In Tuscany, quality olive oil all starts the same way: The olive grower spreads a silken parachute around the base of the olive tree, rests a ladder against the branches, and then climbs up into the tree and picks the olives, by hand. What's next? The press, ideally as quickly as possible, because, as Francesco Nardi of the Azienda Agricola Il Cavallone, which has about 1700 olive trees in groves downriver from Florence, points out, the olives start to deteriorate the moment they're picked.
Regardless of the kind of press, the first step is to put the olives in a hopper that will start them on their journey through the system. The paths are quite different, however, for olives that go through modern industrial presses, and those that go through traditional presses. Francesco's press dates to the 1930s, and is one of the oldest still operating in Tuscany.