As well as for its wine and great cuisine, Italy is also known for its olive oil and is the world's second highest producer of extra virgin olive oil behind Spain. From adding it to bread to enhancing delicious Italian fish and pasta dishes, olive oil is a true staple in the Italian diet.
What makes Italian olive oil so special? The main feature of Italian extra virgin olive oil lies in its diversity, coming from the fact that Italy is home to over 350 different varieties of olive, giving each oil a unique flavour. It is therefore no surprise that this basic ingredient in Italian cuisine boasts several Protected Designations of Origin or PDO (just like wine and cheese), making Italian olive oil one of the best olive oils in the world. So, where is the best olive oil in Italy? It's time to judge for yourself, as we give you some recommendations in our guide to the best olive oil in Italy on our tour of 4 of Italy's olive oil regions and areas.
Tuscany is known for producing some of Italy's best olive oils and here, you'll come across oils with great depth of flavour. While Tuscany is also known for its wonderful wines, it's not unusual to find wine producing estates also making olive oil, and these Tuscan olive oils also vary greatly throughout the region. The distinct, rich flavour of Tuscan olive oil is due to the variety of olives uses, usually 3 types:
- Frantoio: these olives give the oil a fruity flavour, as well as a sharp a kick
- Moraiolo: this type of olive leads to an olive oil with spicy notes
- Leccino: this olive variety produces a sweeter and smoother olive oils
To top it off, Tuscany is also home to Italy's only Protected Geographic Origin (PGI) label for olive oil, making it a must visit area when it comes to trying the best olive oil in Italy.
This PDO includes almost the entire island of Sardinia where there is no shortage of spectacular olive oil to be enjoyed. The unique flavour of the olive oil in Sardinia is down to the following local cultivars of olives: Bosana, Tonda di Cagliari, Nera di Villacidro and Semidana. To best enjoy this wonderful olive oil, pair it with liver pâté crostini or bruschettas as well as using it to compliment red meat, soups and sauces.
If you want to visit the island of Sardinia and take some good olive oil home with you, we recommend heading to Bonu in Cagliari. As well as selling the island's best olive oils, you'll also be treated to all sorts of local food products that you won't be able to resist. In Sassari, we also recommend Sale & Pepe. Here you can purchase olive oil from a traditional delicatessen, while you'll also be able to sit in and enjoy an aperitif or a casual dinner made up of the best Sardinian dishes.
For another great taste of Italy's liquid gold, head to the area surrounding Lake Garda. Here you will find some of Italy's most unique and unusual olive oils, as the land area where the olives are grown is relatively small compared to other regions. This rare olive oil is characterised by its fresh taste, with slightly spicy notes, as well as those of herbs and artichokes. What really sets this olive oil aside is its colour, beautifully golden with a green tone thanks to the high chlorophyll content of the olives used in production.
To enjoy the best of the olive oil on offer in Lake Garda, we recommend Agraria Riva del Garda and the family-run Comincioli, both of which are award winning olive oils from the area.
Olive oil production in Lazio has ancient origins, with manufacturing dating back to Etruschi and the ancient Romans. However, despite its long history, it's only recently that Lazio has started to really attract attention when it comes to its olive oil. The main olive variety used is Itrana, giving the oil a unique tomato-like flavour, along with some herbal undertones.
We recommend heading to Casale del Giglio, where you'll find beautiful olive groves dispersed amongst archaeological sites, and here you'll be able to try some of the region's best olive oil offer.