To the northwest of Pisa, known for its leaning tower, is the city of Lucca. To reach it one has to leave the highway and venture onto meandering mountain roads. The city center is cocooned by a 4km-long stone wall. Beyond this high wall, you can see the city’s ancient belfry. We could not help wondering what beauty lies within the walls, how well-preserved the streetscape must be, what scenes from history the town must have been stage to. However, we had to hurry to our final destination because, as usual, the purpose of our trip to Tuscany was to look for olive oil.
We approached a mountain road as we looked longingly at the town encased in its stonewall. With the road getting narrower and the ascent rapidly steeper, we drove for about 15 minutes, not completely at ease. “What in the world is awaiting us?
Suddenly, the sight of sprawling olive groves appeared in front of us. On the distant hill top stood a magnificent building, the instantly recognizable manor house owned by the Forcis. That’s right, the extra virgin oil “Tenuta de Forci” is produced right here.
The Forcis have a 300-year history, and all the olive groves and vineyards seen from the hilltop manor belong to the family. When asked where their land meets its boundary, they say “around there”, pointing at a white matchbox-sized building sat on a distant mountain. The estate is large enough to hold several towns the size of Lucca.
Just take a quick look at this photo and you’ll see how grand and beautiful it is.
We were first shown the former oil mill building, where many traditional machines sit in a row. The building serves as a museum now. Although it was our first visit, somehow the sight was familiar, and then we realized it was the exact scene drawn on the label of “Tenuta de Forci”. They said it was drawn by one of the daughters of the present owner when she was a little girl.
These machines were actually in use until about thirty years ago. Ten years ago, the prime minister at the time paid a visit, so you see how venerable the producer is considered to be.
Another building houses time-honored olive oil containers. The containers are made of stone also used for roofing tiles called “la vagna”, submersed in the ground. Now they use containers which have stainless tanks set within the submersed tanks.
Their olive oil is made by pressing Frantonio, Leccino, Pendolino, and Maolino, which are considered to be Tuscany’s representative olives. The aroma and flavor are fresh and fruity with a mild finish. However, it packs a peppery bitterness that travels down your throat leaving a refreshing aftertaste. Not only Italian but also French chefs highly rate this olive oil.
After the tour, we were taken to an old storehouse, where they prepared their fresh olive oil, wine, the region’s unique large round bread and some cheese. We poured the olive oil lavishly over the freshly-baked bread and took an ample bite. It was absolutely divine! Add to that the rich taste of the cheese and I have to say, I was speechless. We also got to taste their best red wine direct from their vineyard. To say we had a glorious time would be an understatement.