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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.