The Olive Harvest, Tuscany

It is the season for olive harvesting across much of the Mediterranean, and it can last anytime from mid-October to early December. I travelled to Tuscany to photograph the event, making my way from Pisa to Volterra, Montepulciano, Siena and Fiesole before circling back towards Florence. The picking often starts in the early morning, and nets are spread under trees while olives are selected by hand. I photographed the beautiful process of shaking the trees, gathering the olives and putting them into crates, impressed by the stamina of those doing the picking, both young and old.

When I first arrived it was nice to leave the busy roads around Pisa and head south, my first stop the hilltop town of Volterra, which is surrounded by glorious undulating landscapes and far reaching views. It wasn't only the olives that were in season for picking, as other crops were being harvested, turning gold in the autumn light. Cold winds would be a regular weather pattern at all the hilltop towns I visited, Montepulciano being no different, perched on top of a hill surrounded by fertile land, much of which is covered with vineyards. Not far away, Pienza enjoys views of Tuscan landscape and farmland.

Towards the end of my trip I stayed on an agriturismo farm just south of Florence called La Casellina and the environment was as I'd imagined it would be - beautiful olive groves surrounded by a majestic landscape. The family that owned the farm, which they had maintained for generations, were welcoming and warm people who fed me well with ingredients from their land. The rusticity and peace of the area was in many ways the highlight of my short trip. It gave me a chance to immerse myself in the olive harvest and while doing so, spend some intimate time with the family.

@markbenham |

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