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Taking a vintage van to discover the story of Istrian olive trees

 

Vintage Gourmet Tour

Slovenian Istria is synonymous with premium olive oils. Its secret? The habitat. This nostalgic trip with a vintage van will take you to the picturesque olive tree orchards. You will discover them with an experienced oil-maker from the Lisjak family, and learn all about growing olives and making olive oil.

a vintage van tour of olive groves
Photo: Jaka Ivančič, Lisjak Oil Mill

Cruising the Slovenian riviera in style

The road will take you along the coastline, past vineyards, through olive groves, and all the way to the Belvedere viewpoint above the fishing town of Izola. The ride along a considerable stretch of the Slovenian coast in the legendary Fiat and Zastava vans will be over all too soon. But don’t worry, there will be ample time to admire these renovated vintage vans. Their owners, passionate olive oil makers, used the wood from old olive trees to create a truly creative and unique look.

These vans were ubiquitous in Primorska in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. People used them for everything; they were both family cars and farming equipment. The Lisjak family bought their first one in 2017, when their son Oliver was born. This is why the registration of all the vans reads “Oliver”, but each has a different city code and a unique colour.

a roadtrip with vintage vans
Photo: Lisjak Oil Mill archive

Breathtaking view from the highest flysch cliff on the Adriatic coast

The Lisjak family has olive orchards all along the coast, more than a thousand trees altogether, but the first orchard you will visit is especially memorable. It stands on the edge of a beautiful cliff in the Strunjan natural reserve, and offers breathtaking views far across the Gulf of Trieste. On this trip, you will get to walk through this olive grove owned by the largest oil-making family, in the company of one of the family members.

The Lisjak family processes just over a million kilograms of olives every year, which grow on 27 different varieties of olive trees. The most important is the Istrian white, an autochthonous olive variety typical for Slovenian Istria. As much as 70 percent of the olives in the entire region are of this variety. It is also the variety that brings in the best harvest, as it has the largest fruit with the highest percentage of oil. It produces oil of an exceptional quality, with a strong aroma and intense bitter tones. In addition to the Istrian white, the Lisjak family also grows the leccino, maurino, and itrana varieties, as well as some lesser-known varieties, such as črnica, buga, frantoio, pendolino, mata, ascolana, Piranian buga, štorta, and others.

Photo: Lisjak Oil Mill archive

Mixing red and white?

Your guide’s stories will add a certain depth to the view, but the snack will take it to the next level. The tasting of Istrian prosciutto and the Lisjak sparkling wine fits perfectly into the environment, and brings up another romantic story.

Matej’s nono, Istrian for grandpa, had a restaurant where the guests liked to mix half red and half white wine. The family recently revived nono’s tradition with a little twist. They created the mezallana sparkling wine, made from two grape varieties typical of this region, the red refosco and the white Istrian malvasia. The very refreshing and drinkable brut zero sparkling wine is made according to the classical method, and has quickly become very popular.

tasting in the olive grove
Photo: Lisjak Oil Mill archive

After the snack ... a snack! Bobiči and fusi.

It is hard to say goodbye to such a piece of heaven on earth, but the views offered by the coastal road that takes you past Izola to the Lisjak family olive mill in the Istrian village of Šalara are just as charming. There will be a snack of traditional Istrian dishes waiting for you at the olive mill, starting with bobiči, and followed by fusi. Bobiči is a hearty soup made from beans, corn, potatoes, and pork, which is prepared a day in advance, and served in an olive wood bowl with an olive wood spoon. Fusi is a typical Istrian type of pasta served with truffles in a family recipe. Depending on the season, they use black or white truffles. There will also be a plate of Istrian cold cuts and a dessert.

Next, this gastronomical and educational exploration of autochthonous olive varieties will take you into the heart of the oil production, where you will see first hand how the olive mill works and how the oil is made. You will learn all about the widespread use of olives in industry and cosmetics, and test their luxury cosmetic brand, which is olive-oil based, vegan, silicon-free, and without colouring.

olive oil tasting
Photo: Matia Ščukovt, Lisjak Oil Mill

The green gold of Istria

The grande finale of the olive oil story is a guided tasting of several Lisjak oils. There will be pure Istrian white oil, which we have already mentioned, and several mixed oils, from milder tasting ones, suitable for light dishes, to more intense oils that demand bold flavours. You will also try flavoured oils, which are made without any extracts; all the ingredients, such as organic oranges and lemon, or Slovenian garlic, are pressed together with the olives. The most popular flavours are chilli and truffles.

Slovenian Istria is synonymous with premium olive oils. It’s secret? The habitat. Olive orchards in Istria lie at the northernmost part of the Mediterranean. This means they are briefly touched by the winter cold, which increases the nutritional value of the oil. The Lisjak oils have received several Slovenian and international awards, and are used by the best restaurants in Slovenia and in more than 30 other countries.

In just three hours, you will learn to recognise a high-quality olive oil, taste several traditional Istrian dishes, hear about the benefits of olive oil in cosmetics, walk through a picturesque olive orchard on a cliff, and see up close how olive oil is made. And at the end of the trip, the unique renovated old-timers will take you back to the starting point.

Taste more.

Learn about the story od Slovenian gastronomy. Discover local culinary and wine specialties.

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