Madi Talks Oil

Written by Katie Parla on April 11, 2011

Photos by Diana Delatorre (left) and Katie Parla (right)

In this week’s interview, I would like to introduce you to Madi, an olive oil producer who splits her time between Rome and Umbria. I use her olive oil and I even helped her harvest 500kg of olives back in November 2009. Since then, her company has grown and will start selling in Boston and NYC soon. Readers in Rome (those who have already booked a ticket, that is) can taste her olive oil at the American Academy on the evening of April 14 during the Galileo Cabaret, a program of music, readings, art installations, multimedia performances, and participatory stargazing. For information about Madi’s oil, as well as “Il Poilio”, her Umbrian villa rental, email her directly.

Name: Madi Gandolfo

Age: 52

Occupation: Olive oil producer, Umbria lover, and organizer of specialty culinary experiences in Umbria.

Describe your work and how it came about:
I grew up in Liguria, my family is from San Lazzaro, a small village near Oneglia. I was very close to my paternal Grandfather Nonno Romolo who had his own olive grove, and was, among other things, a salesman for an olive oil company in Oneglia. As a little girl, I would accompany him on his travels in the area, first by train, and later when I was older, I would drive him from town to town in Piedmont, selling olive oil. We met farmers, merchants, cooks; I would listen and learn. It was a very special time for me, and a very special relationship. My grandfather taught me a lot about olives and their oil; I learned about colour, taste, ripeness. When I returned to Italy after 20 years in North America I knew that I wanted to have my own olive grove – it was just a matter of finding the right place. I found it in Guardea, between Orvieto and Amelia, in Umbria. I restored the farmhouse in keeping with local traditions, and I added to the existing olive grove. The oil from my first harvest was dedicated to my grandfather – I know he would have been proud. Now my company, Madi in Italy produces what I like to think is one of the best oils in the area.

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the land, its season, its traditions. These are the things I missed the most during my time in North America. I am a farmer at heart! I feel a strong connection to the earth; I have a great respect for what it gives us. I am inspired by my grandfather and his passion for all that was real and true.

Which profession would you most like to try?
I would like to help people get back to the country, the land, and I am actually involved in that right now. I help people realize their dreams of living in the countryside: I help them find the land; I help them with the construction or restoration process – a sort of back-to-the-land real estate consultant!

Which profession would you not like to try?
One in which I could not use my creativity.

Madi’s villa, “Il Poilio”. Photo from her website.

Who do you respect most?
There are many: everyone in Umbria and in Amelia in particular who welcomed me with warmth and generosity, who helped me in this journey back home. They are people who have never lost touch with the land, true artisans dedicated to maintaining and passing on their traditions: Quinto, Fiorella, Fausto, Francesca, Lucia, Gabriella, Ettore…I would like to introduce them all to you!

What is your favorite food and drink?
My friend Patrizia in Ottawa is always in the mood to cook, and she does it with passion and enthusiasm: whatever she prepares for me is my favourite food. My favourite drink, much to Patrizia’s dismay, is green tea – any time of the day!

What is the characteristic that you appreciate most in others?
Respect for others, from it come thoughtfulness, kindness, consideration.

Would you like to add anything?
I find great enjoyment, fulfillment really, in opening the doors of my Italy – that is the Italy of the people, especially their traditions in the kitchen and at the table – to all those eager to experience it. In my years in North America I met so many people who yearned for the life it is possible to live here, and I am proud to be able to help them discover it.

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