The story of Frantoio Franci, the company, began in 1958, when brothers Fernando and Franco Franci purchased an old barn and converted it to an olive oil mill. However, the story of Frantoio Franci, creators of the world’s most esteemed extra virgin olive oils, began in 1995, when Fernando’s son, Giorgio, joined the family business. Giorgio’s dedication to his family helped build a new foundation that would allow the company to become a leader in this modern era of quality olive oil.
The Franci mill is located in Montenero D’Orcia in southern Tuscany, in the municipality of Castel del Piano in the province of Grosseto, not far from the southern border of the province of Siena. The town was built in the heart of the rolling countryside, around an ancient village situated on a hilltop overlooking the final part of the Orcia River valley. Often noted as one of the most photographed areas in the world, the valley was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites in 2004. Etruscan ruins date the area’s occupation back to the 2nd or 3rd century BCE. Due to its strategic location above the Orcia, the hilltop became fortified in the middle ages, likely to protect the ruling families from would-be Arab conquerors. The lands changed hands between wealthy families for most of the next two centuries, until the 1950s agrarian reform ended the latifundia system in the region and allowed the local workers to take ownership of the land for the first time.
Around the time of these reforms, the Franci brothers were employed in earth-moving operations. But with local farmers gaining control over the land, the brothers recognized an opportunity to provide a needed resource. In addition to building the town’s oil mill, they also purchased an olive grove called Villa Magra. Soon they were pressing both their own olives, as well as the olives collected by local families. Fernando had a passion for farming and mechanical devices, and enjoyed great satisfaction in hard work. Even after a severe cold spell in 1985 destroyed many of the aged trees of the Villa Magra grove, Fernando did not give up. Instead he replanted the grove with hundreds of new trees that still grow today.
When Giorgio joined the family business, the commitment and resilience of his father inspired him to face the challenge of crafting the best olive oil possible. Giorgio Franci dedicated the first oil he produced to the rebirth of the family grove, naming the product Villa Magra. He soon recognized, however, that in order to continue his growth as an oil producer, a major reorganization of the company would be necessary.
This process of growth, starting from very little commercial knowledge and an unknown brand to becoming a point of reference for quality production worldwide, has been my personal imprint to Frantoio Franci.
Giorgio soon found replacing the previous generation to be as great a challenge as producing a quality oil. With his father and uncle’s decades of experience, and Giorgio still needing to prove himself, the first few years were particularly difficult, as arguments and disagreements occurred frequently. Once they learned how to overcome doubt, gain trust, and work together, they still faced the challenge of transitioning to a new distribution model. For decades Frantoio Franci had sold their oil in bulk, so they lacked commercial experience, name recognition, and a business structure that would allow competitive pricing. Giorgio strongly believed that focusing on quality would be the only way to forge an identity on the market. To make this endeavor a success, he soon realized that producing oil would "become my life, the essence of every day, my motivation, my passion."
While studying on how to best improve the quality of their oils, Giorgio also began working on bottle and label designs, and gathering information about international events and competitions to help promote their Villa Magra brand. Their first breakthrough occurred at the “Sol” International Fair in Verona. Though Giorgio had focused on the oil’s quality, packaging, and promotion, he had given little thought to his production costs, selling strategies, and price lists. So when the first inquiry about purchasing the oil arrived, he had to come up with a number on the spot. The client found the price much too high, but having great appreciation for the oil and understanding Giorgio’s inexperience, he made the first order and to this day still remains a Frantoio Franci client.
The intense fruity Villa Magra would soon surprise and please many more judges, tasters, and connoisseurs with its powerfully aromatic flavor and spicy finish. Responding to the requests of their customers, and motivated to replicate the success of Villa Magra, over the following years Frantoio Franci developed several new product lines with different flavor profiles and intensities. Today, over 20 years later, Frantoio Franci has become one of the most awarded producers, with their collection of oils winning nearly 450 prizes worldwide.
This amazing quality is primarily the result of Giorgio Franci’s incredible dedication to his oils. When meeting him person, the generosity and gentleness of his soul becomes immediately apparent, and it’s clear he attends to his work in the same way. The time he spends tasting oils, revisiting oils previously tasted, understanding their nuance and how the oils evolve each year, even the lengths taken to preserve his oils -- this work defines him in many ways. And this character reveals itself in the oils. The Frantoio Franci product lines span from the sublime Villa Magra Gran Cru to products like Franci Bio; while considered an everyday oil, the company’s quality standards make Franci Bio superior to 99% of the oils on the market today. Each year this quest for greatness inspires Giorgio’s love and he embraces the challenge, fascinated by the subtleties of products forged by rigorous tasting and an absolute commitment to quality.