This Is Why Lake Como Olive Oil Is So Precious
It’s not a mystery that the western coast is the sunniest area of Lake Como.
The particularly mild weather, combined with the moraine soil, have enabled since the bygone era a blooming production of what is called “the green gold”: the olive oil.
When we talk about food and wine around Lake Como, we cannot fail to mention its precious extra virgin olive oil. It’s a golden nectar, extracted according to traditional methods (strictly with cold pressing, a method that enables to keep all the purest organoleptic properties); it boasts an intense scent and fruity flavour, with hints of almond and artichoke. It’s an oil with a very low oleic acidity, and this is one of the main reasons behind its value.
This oil comes from small but tenacious plants that have perfectly adapted to the microclimate of our places.
As you have probably heard about, there’s even a trait of coast, between Sala Comacina and Ossuccio, that is called “Zoca de l’Oli”, literally “Oil hollow”: a little paradise flooded with sunlight and olive trees scattered throughout.
On the eastern shore there’s even a village, overlooking the lake, called Oliveto Lario, literally “Lario Olive Grow”!
But let’s now dig a bit further about its history and the best olive mills you can visit during your staying at the lake!
A bit of history
The story of Lake Como oil dates back to the first Greek colonists, who arrived in the first century BC with Caesar's Roman militias to start cultivating olive trees mainly on the western shores of the lake.
The harvested olives, once squeezed in the first stone mills, gave birth to that Larian oil which later became famous in the Lombard court of Queen Teodolinda (legends tell that she always wanted that oil on her table) and later with the Benedictine and Cistercian monks.
We find traces of the presence and cultivation of olive trees also in the 14th cent. municipal statutes.
Since the Middle Ages, great abbeys and powerful families disputed the olive grove territories, because oil was a precious product, used in liturgical functions and in the pharmaceutical code of the time.
Over the centuries the oil production has shown fluctuating trends. In the 18th century the cultivation of mulberry trees was introduced for the breeding of silkworms and in the 19th cent. century it was preferred to extend the vineyards. That’s why Lake Como oil has become a niche product, increasingly rare and appreciated by connoisseurs.
The DOP certification
In 1997 our extra virgin olive oil has obtained the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP): Laghi Lombardi Lario.
So when you see this label, you can be 100% sure that the olives have been produced exclusively at Lake Como, harvested directly from our local trees, carried in special ventilated boxes, and immediately crushed and pressed into a certified olive-press.
The varieties produced by the Oliviticoltori of Lake Como are Frantoione, Bolgegna, Leccino. Since 2011, several awards have been received: the inclusion in the Gambero Rosso guide of the best three extra virgin olive oils in Lombardy, and the mention in the Guide to Extravirginity published by Slow Food.
Today, about 40.000 olive trees are cultivated in the provinces of Lake Como.
The municipalities involved in the production of olive oil are 29. Most of them, as we said, are on the western shore, in Tremezzina and in the area of the upper lake (Domaso), but many are also in the Lariano Triangle (between Bellagio and Oliveto Lario), as well as on the banks of Ceresio (Porlezza and Valsolda).
Interestingly, there are only two oil mills at Lake Como: one (the oldest and most traditional) is in Lenno, at Oleificio Vanini, and the other one, more redcent, is in Bellano at Agriturismo Biosio.
Oleificio Vanini: a must visit in the heart of Tremezzina
We like to say you can’t truly understand Lake Com’s soul if you don’t visit at least once the historic Oleificio Vanini in Lenno.
Founded in 1850, the company obtained a diploma with a gold medal at the International Expo in Paris in 1905.
The best time of the year for visiting this Oleificio is of course between October and November, during the olives harvest.
All olives are hand-picked and cold-pressed in the old mill.
The shop is open from Monday to Saturday, from 8 to 12 and from 13.30 to 18.30.
The oil mill in Biosio (Bellano) at Azienda Agricola Poppo
The farm Poppo was founded in 2004 to follow up the agricultural activity undertaken by Mauro Denti in the recently planted olive sector: the first planting of 120 olive trees was made in 1992 to replace the vine, that had become too laborious to handle.
In 2006, thanks to the participation and great interest of the Mountain Community of Valsassina, Valvarrone, Valdesino and Riviera, a new oil mill has been inaugurated. Consider that this is the most northern olive mill of Europe!
The frantoio has been built with the aim of serving the olive growers of Lario and giving the opportunity to transform the precious olives into a high quality oil, destined to a niche market.
You can visit the farm (as well as book a holiday or just a lunch) in Via per Lecco, 12, Bellano (Frazione Biosio).
When in Bellagio
Bellagio as well is renowned for its DOP oil: produced on a small scale, it boasts extraordinary qualities. You can taste it at Azienda Agricola Sancassani (Via Costa Prada 19) and Azienda Agricola Agnelli (via Parrocchiale 10), where you can also ask to walk around the olive groves nestling on the scenic mountain slopes.
Are you planning a trip to Lake Como for your house hunting and you need helpful tips to get around?