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Buying Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil

I LOVE both and am hoping to bring some home. I'm not sure if we'll stop in Bologna to do a factory tour though am considering it; if you've done a tour, was it worth the expense? Most importantly, where did you buy the tastiest olive oil and balsamic vinegar? (I know, a subjective question!) What were the costs like? We'll be in Florence, Rome, Tuscany and Venice. Thanks!

Posted by
60 posts

first of all sorry for my english. The best oil in italy for me is the lake of garda one..but also the tuscany'one is very good. The traditional balsamic winegar is very expenisve. You can find some bottle cheap bottle in market but they are not Traditional. the traditional balsamic winegar of Modena cost about 40 euro for a 100 ml bottle aged 12 years. The 25 years aged bottles are more expensive. Here you can find more information
http://www.balsamico.it/

Posted by
20688 posts

Olive oil is like wine. Does not taste the same to everyone so best becomes very subjective. If you like, buy it, and don't worry whether someone has judged it best. And the above comments about balsamic vinegar is very true. Most balsamic vinegars on the market on this side of the water are chemically flavor balsamic vinegar. So you may fine balsamic vinegar in Italy to have a different taste and texture from what you think is balsamic vinegar. True balsamic vinegar is rare and expensive.

Posted by
1818 posts

Whitney, Do you know of the Oil & Vinegar shops? They are franchises and the nearest to us are in Missoula and Spokane. I did a search for Oil & Vinegar, Canada and found one will open soom in Calgary. I think their shops have as good as you could buy and bring home.

Posted by
31036 posts

whitney, Olive Oil and Balsamico purchased in Italy will certainly be "authentic", but you may be able to find the same products at local Italian shops in Edmonton. We have some good Italian stores here, and they stock different grades of both products, including some of the very expensive Balsamico. Happy travels!

Posted by
1829 posts

As said on your other post I have taken the tour you are thinking about. If you go on it you will get to appreciate not only why DOP balsamic vingar is so expensive but the significant difference in taste between the mass/factory produced product and the genuine article. You can buy from the places on the tour (and not at inflated prices - we checked!) or Alessandro will give you names of places in town but, more importantly, you will learn to identify for yourself whether what you are buying is the real thing. This also applies to buying the cheese and ham produced in the region.

Posted by
11613 posts

My favorite olive oil (and olive oil soap) comes from Trevi in Umbria.

Posted by
127 posts

Enjoy the olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, and wine in Italy, but don't waste your time and money to cart it back here. You can buy good foreign AND domestic oil,wine, and vinegar here. And the west coast produces some great oil and wine. It will be enough to carry your luggage without adding the weight of bottles of liquid. The U.S. is a nation of immigrants; lots of Italians settled on the west coast...the names of many vinyards end in vowels!

Posted by
118 posts

Frank is right, the olive oil is like wine. Oils from northern Italy as Lake Garda or Liguria have a delicate taste, while olive oils from southern Italy have a strong taste. Unfortunately Italy consumes and exports much more olive oil than it produces, so many Italian olive oils are produced with Spanish, Greek, North African olives. To be sure it's "real" Italian olive oil you check there are the symbols IGP or DOP, Indicazione Geografica Protetta and Denominazione d'Origine Protetta (below there are the pictures), the same thing for the balsamic vinegar, then you will taste good and genuine products. http://www.stradevinoeolio.umbria.it/upload/IGP170.jpg http://www.alimentipedia.it/files/images/other/dop-logo.jpg

Posted by
11978 posts

When you are in Florence go inside the Mercato Centrale of San Lorenzo (Central Market). It's open daily until 2pm. On the ground floor there are plenty of deli vendors who sell plenty of varieties of Tuscan Olive Oil. Tuscan olive oil has a pungent spicy taste, especially when new. Unlike red wine, olive oil doesn't get better with age, on the contrary the newer, the better. Along with oil you'll find all kinds of Tuscan delicacies sold by the many vendors. There are actually also some eateries inside where you can have an inexpensive Tuscan lunch. Coco Lezzone is one of them, a true Florentine institution. Don't miss it. Going to Florence without visiting the Mercato Centrale is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel tower. And don't miss a sandwich with Lampredotto. Lampredotto is a sort of tripe made with the 4th and last stomach of the cow (the abomasum). It's available only in Florence. Give it a try and you might become addicted to it.

Posted by
118 posts

P.S. A good extra virgin olive oil, 100% Italian, can't cost less than 6 euro per liter, you wary of lower prices!

Posted by
11978 posts

Before you embark in the task of bringing back bottles of olive oil, consider that you will need to check in that stuff, since liquids are no longer allowed as carry on. That would require special attention when packing because if your olive oil or vinegar breaks in the suitcase, you can kiss your clothes goodbye. Also, consider that the products you might be bringing home may be available at specialty stores in your own town, surely at a more expensive price, but not so much more to justify the hassle of having to pack and carry extra bottles home. That reminds me of the time, many years ago, when I first visited the USA. Wanted to impress my American guests and carried from Italy a 5 liter can of extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany. After all that effort, after my arrival I saw the very same can of olive oil in an Italian deli in San Francisco, at just a few dollars more than what I had paid in Florence. I go back to Florence yearly but the only things I bring back from Italy are: - Truffles, Truffle Olive Oil, truffle salt (anything with truffles) - Dry Porcini Mushrooms (in bags). - Saffron
- Aromatic spices for pasta sauces (in small packages available at the Mercato Centrale of Florence) Since packing space comes at a premium (International flights charge also a baggage fee of 60 Euro for the second checked bag) I want to make sure I bring back products that pack a lot of value in a very small amount. The above products tend to be much more expensive in the US compared to Italy and don't take a lot of suitcase room.

Posted by
11613 posts

Oh, truffle salt! What a great idea, easy to pack, doesn't spill.

Posted by
35 posts

Wonderful ideas! Buying spices and salts completely slipped my mind. Grazie! :)

Posted by
1737 posts

I usually shop at the local Co-op grocery store and find lots of inexpensive items to bring home that are truly Italian. From oil to sea salt to 00 Flour for making my own pasta In France I shopped for mustards and jams as well. You don't need to spend a lot of money, but if you find that one olive oil that sings to you, buy it! I bought a bottle from a small producer in Assisi and we are really enjoying it as a finishing oil on fish, salads and meats. I certainly won't be cooking with it, I use my Costco olive oil for that!

Posted by
77 posts

Whitney I'm sure you know that you can get olive oil and balsamic vinigar all types, all sizes and all price ranges at one of the Italian Centre Shops in Edmonton.... that being said ... buy some in Italy!! Thats part of the fun of visiting other countries. Every time you use it you will think " I brought this home from Italy!!!" Have fun!

Posted by
80 posts

whitney, in Orvieto (love, love, love) we stopped at an olive oil retailer and were treated to a tasting...not only olive oil and bread, but wine, tapenade, bruschetta...the olive oil was fabulous and was available in tins! How perfect! We bought 6 tins, not thinking of the 2-1/2 weeks we would be lugging it around (first-timers that we were). We later decided to ship it and spent our last morning in Orvieto in their post office! It became one of the highlights of our trip...how busy it was...trying to determine what line we needed...sending my husband out into the street to buy a newspaper for packing...the helpful elderly lady directing us from one line to the next...and I used Rick's guide/translation book more that morning than during the entire trip. We did not seriously expect to ever see that olive oil again. But a week after we got back, package and cans dented and battered, arrived to remind us of that extraordinarily ordinary day in Orvieto. Enjoy every minute!

Posted by
782 posts

Another thing to remember about olive oil here is that a lot of it is regional and is supposed to compliment the particular foods of that region. If you visit any wineries, they usually produce their own olive oil and you can do tastings just as you do with the wine. I personally prefer the olive oil from the Garda region because it's local and we tend to eat a lot of fish in our house. As far as balsamico, I'll share my personal experience from Bologna; there is a section of Bologna called the "Quadrilatero" which is famous for its food shops and markets. My first time there I found that most of them carry a huge variety of balsamico in various ages and many of them will actually give you a lesson on the various types and ages of the balsamico. The one we went to even let us do an impromptu tasting to determine which age we preferred. That night at dinner we ate at a small trattoria at the base of the Two Towers. As an antipasto I ordered grilled camembert cheese with fresh pear and walnuts. The owner came out with a small bottle of balsamico (looked like an ink bottle) and put a few drops of thick, thick balsamico on my dish using an eye dropper and explained that a few drops of the stuff is more than enough because it was aged 30 years. He was right, it was an indescribable sensation in my mouth. I begged him to let me buy a bottle from him and he agreed - for 50 euros. Well worth it though. My main course that night was fresh tortellini marinated in balsamico and it was easily one of the top 3 dishes I've ever eaten in my life. Needless to say we go back there whenever we go to Bologna...