Of all of the Musei del Cibo (Museums of Food) in Italy, there are probably more dedicated to olives and olive oil than any other (except, perhaps, wine). Tuscany has the best olive oil (according to this writer), so it is a decided disappointment that the region has only one measly museum (and perhaps another, rumored to be in Carmignano) dedicated to the golden-green oil.
As the new 2009 extra virgin cold press Italian olive oil is released to the impatient masses, the following is a survey of some – but not all – of the Musei dell’Olio d’Oliva.
Museo dell’Antica Grancia di Serre
The Museum of the Ancient Serre Grange is housed in a grange (fortified farm) situated in the Sienese countryside. Its fortification, which served to safeguard the stores from incursions, represents an interesting architectural type. In 2001, the museum was inaugurated, divided into two sections, the Olive Oil Museum and the Grange Documentation Center. The first of these museums, housed in an ancient frantoio (olive-mill), displays a collection of implements and materials from the early 20th century pertinent to olive-growing and the production of olive oil.
Address: Via dell’Antica Grancia 3, Rapolano Terme, Serre di Rapolano (SI)
There is no museum website, but it is described in the website of the Florence History of Science Museum.
Museo dell’ Olivo – Fratelli Carli Possibly the most interesting and complete of all of the Italian olive oil museums, the Olive Museum in Onelia was established to house a variety of objects collected over decades by the Carli olive oil company, founded in 1911. Housed in a small Art Nouveau mansion (1920), which was the company’s headquarters, it is still surrounded by the olive-oil factory. The same building accommodates a library dedicated to the olive and olive oil, while a cafeteria and a museum shop are in an adjacent building. The collection includes several rare objects, antiques and archaeological finds. All the exhibits tell the story of the customs, costumes, tools, production methods, commerce, without omitting the philosophical and artistic – the olive tree has inspired poets, authors and painters for more than a thousand years. The Olive Museum received the European Museum of the Year Award for 1993.
Address: Via Garessio 13, 18100 Oneglia (IM)
Official Website (occasionally out of order)
Museo della Civiltà dell’ Olivo
The Museum of the Olive Culture, the first public museum of its kind in Italy and in Europe, is housed in an old Franciscan monastery, which also includes the church of St Francis and a collection of works of arts. Divided into four sections (“Botany”, “Getting to know the olive and olive oil”, “The olive as a symbol of peace”, “The history of the olive”) the museum utilizes multi-media to tell its story. The Ro Marcerano** sketches amuse and educate children. The texts presenting the olive in history, botany and agronomy complement corresponding tables with data from the National Research Center. Interactive devices provide information on pressing techniques, while documentary films show such details as the manufacture of the sacks made of goat hair in which the crushed olive mush is placed for compression, and the phases of high-density cultivation, including tree pruning.
Address: Musei di San Francesco, Chiesa di San Francesco, 06039 Trevi (PG)
The official website has no information about opening times or ticket prices.
Museo dell’ Olivo e dell’ Olio – Fondazione Lungarotti
The Museum of Olive and Olive Oil was established in 2000 by the Lungarotti Foundation in a small nucleus of Medieval residences, where many decades ago an olive press operated in Torgiano’s historic center. The museum is organized in ten rooms and the tour starts with information about the phytological characteristics of the olive, the varieties grown in Umbria, and the various methods for olive cultivation and olive oil extraction, from the traditional to ultra-modern techniques. The presence of the olive and olive oil in daily life, and their use and importance throughout the centuries are also explored. These exhibits examine the mythological origin of the plant and the use of olive oil for lighting, in rituals of major western religions. The role of olive oil in medicine and in the diet, in sports, in cosmetics, for heating are described. Finanly, popular beliefs attributed to the tree and its product – symbolic, appeasing, deterrent and therapeutic – are explored.
Address: Via Garibaldi, 10 06089 Torgiano (Perugia)
Frantoio Bartolomei Olive Oil Museum
The Vecchio Frantoio Bartolomei has an extensive collection of old machinery and vintage objects used in the cultivation of olives. The exhibition provides an itinerary that takes the visitor through the phases of the production of olive oil, from the growing of the olive trees, to the gathering of the fruit, from their processing to the storing of the golden oil. A 16th century press is one highlight of the collection.
Address: Via Cagnano, 6 – 05020 Montecchio (Terni)
Museo dell’Olio della Sabina Located in the village of Castelnuovo di Farfa, the Sabina Olive Oil Museum holds a rare collection of olive presses, which attest the evolution of olive oil production in the region over the course of four centuries. The museum is unique in its use of the works of five internationally renowned artists (A. Cavaliere, G. Gazzola, M. Lai, H. Nagasawa and I. Strazza), who, with music and sculpture as their tools, explain and honor the important role played by olive oil in civilization.
Address: Via Perelli, 7 02031 Castelnuovo di Farfa (RI)
Museo dell’Olio – Oleifico Cisano del Garda The Olive Oil Museum at Cisano of Bardolino, near Lake Garda, was established by the Cisano del Garda Oil Mill, which has been operating since 1936. The museum’s most important exhibits include an ancient olive-press with a lever, grindstones, screw presses and the reconstruction of a 19th century hydraulic press, as well as a centrifugal separator from the 1930s and various containers used to store the final product, including the characteristic stone jars of the Garda-Verona region.
Address: Via Peschiera, 54 37011 Cisano di Bardolino (VR)
Museo dell’ Olio di Oliva Sant’ Angelo de Graecis
Created in the 400-year-old building that housed the olive press of the Sant’ Angelo de Graecis estate, the Museum of Olive Oil includes a collection of machinery and equipment attesting the history of olive oil production from the late 17th century until the early 1900s.
Address: Contrada S. Angelo, 5 72015 Fasano (Br)
The Museum of Olive Oil of Cantinarte
Located in the small village of Bucchianico near Chieti, the Olive Oil Museum offers a view of olive oil production as practiced in the 18th century using stone and wood machines powered by man and donkey. The museum is housed in an ancient frantoio where the interior spaces and architectural details have been restored with special care to authentic detail.
Address: Via San Camillo 21, 66011 Bucchianico
Museo dell’ Olio di Loreto Aprutino
The small Abruzzo hill town of Loreto Aprutino has five – yes, five – museums. One is all about olive oil. It is housed in the New Gothic-stlye castle, itself worthy of a visit. A 90 minute guided tour is included in the 6 euro ticket price.
Address: Via C. Battisti, 65014 Loreto Aprutino (PE)
All About Olive Oil Museums
For information about Olive Oil Museums anywhere in the Mediterranean check out the Olive Oil Museums site.
Best Photo of Olive Oil
National Geographic’s Photo of the Day – Olive Oil: Elixir of the Gods
Next time: Museo del Gusto – the Taste Museum