The next time you open a can of Tenuta Borgia extra virgin olive oil and drizzle it over some fresh, crusty bread, we hope you’re transported to Pantelleria.
If that doesn’t ring any bells, you’re not alone. Locals enjoy keeping this Sicilian jewel a secret. But once Giorgio Armani discovered its savage beauty and purchased land there a few decades ago… Well, let’s just say it’s no longer under the radar.
It’s no surprise as to why, really.
The rugged beauty of Pantelleria
Geographically located closer to North Africa than Italy, this is the largest of the Sicilian islands.
It boasts its own unique terroir and charm in many ways. To begin with, this is a destination for land lovers. Ironically, the island is full of farmers, with fisherman few and far between. Of course, sweeping, spectacular vistas of the magnificent Mediterranean Sea fill the eyes in every direction. However, one cannot lounge on the beach here, as there is no sand. Instead, the volcanic island’s periphery is formed by striking rocky outcrops.
Hot springs on the hilltops serve as natural, luxuriant saunas. The volcano has created an intensely mineral rich soil, perhaps a nutrient trade-off to flora given the lack of fresh water. Wild flowers abound in spring, regaling locals and visitors with the most intoxicating sight and smell. Despite the conditions, when things grow in Pantelleria, they grow beautifully well. Indeed, the land is fertile for grapes, olives, capers and other hardy fruit trees. However, locals have had to be crafty and come up with ways to work around the lack of water and harsh elements. For instance, they prune olive trees low, so as to withstand the wind.
It is without question a beautiful island, but her charm lies in her naked rawness and authenticity.
A Bigger Splash
A picture paints a thousand words. Watch A Bigger Splash with Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes and Matthias Schoenaerts, and you’ll fall under Pantelleria’s spell. Filmed on the island, the production captures just some of the remarkable natural beauty on offer.
Falling in love with Tenuta Borgia
It’s no wonder Rosa Borgia Baroness Collice and her husband Dr. Massimo Collice fell in love with the place almost half a century ago.
At the time, there was an interesting two-way migration of sorts happening in Italy. Based in the south and faced with the prospect of limited career opportunities, young adults were moving further north. They didn’t want to inherit the tough life and labour of their family farms. As local islanders became collectively older, many properties were abandoned or left to slowly erode. In contrast, those in the busy, more industrialised Northern areas were turning to these remote wilderness areas. Here they found havens from the havoc of their busy lives. With his family origins in Calabria, Massimo was yearning not just for an idyllic second home. He wanted to find somewhere that would remind him of the vastness, ruralness and earthiness of his ancestral land.
A faithful restoration
Tenuta Borgia was, at the time, a jewel in the rough. Or perhaps we can better describe it as a rough in the jewel. It had all the trappings of a majestic island property. However, its ‘dammusi’ (traditional Pantelleria dwellings), built by hand using the indigenous stone, were crumbling. There was no electricity, no running water. Yet it was Massimo and Rosa’s dream. They set about fastidiously and faithfully restoring the buildings and surrounding land. They cultivated an olive grove and vineyard, cared for the palm trees and pinewoods. Lemon trees, peaches, loquats, figs, persimmons and more were planted. As with most of the properties on the island, the produce was entirely for the family’s pleasure and enjoyment.
Olive oil and Passito wine
Biancolilla olives, which are large, juicy and green, are the source of all the island’s oil. Zibbibo grapes make its classic sweet Passito wine. Looking for even more romance to this story? The traditional agriculture practice of cultivating the “Vite ad alberello” (head trained bush vines) in the island is listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This initiative works to safeguard important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance. It’s a nod to the authentic, traditional ways of cultivating.
Sharing Tenuta Borgia
Over a decade ago, Dr Collice passed away and Baroness Rosa decided to open Tenuta Borgia up to gentle travel. With seven dwellings on the estate, the Tenuta can accommodate a total of 24 guests. The largest dammuso accommodates eight, the smallest two. As we’ve mentioned, extra virgin olive oil and sweet Passito wine are made on the property, to be enjoyed by the Borgia family, friends and guests.
Kylestone Nurseries – the only place to find Tenuta Borgia outside Italy
However, Kylestone Nursery just so happens to have become the only foreign importer lucky enough to sell the oil. It’s all part of their ethos to begin introducing Northern Ireland to more unique, artisan produce. All thanks to close private connections, Kylestone Nurseries began selling the oil last year. To think that County Down is the only home of Tenuta Borgia outside of Italy is astounding. It’s something that brings the Vances enormous pride. It’s all part of their ethos to begin introducing Northern Ireland to more unique, artisan produce.
Visit Kylestone Nurseries online farm shop to be one of the few to get your hands on Tenuta Borgia extra virgin olive oil.
The best way to enjoy Tenuta Borgia olive oil
The very best way to enjoy any premium quality extra virgin olive oil is as soon after production as possible. This is because during this early stage, the oil is still green. Its tasting notes are vibrant and fruity. As the oil begins to age its colour turns golden and its acidity levels out. Interestingly, Tenuta Borgia has noticed the changing taste of people over time. Whereas once they were after aged, golden oil, now they seek more complexity and greenness. Whatever stage your extra virgin olive oil is at, its superbness lies, of course, in its simplicity. Drizzle generous amounts onto fresh, crusty white bread and enjoy, indulge, delight.