More than just a rich condiment to add a final flourish to your food, extra virgin olive oil is a trademark of the Mediterranean diet — and could be the secret to a longer, healthier life
A small, sleepy village in Campania unexpectedly made headlines last year: one in 10 of the 700-strong population lives beyond the grand old age of 100 years. The longevity of the residents of Acciaroli put this rustic pocket of south-west Italy on the map for their healthy lifestyle back in 2016 — but this phenomenon is nothing new.
The centenarians’ diet of locally sourced fish and chicken, alongside home-grown vegetables, herbs, fruit and olive oil, is exemplary of the Mediterranean lifestyle that’s long been a part of the fabric of Italian life. And if you consider the perceived benefits from the Acciaroli study, it’s easy to see why: in addition to living longer lives, people were generally healthier, with low levels of chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.
One man who champions the health-boosting flavours and aromas of Italy’s rich culinary landscape is Professor Gianfranco Testa, the owner of Il Mulino della Signora, a rural farm nestled among the rolling hills of Frigento in the Irpinia region, 100 kilometres from Acciaroli in Cilento. His passion: olive cultivation. “Just like the Greek physician Galen, we recognise extra virgin oil as a form of nourishment,” Prof. Testa explains. “It’s regarded as a form of natural defence against conditions of the digestive system, ageing of the bones, cardiovascular diseases and arteriosclerosis.”
Made from the very first pressing of olives, extra virgin oil is crammed with flavour – a mix of fruit, spice and pepper – that’s ideal for dipping with fresh, crusty bread, drizzling over salads or lightly roasting vegetables and meat. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, Il Mulino della Signora produces two varieties of extra virgin olive oil: Ravece and Papaloia. Fresh and full-bodied, the olives are picked by hand and pressed within 36 hours of harvesting for a clean, crisp taste. Best of all, as this exquisite oil is the only one used on the menu at Casa Angelina, hotel guests receive a sample as a gift so they can sample the flavours of the region — and take a taste of Italy home with them.
Ravece Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fruity with an intense herby hit, Ravece is infused with the rich flavours of tomato leaf, artichoke, cardoon and celery. The taste is initially sweet, shot through with a spicy kick and a little bitterness, followed by an intense tomato and almond finish.
Use in vegetable soups or drizzle over roasted meats and grilled fish or, for something out of the ordinary, add a finishing flourish to ice cream or chocolate milk for a dessert with a bit more bite.
Papaloia Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The golden-hued Papaloia is sweeter and fruitier than its sister oil, with a green-apple flavour and fresh, grassy aroma bursting through alongside hints of tomato and artichoke.
A lighter oil that’s ideal for more delicate dishes, Papaloia adds a subtle twist of fragrant fruitiness to everything from salads to risotto.
Keen to learn more about olive cultivation on your trip to Amalfi? As of October, Casa Angelina will be able to arrange day trips for guests to Frigento, where’ll you wander through the Mulino della Signora olive groves with Prof Testa as your guide, followed by lunch at the newly opened Il Mulino della Signora Food & Oil Luxury Country House. Naturally, olive oil will take centre stage in the traditional recipes showcasing delicious Irpinia dishes rustled up by chef Stefano – buon appetito!