Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 27, 2012

Olive picking and camellias

I recently went with Heather Jarman from Sapori-e-Saperi to the very beautiful agriturismo, Alle Camelie, in Pieve di Compito, just outside Lucca. It takes its name from the gorgeous camellias growing on the property. Most of the trees flower in spring, but luckily for us the sasanquas were covered in blooms.


The property has been in the Orsi family for centuries and lucky guests get to stay on a working farm in magnificent old buildings with heavenly views over the surrounding Lucchese countryside.






The family also grows grapes and makes excellent wine which we enjoyed with our lunch. (more on that later)


Grape picking is finished now and soon the vines will lose their leaves for the winter.


The main reason for our visit was to learn a little about olives and to try our hands at picking the ripe fruit. Augusto Orsi took us for a walk through some of his 4,000 olive trees. There are 3 varieties grown on the property, frantoio, pendolino and leccino, each grown for their different properties.


Augusto, with Heather translating, told us about his olives. The farm uses biological methods, which means, among other things, no artificial chemicals are used on the plants. All prunings are put back into the earth to help the soil nourish the trees.



These blue bags hanging in the trees attract male bugs and the poor little critters are sterilised and sent on their way. It is not a complete solution, but it helps.

We were given some instructions on olive picking and we headed off to the trees with nets spread out under them to catch our picked olives. The picking is all done by hand. For us it was fun and not too messy. The olives come away easily from the branches and they are clean and dry. I’m not sure we would feel the same after 4,000 trees.




The nets are put under the trees on the day of picking and the olives are pressed as soon as possible after the fruit is picked for the best results.





Augusto also showed us the equipment used to press the olives to make the oil. The new method may not sound as romantic as the old stone presses, but we are assured that the resulting oil is much better.

We are taken into the olive grove to see the drainage system for the terraced land. It rains quite a lot here in winter and the terraces would wash away easily if not for the ancient solution. The terraces slope towards a trench which carries the water safely away. The trench and the dry stone walls were put in place a couple of hundred years ago and still work very well, with lots of maintenance of course.



It is absolutely beautiful in the olive grove, and it would be tempting to lie down in the green grass and gaze at the blue sky.


But something very important called us…….lunch…..cooked to perfection by Elena Pardini.



The first course was a delicate white bean soup, followed by delicious ravioli (which I gobbled up before I got a photograph) then tagliata, delicious vegetables and salad.




The red wine was also made at Alle Camelie.


A heavenly fruit crostata followed.


Thank you Inge (below) and Augusto (and Heather) for a great day.


Alle Camelie….Via Della Pieve, Pieve di Compito
Telephone (39) 0583 55505


  1. What a treat, Debra! The olives look picture perfect and there is no doubt that their products must be superb. I would have loved to see the large camelias in flower, perhaps you may go there in spring and take a few pictures. The food looks superb…and it must taste great.

    • The whole town takes part in a camellia festival in spring. I will have to go.

  2. Heavenly Debra, absolutely heavenly! How I would have loved to be there with you and Heather!

  3. Your day in the olive grove with lunch afterwards sounds great.

    • There is so much to do in this area, I will never run out of things to do…..and tell you about.

  4. Thanks for the many, many joys in this post. Wow … what a place! … and to end it with such a great lunch!

    • We had a lovely day there… must be fun to stay there.

  5. The beauty of these places is heartbreaking. I LOVE that door. And…tell me about those vegetables. What on earth are those vegetables? Somehow, not very recognizable…

    • Pumpkin, potatoes and leeks……delicious.

  6. Reblogged this on unwillingexpat.

  7. Aah, made my mouth water πŸ™‚ Those olives look plump and beautiful! Fabulous images Debra!

    • Alle Camelie is a beautiful place. I am very lucky to be able to do such fun things.

  8. Gorgeous gorgeous, the meal the olives the wine and that black door, I loved that black door.. another great post, i do so enjoy your blog.. c

    • Thank you, it seems I will never run out of great things to write about on my travels.

  9. Wonderful photos. That soup looks so delectable. πŸ™‚

    • The soup was delicious. White beans are a speciality of the area, and very good.

  10. That sounds like it was such a fabulous day out! I love your door photo (my obsession!).

    • Door fascinate me too. I have hundreds of photos of them…..mostly green.

  11. To follow the olive picking and visit with a meal like that sounds absolutely delightful! πŸ˜€

  12. What a fabulous way to spend the day. Stunning photos as usual…the olives look amazing as does lunch!

  13. I hope I can do this next fall with my group. A few years back I stayed in a house right down the road form here and it is such a lovely area.

    • I will take a second Paninigirl trip to Italy in order to pick olives with Sapori-e-Saperi at tis beautiful farm. What a great addition to your fabulous itinerary.

  14. Goodness, but you have an “awful” life πŸ˜‰

  15. Lunch looks lovely. I hope the weather in your part of Italy is better than it is here in Lake Como- still even cloaked in mist and rain the region is beautiful.

    • The weather here is just awful and doesn’t show any signs of getting better. It is probably just as well for me. I leave in a few days and this is encouraging me to stay home and get things in order.

  16. I am totally jealous and wishing to be there with you guys!!! LOL!
    Such fun – and food – makes for a perfect day.

    • Heather always organizes great things to do.

  17. What a wonderful day! I can see some of your olive pictures in large-size glicee on my wall πŸ™‚

    • It was fun and you realise how much effort is put into making great olive oil.

  18. Fabulous post and photos πŸ™‚

  19. I have this place posted under “my most favorite day”-My then 8 year old and i had a glorious day at this estate, I still have some of the lavender massage oil, but we ate the olive oil up quickly!!! Thanks for these pictures to remind me of this glorious day.

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  21. Over thirty years ago I picked olives in Crete, by hand, with donkey and nets for several months one winter. We lunched on lentils and raw onions chopped in for flavour, a litle different from your beautiful meal, but the spirit of the olive groves is special wherever they are. Thank you for prompting my memories xx

    • We didn’t have a donkey, I feel I have missed something.

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