The cultivation of olives and the production of olive oil have been vitally important to Greece for centuries and hills covered in silver-leafed olive trees form an iconic part of the landscape. The country’s homage to its most important crop opened in 2002 in Laconia, one of its main olive-producing regions, and offers an informative take on the cultural and economic importance of olives as well as taking visitors step by step through the process of producing olive oil, soap and other by-products. As well as ancient amphorae used for transporting olive oil, mill stones and flat-bottomed Byzantine storage jars, highlights of the exhibition include clay tablets from the 14th century BC, which are inscribed with the health-giving properties of olive oil.
A variety of olive presses from all across Greece date from ancient times right up to the industrial age and include examples powered by water, steam, diesel and even by animal. Among the olive trees in the museum grounds are several sizeable presses, including replicas of ones from prehistoric, Classic and Byzantine times. A small store offers a range of local, organic and flavoured olive oils for sale as well as handmade soaps.
129 Othonos-Amalias St, Sparta. Open Mar¬–Oct 15 10am–6pm; Oct 16–Feb 10am–5pm. Admission adults €3, concessions €1.5. Southwest of Athens in the Peloponnese, Sparta is best reached by car from Athens; the journey is 133 miles (213 km) and takes around two hours 25 minutes hours via the E65.