The mountains that rise dramatically up from the Ligurian Sea are a wonder to behold – and a nightmare to farm. Terracing, terracing, terracing is the only way to tame them. It is well worth the effort; olive trees flourish and their taggiasca olives produce a delicate, superlative oil, prized all over the world. We happily quaff it down neat if we ever get the chance.
So when the opportunity to team up with the Bestagno grove, in Liguria’s Imperia region, raised its head, we jumped at it. Not only do these olive producers make an oil of exceptional quality, they also have a social conscience at the heart of their work.
The grove is worked on by Toby, a young man with profound autism and a deep love of olive oil. Toby’s parents have had to plan his life carefully since he was three – and their most recent focus was on seeking out meaningful work for him. Olive oil led the way - so several years ago they arrived in the Imperia Valley, a rugged landscape dotted with medieval villages and thickly covered with olive trees. They bought an abandoned grove (also home to the ancient ruins of the Castle of Bestagno) which Toby and his team set about restoring. The results are as magical as the landscape.