VillaCampestri, Extra Virgin Paradise
35 kilometers from Florence and 6kms from Vicchio di Mugello, in the heart of the valley of Tuscany, one comes across paradise on earth. The paradise of extra virgin olive oil. Here lies the Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort, a splendid Renaissance villa built around an ancient fortress dating from the 13th Century and surrounded by olive groves – from which an exceptional quality extra virgin is produced – where the visitor is given the chance to live a unique and different experience, with EVOO as it’s main attraction.
As in all good resorts that value their reputation, Villa Campestri also uses the “all included” formula. Because the estate, located in this magical enclave of the Florentine countryside, provides an unforgettable experience for all our senses, articulated around three main core ideas: Art, History and Relaxation. If the historical dimension is revealed in the ample living-rooms, decorated with frescoes of the villa, and in the ancestral cities of the Mugello valley – birthplace of the Renaissance and formerly the Medici family residence – one can find the artistic dimension in the works of Giotto and Fra Angelico, illustrious artists who were born in this beautiful land.
Regarding relaxation, rest is guaranteed when staying in any of the 26 rooms, suites or apartments on the complex, that have respected the original design and position; and the same goes for the bucolical swimming pool, placed in the middle of an old garden, from which we get a marvelous view of the Mugello valley. And one cannot ignore the succulent gastronomy offered here, from the tasting of delicious extra virgin olive oil from La Oleoteca, to the experience of tasting traditional Tuscan cuisine, made with regional products and to be enjoyed in the exquisite restaurant.
All of this is to be found in the fascinating surroundings of the Toscana valley, which are ideal for riding a mountain bike over the beautiful hills, or for contemplating millennial olive groves, stopping every now and then in any of the wonderful villages, which are brimming over with history.
The universe of experiences on different levels that Villa Campestri Olive Oil proposes is simply spectacular. After having been given a warm welcome by Viola Pasquali, Paolo’s eldest daughter, the visitor can take the option of venturing into the world of EVOOs thanks to the tasting sessions and courses (199 in 2013, always on demand), under the direction of Gemma Pasquali, Doctor in Agricultural Sciences; enjoy the irresistible pleasure of Salus Per Oleum (SPO); take a relaxing massage with olive oils from all over the world, in a natural setting; go on a bicycle ride to admire wonderful landscapes and Renaissance castles; go on a search for truffles with the help of an expert and learn how to use them for cooking; or create a deeper link to this marvelous land by planting an olive tree, that will produce it’s own olive oil every year. And if one needs somewhere to hold a ceremony, nothing is better than discovering the charm of the private consecrated chapel.
The Villa Campestri cuisine is without a doubt one of the great attractions of this resort, dedicated to extra virgin olive oil. The elaborate dishes that are present on the menus at the L’Olivaia restaurant – named best olive oil restaurant in Italy in 2013 – are nourished by the extra virgin produced by the old olive groves that surround the estate, an EVOO that inspires the chef Andrea Perini to create unique dishes in a magical symphony of aromas and tastes which easily combine innovation and tradition, simplicity and refinement.
And a good part of the ingredients employed come from the gardens and organic vegetable patches in Villa Campestri. The suggestive atmosphere that envelops the restaurant, with it’s wood paneled ceiling and terracotta floors, is perhaps the ideal scenario for the celebration of thematic or Renaissance dinners, oil, wine or cheese tasting sessions, or any other kind of event – always with olive oil as a protagonist. L’Olivaia’s proposal, always keeping excellence in mind, gyrates around two well-defined concepts: L’Olio dal Vivo (the art of cooking with olive oil without heating it, semi-raw and semi-cooked) and Olio e Tradizione, with free versions of Tuscan cuisine in an oil-centered key.
Hacienda La Hoyabuela, An Oasis Among Olive Trees
Located in the geographic center of Andalusia (Spain), a few kilometers from the Granada municipality of Algarinejo, in the heart of the Montes Occidentales (Western Mountains) and in the midst of a sea of olive trees, Finca Olivar La Hoyabuela is a beautiful country house dating from the late 19th Century, rebuilt on the ruins of an old Arab farmhouse which still maintains the original mill and olive oil cellar.
Algarinejo is a village located in the western part of Granada, at the foothills of Sierra Subbética Nature Park, 15 minutes from Iznajar, the largest water reservoir in Andalusia, and next to towns that constitute the birthplace of Andalusian Baroque, for their important artistic and historical heritage, such as Priego de Córdoba, Montefrío, Lucena or Cabra. We are in the olive-growing area belonging to the Protected Designation of Origin Priego de Córdoba, the last frontier of Al-Andalus during the reconquest of the Kingdom of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs, which preserves little known, yet important touristic, archeological and natural attractions, among them a unique landscape known as the Mediterranean landscape par excellence, the largest man-made garden in the world.
That is where Finca Olivar La Hoyabuela is situated, belonging for over six generations to the Sánchez de la Cuesta family, and having previously been an Arab farmhouse, on whose ruins this typical Andalusian olive-grove hacienda with an oil mill and press, was slowly built. Inside it is the cellar, able to host small events of up to 160 people.
Remodeled in 1994 to provide it with the comforts of the 21st century, La Hoyabuela is a perfect meeting point for family gatherings and events with friends, as well as for the dissemination of olive oil culture and the Mediterranean Diet, the main aim of the successive generations who have been managing the farm. Already in 1906, Army General Felipe Sánchez de la Cuesta Navarro contributed to the improvement and modernization of this olive grove, installing a hydraulic press which is kept in perfect condition and was still in use until the end of last century, as a necessary step towards obtaining a higher quality olive oil than what was being produced in those days. Subsequently, his son, Gabriel Sánchez de la Cuesta, Professor of medicine, began to lead important scientific research aimed towards proving the health benefits of the consumption of virgin olive oil, which were then continued by his son Felipe, also a Professor of medicine, knowing that the secret to longevity of Meditarranean hearts lay, in great measure, in their magic elixir, this liquid gold.
Both, who were passionate about history, architecture and landscaping, renovated the hacienda, rebuilding the old farmhouse tower from its ruins, as well as the Arab gardens, a gift to the five senses where water is the main protagonist thanks to a small stream and the numerous fountains and irrigation canals.
Today, the farm belongs to a generation consisting only of women. Four sisters -Pastora, Paula, Fabiola and Gabriela- lead by their mother, Pastora, maintain the same passion for olive oil and tend to their property with loving care and dedication, trying to convey the importance of their legacy to the granddaughters, who are already learning to run about among the olive trees.
A legacy that they now share through their exclusive oleo-tourism project which takes place in La Hoyabuela, where on-demand guided tours are organized, allowing you to recognize some of the core values that define the Mediterranean lifestyle: the importance of family, respect for nature and the joy of living.
A project that represents a return to the origins, fleeing from the constant rush and noise to enjoy the soft breeze among the olive trees, the scent of nature and an intense approach to olive oil. Illustrating the most direct way of learning about olive oil and all the charm that surrounds the olive-growing world; of drawing closer to it’s beneficial health properties and its multiple uses and nuances, differing depending on each variety.
The house has five lovely double rooms with a maximum capacity of 10 people, fully equipped with everything necessary to enjoy a few restful days and make it an unforgettable experience, with either B&B or full board arrangements. The extensive program of activities -tailored to the interests of the visitors, in small groups and on demand- include wine, cheese and olive oil tastings carried out by the owners; Spanish cooking classes to discover the best culinary pairings with EVOO as the protagonist, through family recipes, preserved and transmitted from generation to generation, all made with fresh herbs and produce from the farm’s own vegetable garden or local producers; home-made olive oil soap and cosmetic workshops (usually garnering the most success among the smaller children); guided gastronomic tours of the best wineries and restaurants in the region; hiking, picnic, horseback riding and kayaking activities; and even flamenco and yoga classes.
In addition, the hacienda offers it’s magnificent facilites for weddings, events, film and photo shoots, all while you enjoy the rich local cuisine and a large number of outdoor activities in the surrounding areas.
Customers who visit La Hoyabuela, mainly from the US and Australia, are people who value the sophisticated simplicity of this lifestyle, the warmth of the welcome and the authenticity of the place. “These are the people that are most interested in getting to know the world of olive oil in depth, who approach it without prejudice and almost always arrive with extensive prior knowledge. The important thing is to bring olive oil culture closer, through people; by understanding the daily labour and effort put into obtaining an excellent product, sharing this experience in origin, it then becomes possible to make people fall in love with olive oil for life. And in order to do that it is essential to welcome people who visit us at La Hoyabuela as true friends with whom to share our table, our conversation, our family. Those are experiences that neither they nor we will forget,” says Fabiola Sánchez de la Cuesta, expert olive oil taster.
Finca Olivar La Hoyabuela belongs to the exclusive network of lodgings Greatness Collection (Culture Tradition Heritage), a careful selection of privately owned castles, palaces, country homes and mansions that constitute the true hidden treasures of Spain’s historical-artistic heritage.
San Rocco, Istria’s Treasure
Located in Brtonigla (Verteneglio in Italian), city of wine and olive oil, and built on the ruins of an ancient castle where everything is close by. A stunning region in the northeastern part of the Istrian peninsula, in Northern Croatia, whose territory is also shared by Italy and Slovenia in a unique mosaic of cultures and landscapes. The sea, with its turquoise crystal clear waters, is merely 5 kilometers (3 mi) away. Slovenia, 10 kms (6 mi). Italy, 30 kms (18 mi). And the hundred-year-old olive trees belonging to the Fernetich family, who own San Rocco boutique-hotel, providing a much desired shade during the summer months, are just a few steps from this tourist and gastronomic complex in which the renowned Istrian extra virgin olive oil claims its deserved share of the limelight.
An old legend says that thousands of years ago, before humans settled in Istria, giants inhabited the valley of the Mirna River. Dragonja, the most famous giant -name of the river to the north of Istria- was also known as Orač (plowman) because he plowed a furrow in the shape of the Ćićarija mountains towards the sea. Even today it is said that the giant Grozd, son of the giant Dragonja, lurks in the forests of Istria.
At the San Rocco hotel and restaurant there is a blend of tradition, fragrances and flavors of the beautiful Istria, the largest Adriatic peninsula and the westernmost prefecture in Croatia, whose privileged geographic location, excellent climate and fertile soils explain the centuries of wine and olive oil-making tradition. A family atmosphere that calls for tranquility and the contemplation of the unspoilt wilderness that almost always lead to the sea. The hotel is set upon a hill, overlooking the Mirna River and the small town of Brtonigla, of less than 2,000 inhabitants, barely a dozen kilometers from Novigrad and Umag and 60 kms from Puna. But Brtonigla is also perfect for lovers of active recreation: horseback riding, cycling, hiking, caving, etc…
A genuine open-air museum, teeming with forts and strongholds from the Bronze Era that constitute its main cultural heritage; the Italian influence is evident in Brtonigla, as it is only a short drive from great European cities such as Venice, Vienna, Munich, Milan or Florence.
This old family farmhouse turned boutique-hotel in July 2004, whose renovation respected the spirit and atmosphere characteristic of a place full of charm and tradition, has been named Best Small and Boutique Hotel in Croatia for five consecutive years. Owned by the Fernetich family -Tullio, Rita, Teo, Luana and Rocco- the hosts strive to deliver the gift of a pleasant stay in a setting of exceptional beauty, intimacy and elegance, whose charms had already held illustrious visitors such as Dante, Jules Verne, James Joyce or Robert Koch spellbound.
The complex consisted of three buildings: the main house (Master’s Villa), a former stable for the Istrian boškarin (a breed of ox originating from Istria), and an enclosure to keep the carts and other farming utensils. Located in the heart of the town, the hotel is surrounded by a park where guests can enjoy some peace and tranquility while reading a book under the shade of the olive trees, or simply fall asleep, lulled by the magical sounds of nature.
Member of the Association des Jeunes Restauranteurs d’Europe, the gourmet restaurant San Rocco is one of the finest examples of the Istrian and Croatian culinary scene, as evidenced by their numerous awards and the fact that they have been included in some of the most prestigious national and international culinary guides (Veronelli, Gault Millau, Wo its Österreich, Le Guide de l’Espresso, A tavola con il Nordest, Magnar Ben, 100 leading Croatian restaurants, Istrian gourmet guide -the latter published by the Tourism Board of Istria-).
In the very space where once malvasia and terrano variety wines were produced, this restaurant offers an attractive and wide gastronomic menu based mainly on in-season produce such as local fresh fish, truffles, wild mushrooms, ham, game and other Istrian specialties.
The food at San Rocco is the happy result of constant research based on tradition. Its exquisite delicacies are accompanied by an extensive wine list with over 200 references and a wide selection of extra virgin olive oils from the region. The seasonal menus include recommendations on the olive oils that pair best with each dish. The restaurant, with capacity for 25-30 people, offers the possibility of enjoying the nice outdoor terrace, next to the swimming pool and garden, during the summer months.
San Rocco Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the Pride of the Family
In the vicinity of the San Rocco hotel is the Fernetich family olive grove, whose fruits are hand-picked in the fall. San Rocco Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for sale in the establishment, was included in the prestigious Flos Olei guide by the Italian expert Marco Oreggia, and can boast of a long family tradition. Cold-pressed from the best local varieties (of which there are 11 in Istria,) characterized by their tolerance to low temperatures and from which very aromatic olive oils with high fatty-acid content are obtained.
Passion and research go hand in hand to produce an extra virgin olive oil which not only is it the main character in the gourmet delights that can be savored at San Rocco (both at their gourmet restaurant as at the popular Konoba, a traditional cuisine, lower-priced alternative,) but also creates the basis for a wide variety of beauty treatments offered at the Wellness & Spa Center of the hotel complex. Without a doubt, the best memory of a stay at San Rocco.