There is so much, and so little, to be said about olive oil as a crucial element of the Greek food culture individually or as part of the greater Mediterranean tradition. Chefs, nutritionists, food historians and modern foodies are steadily enthusiastic about its taste, nutritional and even medical properties, as well as about its place on our table and in our hearts as a symbol of all that is good in the land and ourselves. It is not by chance that, in Ancient Greece as in our times, peace and prosperity are symbolised by an olive wreath or branch. And, if the olive and its culture is elemental for Greece, it lies in the very core of life in the regions of Laconia and Messenia, the areas enjoying the best part of Mount Taygetos and forming the blessed strip of land known as Mani.
While roaming Laconia, you will get plenty of chances to sample different types of extra virgin olive oil, and decide for yourselves which one is most worth a place in your kitchen. From the slightly acidic and fruity ones, which lightly tingle your palate and leave a tangy aftertaste best enjoyed raw to the mildest and sweetest, capable of transforming a simple veg casse role to a childhood memory, oil will certainly be one of the best memories from your visit, one you will be able to bottle and take with you. In case you wish to extend your olive experience, learn as much as possible about this great ingredient, and maximise your sample before you buy, you must make sure to visit the museum and arrange your dates to attend the festival.
The Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil is housed in a modern building, which belongs to the Municipality of Sparti and was constructed, quite interestingly, by using the building elements of the old Electric Company of Sparta. Neatly arranged in sections, the exhibition provides information about olive and olive oil in the course of time. Olive presses used for olive oil production since prehistoric times until the early 20thcentury are installed, not only to help you visualise the change in methods, but also to help you realise how significant the constant presence of this extraordinary commodity has been in the Greek World. The museum's multipurpose hall hosts temporary art exhibitions and other events, while the museum and its various activities are administered by the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation.
The annual Olive and Olive Oil Festival takes place at the beautiful village of Sellasia during the first weekend of August. It started in 2004 and has now become one of the most important and longest-running local festivals. It thrives as an example of ideal achievement, a beacon of hope for those who still believe in vision, collective action and voluntary work. Its main purpose and aim is to continuously enhance the publicity and promotion of the outstanding Laconian olive oil and table olives. Several educational and informational events regarding the Mediterranean diet, organic farming, the processing and trading of agricultural products, the value of these very local products and other relevant issues, are ideally combined with a diverse programme of cultural activities to entertain the thousands of visitors who honour the region with their presence and support. While taking part in the festivities, producers and owners of manufacturing and standardising units have the chance to meet, exchange experiences and forge partnerships; most of all, however, they get to know the consumers and even gain access to more distant markets.