The growing interest in quality olive oil has resulted in a boom in farm tourism with more than two million people a year now visiting oil mills to buy their oil straight from the source.
According to the Italian olive oil producers' consortium Unaprol, olive oil tourism this year will generate more than 1.8 billion euros (2.3 billion U.S. dollars) in business.
Unaprol attributed the popularity of this form of tourism to "the increasing interest in quality and authenticity of olive oil, which today can only be guaranteed by buying the oil at its source or with the PDO (protected designation of origin) label."
Italy currently has recognized 17 olive oil "roads" or itineraries on which tourists can find not only olive oil mills, but also olive-producing farms, restaurants and holiday farms, where guests can purchase quality oil and other local cuisine specialties.
Other sector attractions for tourists which are unique to Italy include: the 3,000-year-old olive tree in Cannetto di Sabine north of Rome; the centuries-old olive groves in the region of Puglia; the olive tree "forests" on the Gioia Tauro plain in Calabria and in the central region of Molise; and the terraced olive groves which can be found in the coastal region of Liguria, along the Amalfi coast and south of Salerno.
Italy produces around 650,000 tonnes of olive oil a year and consumes 800,000 tonnes, while exporting more than 200,000 tonnes.
In order to further guarantee the quality of oil produced and bottled in Italy, Unaprol wants Italy to make it obligatory for labels to indicate both the origin of the oil or oils used and their percentage.
"The indication of origin on labels for extra virgin olive oil must not be a option but an obligation, the same way it is for beef and poultry, tomato puree, fresh milk, honey, fruits and vegetables," Unaprol said.