Claudia Da Rin

Lake Garda - The Secrets of Olive Oil

Italy has a selection of the best Olive Oils in the world

Olive oil, among the most precious ingredients and surely a staple in most people’s diets, has a long, enviable history. Traces of its use date back to nearly one million years ago, while Crete and the Phoenicians were among the first to trade it to the Mediterranean.

On Lake Garda, several finds dating back to the Bronze Age testify that olive oil was already part of the diet during that time. Olive oil cultivation at such a latitude may come as a surprise, and we have the Mediterranean climate to thank for this: here, a mild, delicate extra virgin olive with a fruity taste is produced, the ideal companion for local dishes.  Arco, Riva del Garda and Tenno are part of the National City of Oil Association and the eastern shore is called the Olive Tree Riviera. Can it get more romantic than this? 

The superb oil you will find here is the Extra Virgin Garda, labelled DOP (Denominazione Origine Protetta) in 2004: with a strict certifying body attesting its quality, you can be sure you will only taste a product of excellence.  A fragrant, delicate, somewhat sophisticated taste, it exudes balance and harmony and its highest acidity in oleic acid is 0,5% The most common varieties are Casaliva, Frantoio and Leccino. If you fancy discovering and tasting this sublime oil in its most natural surrounding. why not discover WardaGarda, the Olive Oil festival, taking place on the beginning of September   It will be a chance to visit this most stunning area of northern Italy.  

How to taste Olive Oil

The benefits of olive oil may be familiar to most people, however in recent years, some oils labelled as “extra virgin” turned out to be diluted with other refined oils.

A good way to try and distinguish oils and set up an olive oil education is to learn to taste them; you can read as many books as you like about olive oil and its culture, but they will not mean a great deal until you connect your acquired knowledge with a sensory experience. Before proceeding with a tasting, remember that you should not smoke, drink coffee or eat spicy food, do not wash you hands with perfumed soap and do not taste more than 8-10 types of oil. The ideal tasting time is at mid-morning or mid-afternoon.   There follow three processes: the visual, olfactory and gustative one.

It is important that you look at the oil you are going to taste because it may have been freshly harvested, therefore greener, but also yellow: the colour does nor contribute to any specific judgement. Seeing a darker of paler colour may simply refer to different types of olives employed or to the process of destoning.

The three most important features of a quality extra virgin olive oil are its freshness, bitterness and zinginess: you should be able to recognise these features when you smell the oil. The experience is enhanced by holding the container in your hands to warm it up, cover it with a paper or cloth napkin: this way the product may reach the temperature of 28-32 degrees and the oil scents can be released, without having interfered with other aromas.  There follows the proper tasting. Professional tasters sip the oil from small blue glasses, but you can try with a common glass holding at least 10 ml and tasting 4 ml (the equivalent of a teaspoon): if you are tasting only one variety, you may drink it, but if you are tasting more than one, you should not, so as not to combine too many tastes. Ideally you will want the impressions of your entire mouth and tongue: suck air through the oil to get more aromas out of it and then close your mouth and breathe out through your nose. You will obtain a retronasal perception as the mouth is linked with the nose in the back. The entire experience will add to your perception of this most precious food.

After having tried oil on its own, you will have to pair it with food: you may enter into a difficult realm, but a rule of thumb may be that of trying three different types of oil – a mild, a medium and a robust one – with a variety of items, such as boiled potatoes, fresh mozzarella, salad greens, bread, ripe tomatoes, poached or grilled chicken.

When it comes to suggesting what oil works best with a certain type of food, well, that really is a science in itself: try not too choose a strong oil for simpler dishes, while you may opt for a stronger one for unstructured ones. Do not necessarily assume that olive oils from the north of Italy are milder, while the ones produced in the south of the peninsula are stronger: each and every one of the extra virgin excellence oils will have specific scents and features. Try and adopt the habit of tasting several oils to see which one works best for you. It is a valuable exercise that will enhance your eating, adding gusto and zest to your life.

Olive oil health benefits

In a health-conscious society, attention to the ingredients we employ in our diet is key. Extra virgin olive oil, however, can be aptly called the food of the gods as there seem to be only positive sides to it.

It is rich in monounsaturated fats, vitamin K and vitamin D, it is proven to reduce inflammation; it contains large amounts of antioxidants; it is protective against heart disease; it lowers cholesterol levels and lows down ageing, the polyphenol it contains help building stronger cell walls, studies suggest it may reduce the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and may reduce type 2 Diabetes.

You have to make sure, however, that you select the correct type. Broadly speaking, there are five types: extra virgin excellence, extra virgin certificate, common extra virgin, virgin olive oil called extra virgin and olive oil.


Check out below the delicious recipes of Chef de cuisine Matteo Felte - Grand Hotel Fasano Lake Garda

The Grand Hotel Fasano is a 5-star hotel on picturesque Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy located on the edge of the Dolomites halfway between Venice and Milan. The elegant suites, the gourmet restaurants, the splendid SPA and the wellness center make this unique retreat the perfect place for a luxury holiday and from which to explore the amazing landscape of upper Italy.

Where to stay:

Grand Hotel Fasano Lake Garda

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