On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at tools.balloon-juice.com


Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!


Today, pictures from valued commenter Peter.

These are shots from a culinary tour of Umbria that I led back in November. We stayed at a 15th century castle in Umbertide and mixed day trips to vineyards, orchards, markets, and more (like truffle hunting!) with hands-on cooking demonstrations in the kitchen. The weather was perfect, the group was smart and engaged, and by the end of it everyone had a pretty comprehensive understanding of Umbrian cuisine.

I’m doing another one in March if anyone is interested. There are a few spots left. Email me at acookblog@gmail.com for more info.

There’s no room here for any more process shots, but I wanted to conclude with the finished product: organic extra virgin olive oil fresh out of the centrifuge. The people at the frantoio grilled some bruschetta out back and drizzled it with this so we could taste the results of our handiwork. Our hosts fed us lunch and sent us home with a bottle each for our labor.

Taken on November 2018


This is the castle, currently occupied by the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, which offers artists, writers, and composers six-week residencies here from May-October. In the off-season they do other programming, like my food tours.


We visited a nearby farm to help with the olive harvest. After spreading nets under the trees, we raked all the fruit off the branches.


We used the nets to consolidate the olives into piles.


Next we picked through the piles to remove and branches or large bunches of leaves, then dumped the olives into plastic crates for transport to the frantoio, or mill.


Thank you so much Peter, do send us more when you can.


Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.


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11 replies
  1. 1
    MagdaInBlack says:

    My kind of fun. Thank you ✨

  2. 2
  3. 3
    arrieve says:

    I love the colors on those olives! I had no idea they were so beautiful.

  4. 4
    Elizabelle says:

    The birthing of olive oil. Who knew? Great photos.

    Living in that castle would motivate me to be an artist or writer. Probably dreadfully cold in winter. But atmospheric, for sure.

  5. 5
    debbie says:

    Great trip!

  6. 6
    JPL says:

    What a wonderful excursion!

  7. 7
    J R in WV says:

    Fabulous series… The castle is great, Italy is covered with walled towns, fortified farms, hilltops with forts and castles, to keep the food from being stolen by people too lazy to grow their own, and hungry enough to steal other people’s food in midwinter.

    I wish I could have seen the machine actually doing the squeezing/crushing of the olives.

    We spent a week in rural Tuscany and saw both new and old (very antique) olive crushing machinery, but none of it actually doing the thing it was built to do, we were there in late spring and no harvesting was going on, just cooking and eating and looking at the old castles and walled towns.

    No complaining, it was wonderful, but I’m a curious guy and wondered then what the olive oil squeezing process looked like.

    Wine grape crushing too. Amazing machinery, nothing ripe to crushing. But the wine was superb. So was the olive oil!!

  8. 8
    Peter says:

    @Elizabelle: It does get chilly in winter, but the apartments in the outer fortifications are all heated and very toasty.

  9. 9
    Peter says:

    @J R in WV: I shot some video of the crushing equipment, but I’m not sure I can post that here. After crushing, the mash goes into a centrifuge that separates out the oil.

  10. 10
    Peter says:

    For anyone who’s interested, here’s the link describing the March trip in some detail, along with more pictures (including some of the bedrooms).

  11. 11
    Peter says:

    @arrieve: Isn’t it great? Even more remarkable is the number of varieties of olive trees, even in a small region. Each type has its own flavor profile and unique combination of fruity/peppery/bitter/acidic characteristics.

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