Moving to Italy For Members

Interview: ‘Having an olive grove takes a lot of guts, but it’s worth it’

Jessica Lionnel
Jessica Lionnel - [email protected]
Interview: ‘Having an olive grove takes a lot of guts, but it’s worth it’
Olives being caught in a net for oilve oil (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

After winning two international awards last year for her organic olive oil D’uliva, Tuscan resident Rita Guastella is set to make her mark in the field permanent.


When you think of an Italian kitchen staple, the first thing that crosses your mind will more than likely be olive oil. The ‘liquid gold’ (as dubbed by Homer) is as ubiquitous in Italian homes as butter is in the United Kingdom. The benefits of the good are not only limited to its deliciousness; it’s also been found to have medicinal advantages too.

No one knows this quite as well as organic olive oil producer extraordinaire, Rita Guastella. Just last year, she won two awards for best olive oil at New York’s International Olive Oil Competition and at Berlin’s Global Olive Oil Awards.

“Winning those awards was such an honour,” Rita says. “It really put into focus how far we’ve come since we first arrived on Italian soil.”

She and her husband Giuseppe made a huge leap of faith back in 2001 by moving from Singapore and purchasing an olive grove in Tuscany’s Castiglione della Pescaia.  After having lived abroad in several other countries such as the United Kingdom, India, Malaysia and the United States, they were set on buying a property where they could grow their own produce and have a permanent home.

“We chose an olive grove when I was pregnant with my second son,” Rita continues. “My husband is from this area and we were looking for something online. We knew we wanted our own land and somewhere where we could lead an organic lifestyle.”

They stumbled upon their current property whilst searching online and made it their objective to produce high-quality oil.  

Photo of olives being harvested on Rita's olive grove. Photo by Rita Guastella.

“I won’t say the first year was easy at all,” she adds. "It’s not hard to obtain a grove, but it is tough in the initial year as you have to prune the trees and wait for them to produce, so you gain no profit. 

“If you can get through that major hurdle, it is fine. Having an olive grove takes a lot of guts, but it’s worth it.”

To date, Rita has 450 olive trees and her oil is organic, meaning she never uses pesticides whilst cultivating. Getting the seal of approval from Agricert, the certified board, was no small feat: it took a total of three years.

“They kept on coming back and testing the soil once in a while to really thoroughly check it. It wasn’t hard to get but there were a lot of rules and regulations I had to follow, one of them being having to eliminate an entire row of trees.”


Rita says they requested the elimination because her olive-growing neighbour, who is not organically certified, could have been using pesticides. As a result, the bordering row had to be gotten rid of. 

“It was a spanner in the works, but it was nothing unsolvable,” she says.

Alongside her organic seal, Rita also has Protected Geographical Indication (IGP) which means her product is directly linked to the area. She harvests the olives manually in early October every year for two weeks and then gets them cold-pressed and bottled within 24 hours of picking them. 

“We are so fortunate to have what we have,” she adds. “A lot of olive oil sold in supermarkets does not have the IGP certification so it does not guarantee to the consumer that it comes from Italy. We know where ours is from."

She also says that last year was particularly hard for olive growers because of the changing climate and its effect on growth.

“It’s been quite bad this past year for olive growers in general, but it is less work when you are organic and don’t use pesticides as we plant certain weeds to oxygenate the soil to promote growth.”


Climate change aside, Rita is determined to get her oil recognised even more by entering other olive oil competitions this year.

“I hope we get accepted,” she adds. “Our oil is so pure and when it’s been bottled we’re there with our bruschetta at the ready. It’s so important to us. When we get ours, it’s like a baby coming home. It’s amazing.”



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