Olive oil tourism, discovering the green gold of the Mediterranean

Thursday, 01 June 2017

Spain. Italy. Greece. These are the world’s largest producers of olive oil, the so-called green gold of the Mediterranean. In the countries overlooking the Mediterranean, in fact, started the cultivation of the olive tree and the processing techniques to extract the precious oil.

Olive oil, however, is not always green. And, by the way, the color has nothing to do with quality. The tasters who participate to the sensory analysis sessions use a dark glass to prevent that the color may condition in some way their judgments.

Whether green or yellow, fruity, bitter or spicy, the olive oil, like wine, is a touristic “product”. We use the quotation marks because, even for olive oil tourism, it is valid what we have written about wine tourism: people travel towards a territory, not towards a product.

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What is olive oil tourism?

Olive oil tourism «is the possibility to discover, in a place other than the habitual residence, the environment, characteristics, production systems and the influence of olive oil production on the companies producing it».

With this sentence Ignacio Ruiz Guerra, professor at the Complutense University of Madrid, in an article titled “Olive oil as a tourist resource: conceptual framing”, published in Olivae, the official journal of the International Olive Council (COI), the world’s intergovernmental organization created in 1959 under the patronage of the United Nations.

«For the producer the activity of olive oil tourism means to pedagogically illustrate the entire process of obtaining olive oil, from olive groves to bottling and labeling for sale, and to explain the consequences of the process on the environment in which it takes place», continues Ruiz Guerra.

Relationships with other forms of tourism

The connection between oil tourism and food tourism is obvious, to the point that some experts consider the first one as a specific niche tourism included in the second one, experts identify some points of contact also with other forms of tourism: industrial, health, ethnographic, archaeological and cultural.

Olive oil tourism is close to industrial tourism because it invests in «productive processes that, maintaining the same ingredients, have undergone a long evolution over the centuries». And it is close to health tourism because «there is plenty of touristic offers in which olive oil is used for health purposes, associated to thermal treatments, massages or special dietary regimes».

With regard to the relation with ethnographic tourism, the expert points out that «several permanent exhibitions have been set up to promote olive oil as a quality product, distinctive of a specific lifestyle and with specific beneficial properties».

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As for the connection with archaeological tourism, Ruiz Guerra cites «the case of the finds somehow linked to the olive world, as the case of the Monte Testaccio in Rome, formed by the remains of the amphoras in which the oil were transported from the provinces to supply the capital of the Empire».

The affinities with cultural tourism can be outlined if we define the latter as a «touristic journey aiming at knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of the set of distinctive, spiritual, material, intellectual and affective features that characterize a society or a social group of a certain destination», explains the academic.

Parenthesis. Remember that we have not yet come to a universally recognized definition of cultural tourism. We have written it in our focus on music tourism.

The olive oil culture

The fact that there is no unique definition of cultural tourism does not prevent us from tracing the cultural meanings of olive oil. Ruiz Guerra speaks explicitly of oleoculture and asserts that olive oil «is mainly characterized as an element of cultural heritage because it is a product with great presence in the historical becoming of a particular geographical area (the Mediterranean one) since the tertiary era».

With regard to cultural heritage, olive oil is one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean Diet, recognized in 2010 by UNESCO as an Immaterial Cultural Heritage of Humanity with the following motivation:

“The Mediterranean Diet is much more than simple food. It promotes social interaction, as the common meal is at the basis of social customs and shared festivities for a given community, and has given rise to a remarkable corpus of knowledge, songs, mottos, tales and legends. The Diet is based on the respect for the territory and biodiversity, and guarantees the maintenance and development of traditional activities and professions related to fishing and agriculture in the Mediterranean communities»

The cultural significance of olive oil – continues Ruiz Guerra – is also related to the artists who have evoked it in their works and their representations over the centuries, they can be archeological evidences, literary, pictorial, plastic or craft.

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There are also meanings related to the sacred sphere which clarify the role of olive oil (and olive tree) «within the great monotheistic religions (born in the Mediterranean area too) and its persistent importance in traditions and festivals dedicated to a product that is a symbol of cultural identity».

Olive oil and tourism resources

Ruiz Guerra’s work also allows us to identify and keep in mind the main tourist resources associated with olive oil. Here they are:

  • opening to the public of used and / or disused mills
  • visits of olive oil farms
  • traditional olive groves landscapes
  • eco olive groves
  • secular olive trees
  • olive oil and / or olive museums
  • olive oil and / or olive monuments
  • oil fairs and popular traditions
  • fairs / olive oil markets
  • olive oil winery and specialized shops
  • restaurants with olive oil list
  • gastronomic districts
  • archaeological areas
  • laboratories and / or cosmetic industries

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Olive oil tourism in Spain, Italy and Greece: useful resources

We end up focusing on olive oil tourism with some resources that we think can be useful to pack your travel proposals. We remind you that you can identify and book the most suitable accommodation solutions for your customers through the 6tour.com platform.

The territories of olive oil in Spain (Spain)

edited by Turespaña

National Association City of Olive Oil (Italy)

Olive tree and olive oil (Greece)

by Visit Greece

Museums and routes of olive oil and olive tree (Spain, Italy, Greece)

edited by the International Olive Oli Council

Olive Oil Times, section Tourism (international)

OlioOfficina Magazine, section Tourism (Italy)

Enjoy the journey with 6Tour!

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