Olive Oil Sector Mourns Loss of 'Inspirational Pioneer' Paolo Pasquali

The olive oil world lost a leading figure after the hotelier, educator and all-around Renaissance man passed away from complications due to Covid-19.
Photo: Ok Mugello
May. 5, 2021
Ylenia Granitto

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Paolo Pasquali was an enlight­ened entre­pre­neur with deep sen­si­tiv­ity — an inno­va­tor and true vision­ary, among many other things.

Founder of the first olive oil resort, he sig­nif­i­cantly con­tributed to spread­ing the cul­ture of high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil at an inter­na­tional level. Last week, he passed away at the age of 70 from com­pli­ca­tions due to Covid-19.

Paolo glided among the tables. He was hand­some and tanned and wear­ing a white din­ner jacket. He could have been James Bond.- Dan Flynn, for­mer exec­u­tive direc­tor, UC Davis Olive Center

Paolo was an inspi­ra­tional pio­neer in olive oil tourism, an inno­v­a­tive designer and a fine and pro­foundly knowl­edge­able pro­ducer of extra vir­gin olive oil,” said Simon Poole, the co-orga­nizer of the Food Values Conferences. He was as well a gen­tle­man of extra­or­di­nary warmth, hos­pi­tal­ity, gen­eros­ity, pas­sion, and vision.”

After study­ing phi­los­o­phy and music, Pasquali enjoyed a suc­cess­ful man­age­r­ial career in the pub­lish­ing sec­tor.

See Also:Innovative Olive Oil Producer and Vintner, Carlos Falcó, Dies From Covid-19

His pas­sion for all things olive oil offi­cially started in the late 1980s, when he became the owner of a beau­ti­ful estate nes­tled in the rolling hills of Mugello, north of Florence, Villa Campestri. He planted an olive grove, became a taster and started intensely study­ing olive cul­ti­va­tion and oil pro­duc­tion.

Those years were char­ac­ter­ized by a great desire to know more about the extra­or­di­nary prop­er­ties of the liq­uid gold and full days spent between the olive trees and the mill, talk­ing and dis­cussing with expe­ri­enced olive grow­ers,” he once told Olive Oil Times.

He devoted him­self to research and edu­ca­tion. At the same time, Villa Campestri became a hall­mark of olive oil tourism. At its heart is the Oleoteca, a meet­ing point for olive oil experts and enthu­si­asts and a hotbed of inno­v­a­tive ideas. Here, Pasquali devised OliveToLive, a patented sys­tem for the opti­mal con­ser­va­tion of oil, which allows it to be served as it is freshly extracted.

My offer for those eager to know all this valu­able infor­ma­tion about extra vir­gin olive oil is to con­tribute to dis­sem­i­nat­ing it while offer­ing a place to expose this cul­ture,” he said.

Pasquali also par­tic­i­pated in many con­fer­ences and events at the inter­na­tional level, which led to his involve­ment with the UC Davis Olive Center and Culinary Institute of America, where he col­lab­o­rated with lead­ing experts in the field. Later, he took part in orga­niz­ing the cycle of Beyond Extra Virgin con­fer­ences.

It’s hard to describe some­one like Paolo in a few lines: eclec­tic, charis­matic and inno­v­a­tive. He was a spe­cial per­son and a vision­ary busi­ness­man.- Francesco Sofi, co-orga­nizer, Food Values Conferences

My first impres­sion of Paolo was formed at the gala din­ner for the first Beyond Extra Virgin con­fer­ence at UC Davis in 2007,” Dan Flynn, the for­mer exec­u­tive direc­tor of the UC Davis Olive Center, recalled. Paolo glided among the tables. He was hand­some and tanned and wear­ing a white din­ner jacket. He could have been James Bond. That is the most debonair man I have ever seen,’ I exclaimed to the per­son next to me.”

I learned that beneath the suave exte­rior was a jazz pianist, media entre­pre­neur, phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor, four-star hote­lier, his­toric preser­va­tion­ist, Renaissance expert, olive grower and oil miller,” Flynn added. Kindness, gen­eros­ity, and gra­cious­ness came from his heart. He believed that the beauty of olive oil needed new modes of expres­sion.”

Nobody but Paolo would have thought to com­mis­sion a piece of music ded­i­cated to olive oil’s sig­na­ture qual­i­ties of fruity, bit­ter­ness and pun­gent,” he con­tin­ued. I’ll remem­ber his pas­sion, ide­al­ism and desire to take all of us with him to a higher plane.”

Greg Drescher, a vice pres­i­dent at the Culinary Institute of America, also eulo­gized his friend, telling Olive Oil Times that he would be deeply missed for enrich­ing olive oil’s cul­tural her­itage in the world.

Paolo was a great friend and a rare bird. One got a win­dow into his pas­sion for life, art and peo­ple when he wel­comed you into his won­der­ful obses­sion with the world of olive oil,” he said. Yes, for Paolo, the Oleoteca at his beloved Villa Campestri in the hills of the Mugello was a phys­i­cal place — and a mag­i­cal place at that — but, more impor­tantly, it was an invi­ta­tion to deli­cious dis­cov­ery at the cross­roads of so many cre­ative impulses.”

He loved spend­ing time with our chefs, con­nect­ing their inti­mate knowl­edge of fla­vor archi­tec­ture with his quest for tech­ni­cal excel­lence in craft­ing great oils,” Drescher added. And then he asked a ques­tion that drove years of his work: how might we bet­ter pre­serve the rich­ness of aes­thetic expe­ri­ence latent in those oils when they are far from their source? Paolo’s vision mea­sur­ably enriched the world’s cul­tural her­itage of olive oil. For all who knew him, he will be deeply missed.”

Paolo was a Renaissance Man. Through what he did for olive oil and Tuscany, he exem­pli­fied the traits that made Florence the cen­ter of the world dur­ing the Renaissance.- Jean-Xavier Guinard, researcher, UC Davis Olive Center

Pasquali then launched the Food Values’ Conferences. He sum­moned inter­na­tional schol­ars to Italy in the name of a Renaissance of the Mediterranean diet and the key role of the extra vir­gin olive oil.

Paolo was a Renaissance Man,” Jean-Xavier Guinard, from the UC Davis Olive Center, said. Through what he did for olive oil and Tuscany, he exem­pli­fied the traits that made Florence the cen­ter of the world dur­ing the Renaissance. I can’t help but draw a par­al­lel between his flair for design, inno­va­tion, risk and beauty and the cre­ative pas­sion of the techies and entre­pre­neurs who sur­round us today.”

It was no acci­dent that a superb musi­cian like him could make such deli­cious olive oil. Sensory modal­i­ties inter­act and align, and Paolo could play all sen­sory notes – musi­cal, aro­matic, or gus­ta­tory, with equal ease and plea­sure, whether he was sit­ting at the piano or design­ing olive oils,” he added. On the per­sonal side, Paolo was all about fam­ily and friends – mak­ing every­one happy and push­ing us all to give our very best always.”

Along with the Carlo Collodi Foundation, Pasquali started a project on food edu­ca­tion for chil­dren, aimed at pro­mot­ing extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion and the Mediterranean diet since child­hood.

It’s hard to describe some­one like Paolo in a few lines: eclec­tic, charis­matic and inno­v­a­tive. He was a spe­cial per­son and a vision­ary busi­ness­man,” said Francesco Sofi, the co-orga­nizer of the Food Values Conferences from the University of Florence. Even with an age dif­fer­ence, we imme­di­ately found our­selves in sync because he was one of those few peo­ple in life that you meet and that touch you for their sim­plic­ity, depth and the pas­sion they put into what they do.”

We man­aged from noth­ing to cre­ate an inter­na­tional con­fer­ence on the role of food and olive oil,” he added. This was always done with the love for beau­ti­ful things that gov­erned his life. I will miss him so much, and I think the whole com­mu­nity will miss him.”

He still had many projects in the works shared with his beloved daugh­ters Gemma and Viola and his val­ued col­lab­o­ra­tors. Now, they will con­tinue his legacy.

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