and Canada.”

228 extra virgin olive oils competed in the annual Olio Capitale competition, and 15 of them were selected by the local Chamber of Commerce’s tasting panel as finalists. They will be evaluated by the technical and popular juries, and the winners will be awarded on Monday.

The national association of Città dell’Olio, which eight years ago helped launch the first edition of the fair, chose to celebrate here in Trieste the first stop-over of the annual Girolio itinerant event on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the association.

Trieste, Italy

The fair is open to the public who, with an inexpensive ticket (€6, or €4 if pre-registered on the website), can taste as many oils as they wish, even taking advantage of the renowned “Oil Bar,” where expert tasters of ONAOO offer assistance. Visitors can then buy their favorite ones to take home. However, most of the visitors were commercial buyers.

“There are many chefs and restaurateurs coming from the nearest countries such as Germany, Austria and Slovenia,” Scarpa added. “They can taste and maybe buy some spare bottles of olive oil, to then assess which ones they want to order.”

A good chance to taste and value oils was also offered by the fair’s Cooking School led by Emilio Cok, president of the local chefs’ association, where the different extra virgin olive oils hailing from various regions were used to prepare and season local specialities.

The fair also opened to French cuisine, thanks to a collaboration with the Commanderie des Cordons Bleus de France who on Saturday morning conducted an educational workshop about high quality products, cookery and a healthy diet.

And extra virgin is literally spreading all over the beautiful city of Trieste. Thanks to a partnership with the local restaurants’ and chefs’ associations, many eateries are offering a selection of oils that showcased at Olio Capitale, and there are events focusing on the pairing of regional cuisine with extra virgin olive oils.

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