Along arid hills and ambling pathways threading around Lake Garda’s shores, twisted trunks and fanning leaves of that ancient Italian centurion – the olive tree – flourish with a vibrancy that belies their age. With branches reaching skyward, quietly witnessing modern-day activities, each tree also boasts a root system, usually several centuries in the making, firmly planted and inextricably linked to the soil, the fertility, and the history of the land itself. Olive trees are nature’s refinery, a sort of magical organic factory: deriving the scent, the savor, the simple luxury of their ecosystems, and translating it first into the ripe shades of wine-and-green colored berries; then – by virtue of artisan prowess and care – into liquid gold, the kind that has made Italy quite literally king of the international olive oil trade.
In a world that pollutes most of its most prized produce with genetic modification, chemical additives, and poor processing procedures, Italy still prides itself on a national gastronomic
legacy linked directly to fiercely guarded and forever celebrated family traditions. Known worldwide for its wine, cheese, and pasta production, Italy carefully tends to both these and other treasures, including the olive tree and its most precious fruit. Lake Garda as a region is no exception to this rule – as it boasts a unique high-elevation locale, the only one of its kind with a protected microclimate (thanks to the surrounding Alps) permitting some of the highest quality olive oil to be produced. As a strict guardian of food purity, and thus a promoter of the most satisfying culinary experience, the Italian government regularly controls Lake Garda olive oil according to the Minister of Agriculture’s “DOP” standard, an acronym roughly translated to mean “Protected Destination of Origin.” For fans of Italian cuisine this means that every element of the olive oil’s production, from the land to the trees to the pressing and bottling, is subjected to the highest scrutiny, before receiving the coveted “DOP” certification.
Lake Garda’s excellence as an olive oil oasis is best appreciated by a comprehensive sampling of its various restaurants, activities, culture, and heritage. To truly enjoy the unique atmosphere that makes some of the best olive oil in all of Italy, don’t limit yourself to a few days in a hotel; consider booking one of the many apartments or Italy villas for rent
available in one of the most beautiful locations for real estate in all of the peninsula. Once you’ve settled in your new home, be sure to plan a visit to the Museum of Olive Oil in Cisano, a family-founded presentation of the olive oil process, from treetop to tabletop. Examples of ancient and modern pressing methods, audiovisual displays, and a well-stocked boutique round out the experience and will give you a full appreciation for Lake Garda’s “liquid gold.”