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Truly Unique Family Vacations: Harvesting Olives in Tuscany, Italy

In 2001, Tanya Falcioni bought a new home called Casa Falcioni along with 570 olive trees in Cavriglia, a small town in the heart of Tuscany. Situated atop a rolling hillside surrounded by cypress and chestnut trees, the olive groves of Casa Falcioni afford spectacular views of the Valdarno (Valley of the Arno). In June that year, her son Lorenzo was born. By November, Tanya was picking olives during the harvest season with her newborn son in a cradle beside her in the groves. She remembers the peaceful outdoors and fresh air enabling him to sleep as she worked.

Truly Unique Family Vacations: Harvesting Olives in Tuscany, Italy

CasaFalcioni Tuscany, Italy

In 2001, Tanya Falcioni bought a new home called Casa Falcioni along with 570 olive trees in Cavriglia, a small town in the heart of Tuscany. Situated atop a rolling hillside surrounded by cypress and chestnut trees, the olive groves of Casa Falcioni afford spectacular views of the Valdarno (Valley of the Arno). In June that year, her son Lorenzo was born. By November, Tanya was picking olives during the harvest season with her newborn son in a cradle beside her in the groves. She remembers the peaceful outdoors and fresh air enabling him to sleep as she worked.

A couple years later, my husband and I traveled with our 7-year old son Dante from San Jose, California to help the Falcioni’s pick olives during the harvest. I’d been traveling to Italy for over 25 years and couldn’t wait to take Dante so that he could enjoy the sights and sounds of this magical country.

Olive picking is very easy, for people of any age. We start off by laying down a square-shaped net, with a slit in it, around the trunk of the tree. Everyone gets outfitted with a pair of special gloves and small plastic rakes. We then start picking from all sides and climb ladders to reach the top. We either use gloved hands to comb through the soft branches or use mini hand-held rakes to remove the olives from the tree. “We want to collect the olives off every branch and be sure to watch our footing, so we don’t crush them once they’ve fallen to the ground,” reminds Tanya.

Typically the 12 o’clock chimes from the neighboring church remind us that it’s time to finish up before our lunch break. We take a break for a warm homemade lunch of pasta that has been tossed with the Falcioni’s own oil, of course. It is already a perfect travel day and it is only 12 noon! After our tummies are full, we go back to work until about 4:30pm as it starts to get dark soon after.

As children age, they become more helpful during the harvest. Olive collecting is not strenuous and each child is able to work on a section of the tree either together or independently. Although small children under the age of 5 may forget and step on olives in the net, their little hands are helpful with taking out extra branches or excess leaves that fall into the net. Picking olives atop a ladder tends to be the highlight, but for safety reasons that job is usually reserved for older children or an experienced adult.

Kids just love the whole olive oil collecting experience! (The optimal age for “serious” olive picking is age 9, but young children can also enjoy many aspects of this outdoor experience.)  Olive picking is relaxing and affords a fun way to enjoy quality time with family and friends in a natural setting. Not only can the children pick olives, but the spacious Falcioni property is perfect for outdoor play. Our son, Dante found the start-to-finish process of collecting olives followed by seeing them pressed into oil fascinating. Each Harvest Italia guest will be able to take home a bottle of olive oil made from their hand-picked olives which makes the experience even more rewarding.

Casa Falcioni is also located in the heart of Tuscany where families can easily enjoy short hikes and trips to the local towns and cities to explore museums, churches and outdoor markets and enjoy the slower pace of Italian life and the beautiful Tuscan landscape during the fall. Food is never a problem for kids in Italy as there is pizza, pasta, bread, cheese and gelato – kids’ dream foods!!

Florence (only 30 minutes away) offers a myriad of fun activities for children of all ages. Art and science is on every corner. Kids can climb to the top of the Duomo (the old church) to see incredible views of the city that was the capital of the Renaissance and to this day blends centuries old architecture with the hustle and bustle of a modern city. There’s the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) with street performers, food and wonderful jewelry, and the Palazzo Vecchio where guided tours with actors in costume take you through the palace and recount history in fascinating ways geared to childrens’ level of understanding – and much more.

Experience Harvest Italia 2010 first-hand

The “Harvest Italia 2010” tour is a seven night/eight day tour to Tuscany, Italy, November 1 – 8, 2010 and is a once in a lifetime family vacation experience designed to coincide with the annual olive harvest which occurs each year during this time period. Tour guests will learn how to pick olives and see their self-picked olives turned into olive oil at a local olive pressing facility.  The tour is offered by Spirit of Italy Tours, a boutique travel company offering small groups of travelers’ intimate, lower-paced journeys to Tuscany. On the Spirit of Italy Tours website, you’ll find more details about the Harvest Italia 2010 including our background, itinerary, pricing and registration. An informational event will take place on Sunday, March 21st at Ristorante Da Mario in Saratoga.

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This article was written by Vicky Gray-Clark, founder and tour operator of Spirit of Italy Tours. Vicky is an Italophile (one who loves all things Italian) and one day found herself organizing a tour to Tuscany, her favorite region in the country.

Comments

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3 Responses to Truly Unique Family Vacations: Harvesting Olives in Tuscany, Italy

  1. Orville Haverstock March 17, 2010 at 2:37 am #

    Good posting, I bookmarked your blog so I can visit again in the future, Thanks

  2. Ferris March 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    I have visited with the Falcioni family home several times now over the years and can say their beautiful hillside location is the perfect place to stay and while you tour all the charms that Tuscany has to offer. To be there when the olives are harvested is to see a community come together and being part of the activity will be the highlight of any trip there. Enjoy!

  3. joanniejprice December 4, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Great article! My family and I rented out a beautiful Tuscan Villa next month and have been looking for some fun adventures that we can do as a family. Although olives aren’t my favorite food I definitely think my family and I will enjoy this. Thanks for the share!

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