Frantoio Alberto Cipolloni

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I'm Carlo Pagliacci, the current administrator of the Agrarian Company and Alberto Cipolloni Oil-mill and I would like to tell you the history of our family as I know it and have learnt it from the tales of the old folk.

Around the middle of the 19th century, Francesco Cipolloni lived near Assisi in the locality of Capodacqua and Capitan Loreto; a father of seven children, he inherited the predominantly olive growing lands and the family oil-mill (dating back to 1600) from his predecessors.

Panoramica of Assisi
Panorama of Assisi

Being a good father, he educated his children and set them all up by giving them each a home and land. Pietro, my grandfather, was the oldest; he became a land surveyor and took up residence and work in Foligno, a then flourishing agricultural, commercial and industrial centre.

Foligno in 1600
Foligno in 1600

He quickly became one of the most highly esteemed professionals in the area and married Clotilde Cantarelli. As a dowry, Clotilde brought the country villa "la Paurosa" ("The Terrifying" a name which derives from a legend according to which the devil had taken over the house and was then chased out by the Virgin Mary, a scene later depicted on the altarpiece of the church adjoining the early 18th century villa) and the splendid olive groves of San Giovanni Profiamma. These extremely fertile south-facing olive-groves on average sloping clay soil formed the nucleus around which my grandfather's property expanded.

In the meantime, in 1915, my mother Valeria was born and Pietro Cipolloni's oil-mill opened in a very beautiful 16th century building in Piazza Garibaldi. In those years, my grandfather was a great innovator in olive growing and people remember for example, the preparation of organic fertilizer with slaughterhouse waste and the making of what we think was the first small rake for harvesting olives, cited in Morettini's university text book (1939) as "Cipolloni's picker". He was amongst the first to replace oxen with tractors as well as being the second citizen of Foligno to buy a car. The business expanded greatly in those years and became one of the most important in Umbria both in terms of agricultural area and oil-mill.

The year 1930 saw the birth of Alberto, the much longed for male and future successor to the traditional family activity. In 1939, my grandmother Clotilde died leaving Alberto still a child and Valeria at a marrying age; Alberto was therefore raised and educated by my mother Valeria and their aunt Adelaide Cantarelli.
The second world war with its tragedies and destruction passed leaving our business unscathed or even strengthened by its role of producer of an indispensable and hence well paid for foodstuff. An anecdote confirms the fact for at that time one kilo of oil could be bartered for one kilo of ham or a kilo of salt (goods which could not be found here). Pietro was a capable and honest man and managed to become rich without dealing with oil on the black market which boomed during the war and its aftermath. Such moral principles were passed down to Valeria and Alberto.

In 1950 Alberto, a brilliant student enrolled in the faculty of Engineering at Rome University, while Valeria married Dr Paolo Pagliacci, a vet, the eldest of a well-to-do family residing at Viole di Assisi but originating from the hinterland of Perugia, and moved to Montecchio di Baschi where my father was district medical officer (he was assigned to an area which extended from Todi to Orvieto and Guardea in the province of Terni).
While Alberto studied engineering in Rome, Pietro by now old, administered the agrarian business which had in the meantime become a favoured site for experimentation by the University of Perugia. There was particularly close collaboration with Professor Jacoponi (full professor of Arboreal Cultivation) and Professor Lucchese (full professor of Agrarian Entomology). Those years saw the birth first of Maria Clotilde and then Carlo Giacomo (the writer) who were to be his only grandchildren.

A coincidence, or perhaps a sign of destiny, saw that during those same years a child called Gianfranco was born to Pietro Vissani at Baschi in the locality of Civitella del Lago in the area where Dr Paolo Pagliacci worked. This child would later become one of the greatest (or maybe even the greatest) chefs of the century and once famous would only use Alberto Cipolloni's extra virgin olive oil for his dishes.

On the 17th February 1956 after days of abundant snow (1.5m of snow) the temperature fell to -20°C and the worst frost of the century destroyed 80% of the olive trees in Umbria and the other regions of central Italy.
Pietro, by now getting on in years, set out for San Giovanni Profiamma accompanied by my uncle Alberto, and a few days later on going up round the first few curves and seeing the first distorted olive trees split open by the snow and with their bark coming away from the trunk, he felt sick at heart and told Alberto to turn back home. Soon after, at the age of 78, he died leaving Alberto alone to face those difficult years. Alberto closed the oil mill in piazza Garibaldi and in two-three years cut the olive trees to their bases so that new plants could regrow from them. For several years no oil was produced.
In 1962, Alberto bought an old oil-mill near the olive groves, re-modernised it and purchased what were then the most modern oil extracting machines. Like those used today, they exploited the Sinolea system for natural cold press extraction, and were built by a dynamic workshop in Foligno called Rapanelli that had bought the patent from Engineer Alfin. The remarkable improvement in quality and the vegetative and productive renewal quickly enabled regional leadership to be re-established; in fact in around 1966, the first machine was bought to bottle the oil which had until then been sold in demijohns.

Young and brilliant, Alberto in the meantime graduated in agricultural science at Perugia, and with his contacts some of which were made through his numerous posts in the world of tennis (until the end of the 1980s he was president of Foligno's tennis club and he was one of the founders of the tennis club at Villa Candida) and in the world of agriculture/olive-growing (president of the Umbrian Olive growers, still president of the Umbrian millers, adviser to the institute of olive-growing in Cosenza etc.) he also started to sell his oil outside Umbria.
In the same period he expanded into a programme of vine growing and wine producing which led to the planting of over 80 hectares of Montefalco and Sagrantino DOC vineyards and the construction of a cellar in Fabbri di Montefalco where I, the writer, also collaborated actively until the end of the 1980s. By the way, talking of myself; I spent my early childhood in Montecchio, near Orvieto (Baschi and Civitella del Lago), immediately after the early death of my father Paolo, my family returned to Foligno and I was sent to the ONAOSI boarding school (doctors' welfare society) in Perugia and it was also in this highly erudite city that I attended middle school (San Paolo) and secondary school (liceo classico A. Mariotti) and then the Agrarian University.
After my military service and degree in agricultural science with an experimental thesis on vine-growing (with Professor Cartechini) I started to collaborate with my uncle Alberto in the vine growing and wine-making programme and the construction of the cellar in Fabbri of Montefalco. A few years later, when the cellar was well underway, I started to work in Alberto Cipolloni's oil mill and to follow the olive groves of the agrarian company and exports. In the early 1980s uncle Alberto (known as Cip) started replanting the old olive groves; the first nucleus of about 5 hectares was replanted by mist propagation in an experimental trial together with the Institute of Arboreal Cultivation at the University of Perugia (Professor Tombesi). Various types of tests have been (and still are) carried out on these particular plants and reported in the institute's scientific publications (by Professors Tombesi, Cartechini, Antognozzi and Standardi).
Replacement of the old olive-groves continued over the years with the help of Baldo and was once again intensified in 1985, the year of another great 'frost'. Lucaroni a representative of wine producers such as Lungarotti, Cavit etc., started to export our oil to the USA and many other foreign countries and to even satisfy elite markets in countries as far afield as Hong-Kong, Singapore and Australia. In the USA, a substantial number of prestigious clients have appreciated our oil, a few who come to mind include the Williams Sonoma Firm, the Plaza Provision Company of the Cimino Family, Tony Mey Restaurant, Orso Restaurant, and Joe Allen Restaurants.

Gianfranco VissaniPromotion outside Umbria was also intensified in central and northern Italy and a network of external sellers began to be formed.
In this period the paths of Alberto and I crossed that of Gianfranco Vissani who, first in Rome (described as the eighth king of Rome) and then in Civitella del Lago-Baschi, was emerging as "chef of the century" in Italy and even perhaps abroad.
Gianfranco spurred us onto further improving the quality of our product and presenting it better. With his original and generous nature he introduced his colleagues to our oil which had in fact already been used and appreciated by other 'greats' such as Angelo Paracucchi (Umbrian in Ameglia - la Spezia) and Valentino Mercatilli of the S. Domenico restaurant in Imola and other great hotels such as Villa d'Este at Cernobbio on the banks of Lake Como. "Advised" by Gianfranco Vissani, we participated for the first time at the cuisine and non solely gastronomic culture show "Saperi and Sapori" organised at Argenta (Ferrara). The organisers, Giacinto Rossetti and Igles Corelli were owner and chef respectively of the Trigabolo restaurant (awarded two stars by the Michelin); over the years the greatest Italian and world chefs have participated in their show.
Igles, a great chef and admirer of Gianfranco Vissani, became a friend and admirer of our oil and so it was also through him that our company has become known. We won First Prize for the Quality of our extra virgin olive oil at the Saperi and Sapori show of 1994 with the almost unanimous verdict of a jury composed of wine and gastronomic journalists of noted fame and by chefs participating in the show. Today, to our good fortune and their pleasure, our extra virgin olive oil is used in many restaurants and by many gourmets.



Frantoio Alberto Cipolloni S.a.s.
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