Tuscan Producer Adapts to a Changing Olive Oil Landscape

Fattoria di Volmiano embraces new ways to produce high-quality extra virgin olive oil.

(Photo: Fattoria di Volmiano)
By Paolo DeAndreis
Apr. 16, 2024 23:25 UTC
(Photo: Fattoria di Volmiano)

Since the 15th cen­tury, olive farm­ers across Florence pro­duced olive oil for the pow­er­ful Medici fam­ily, which gov­erned the region for cen­turies.

Today, Lapo Gondi’s fam­ily farm, Fattoria di Volmiano, con­tin­ues the tra­di­tion with its Laudemio brand. The organic extra vir­gin olive oil has won a Gold Award at the 2024 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

We do not intend to give up, and that means things have to change. We need to mech­a­nize oper­a­tions to reduce pro­duc­tion costs and ensure a future for olive oil pro­duc­tion.- Lapo Gondi, owner, Fattoria di Volmiano

Winning in New York is, first of all, a con­fir­ma­tion that we are doing a good job, a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the qual­ity of our Laudemio, our flag­ship extra vir­gin olive oil,” Gondi told Olive Oil Times.

Nestled in the Tuscan hills near the his­toric city of Florence, Fattoria di Volmiano cov­ers about 550 hectares. At the heart of a ver­dant val­ley, its ancient tower and palace stand cen­tral to the Gondi fam­i­ly’s diverse agri­cul­tural and tourism ven­tures.

See Also:Producer Profiles

More than 70 hectares are devoted to olive groves, host­ing about 23,000 Moraiolo, Frantoio, Leccino, Leccio del Corno and Pendolino olive trees.

The local Chamber of Commerce offi­cially rec­og­nized the Volmiano far­m’s his­tor­i­cal ori­gins and olive oil pro­duc­tion, includ­ing them on the dis­tin­guished list of Tuscany’s his­tor­i­cal her­itage.

We have ancient doc­u­ments that show how the Sorbitole com­pany, which is part of Volmiano, pro­duced olive oil for the Medici fam­ily in 1427,” Gondi said.

It is the third time Laudemio has earned a Gold Award in the last few years. Laudemio is a blend made out of our best batches of olives and duly bal­anced,” he noted. We work hard to find the best pos­si­ble bal­ance between the spicy and the bit­ter.”

The 2023/24 crop year was chal­leng­ing for most of cen­tral Italy, and Tuscany was no excep­tion. This year’s Gold came at the end of a com­plex sea­son, as we could har­vest about 30 per­cent of what we could con­sider a nor­mal sea­son,” Gondi said.

Fattoria di Volmiano pro­duces up to 22 tons of extra vir­gin olive oil in an aver­age crop year. There was a sig­nif­i­cant drop com­pared to aver­age years,” Gondi said.

In 2020/21, we had a great year, then in 2021/22, we faced dam­age from frost and excess heat. So we had prob­lem­atic years cul­mi­nat­ing in this very mod­est out­come in 2023/24,” he added.


Lapo Gondi (left) is the latest in a centuries-long family line of olive oil producers in Tuscany. (Photo: Fattoria di Volmiano)

Production costs have also increased recently, affect­ing the finan­cial via­bil­ity of high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers, such as Gondi.

These pro­duc­ers have invested sig­nif­i­cantly in organic and sus­tain­able farm­ing and adopted the most advanced tech­nolo­gies in olive milling and oil stor­age facil­i­ties.

The cost of labor has become so high that main­tain­ing a tra­di­tional olive grove has no future,” Gondi said. To counter this trend, the fam­ily is con­sid­er­ing expand­ing with new medium-den­sity olive plan­ta­tions.

We do not intend to give up, and that means things have to change,” Gondi said. We need to mech­a­nize oper­a­tions to reduce pro­duc­tion costs and ensure a future for olive oil pro­duc­tion.”


There are good exam­ples of semi-inten­sive orchards with the typ­i­cal vari­eties of our region, such as Leccio del Corno and Maurino,” he added. These plan­ta­tions would be more prof­itable, as we do every­thing by hand cur­rently, and we cer­tainly need to cut costs.”

According to Gondi, the tur­moil that has affected the olive oil sec­tor in recent years might do more good than harm in the long term.


Fattoria di Volmiano is planting new medium-density groves to improve cost efficiency while maintaining quality. (Photo: Fattoria di Volmiano)

As olive oil prices have gone up, we can expect peo­ple to under­stand bet­ter what olive oil is and its real pro­duc­tion costs,” he said. This will make it eas­ier to explain to con­sumers that qual­ity comes at a price.”

To help diver­sify its rev­enue streams, the Gondi fam­ily also offers guided tours of the estate, an oppor­tu­nity to show­case the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side, the vil­las in the val­ley and ded­i­cated tast­ings.


We present the val­ley to them and elu­ci­date the agro­nomic ele­ments of our agri­cul­tural endeav­ors,” Gondi said. Additionally, we guide them to the Oratory, where they can mar­vel at the fres­coes cre­ated cen­turies ago by the stu­dents of Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio.”

Afterwards, our guided tours take the guests to the mill, where we can explain how the extrac­tion process hap­pens,” he added, sug­gest­ing that guests get the most out of the visit dur­ing the har­vest when all the machin­ery is run­ning.

The truth is that the best sea­sons for tourism do not coin­cide with the har­vest­ing and olive pro­cess­ing sea­son, so it does not often hap­pen that tourists see the mill work­ing,” Gondi said.

During the tast­ings at the farm, tourists are pre­sented with sev­eral extra vir­gin olive oils pro­duced at Volmiano. All olive oils they taste are excel­lent, and dur­ing the event, we make sure our guests under­stand the dif­fer­ences and detect qual­ity,” Gondi said.

Thanks to those tast­ings, our guests under­stand why our Laudemio has such excep­tional qual­ity; they learn to iden­tify its high qual­ity,” he added.

Our role is to assist our vis­i­tors in under­stand­ing the qual­ity of olive oil and to immerse them in the cul­ture sur­round­ing it,” Gondi con­cluded. By doing so, they become more inter­ested in invest­ing in high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.”

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