Santagata, Sommariva, De Cecco: tales of families, companies and olive oil

Three Italian companies with glorious history and a focus on the future, prepared for a “nouvelle vague” of the Olive Oil production, completely Italian. With Cristina Santagata, moderated by Luigi Caricato on the stage of OliOfficina – which is the most innovative and influential Italian event dedicated to the oil of olives and its culture – in the section on new trends, Agostino Sommariva of “Sommariva Agricola Tradition” and Marco Camplone of “De Cecco”, compare their experiences and their awareness of the difficulties of the system and market trends.

The debate focused on the bounds with the past and the importance of enhancing traditions. The Italian experience and professionalism in the world of olive oil have deep roots, but at the same time need to break with the past to overcome some errors, such as the inability to make an integrated system. The recall is a tradition that has to be reconstructed and retold starting from the role of each part of the chain (production, distribution, sales and tasting).

The information on the oil is in fact very poor and often “against it”. An information that when it is done in a correct and conscious way could easily impress the audience. This is the case of chefs who bring the bottle to the table to raise awareness about the product that is not just a seasoning but it is culture (in Italy we have over 500 different cultivars and an incredible wealth in olive oil between pairings and dishes). As well as this is the case of the tasting sessions organized at OliOfficina and specifically dedicated to the “non-experts”: rooms full, sold-out, enthusiastic people focused to find the right words to describe the flavors and bouquets they taste.

There is much to be done in order to spread the culture of oil, but many protagonist of this “world” are willing to go straight forward. OliOfficina is one of the steps of this path.

High quality from the first pressing

With the start of the new olive oil harvest, Santagata has intensified its activity. As part of our activity consists in tasting and selecting olive oils, at this time of the year daily tasting sessions become central. In Italy, the olive season begins in October with the harvest in Sicily, followed by Puglia in November and then all the other regions.

Olio extravergine di oliva nuova spremitura. Santagata 1907We receive dozens of olive oil samples from our suppliers every day. Being the first productions, we encounter both top quality products and olive oils which are not perfect yet, due to the initial pressing activity of the mills. Understanding the potential of these oils is our expertise.

All our suppliers are highly qualified companies that have been cooperating with us for a long time and that we follow during the entire year throughout the olive cultivation and production process. The characteristics of the first olive oils might not match with those of the subsequent productsions, but help us understand the quality potential of their region or sub-region.

The reassuring element for the entire sector is that olive oils that are currently being produced are of the highest quality on average.

In the Mediterranean basin, of course, there is not only Italy among the major live oil producing countries. While Spain, the first producer by quantity, had to delay the harvest due to the summer drought, Tunisia’s abundant output seems to be of particular interest. Tunisian contribution is crucial for the entire Mediterranean area where traditionally olive oil is consumed in large quantities – with Italy at the forefront.

This hectic tasting and selection phase will absorb our business until the end of the year. This is the time of olio novello (new, fresh olive oil), which embodies the highest taste quality and organoleptic intensity, being the quality of an oil directly related to its freshness. For those who have never tried it, we suggest to taste fresh olive oil at this time of year to enjoy and appreciate intensity and differences.

Oil is the the history of the family

One hundred and ten years of an olive oil business in Liguria, as told from different perspectives

“The good fortune enjoyed by Italian olive oil production around the world owes everything to the family element, whose entrepreneurship has characterised the olive oil sector. Without the commitment, courage and important commercial insight of several historical families, the Italy we know and appreciate today as an important producer of olives, and olive oil, would not exist.”

(by Luigi Caricato, Preface)


On the occasion of 110th anniversary of the company, Santagata has published the book AN OLIVE OIL FAMILY. 110 years of an olive oil business in Liguria as told from different perspectives, written by Cristina and Federico Santagata and edited by the journalist and writer Luigi Caricato.
“The history of a family, an Italian story. An olive oil family: the Santagatas, from Liguria to the world.” This is the reference in the cover of the book published by Olio Officina, a publishing house specialized in olive oil, a point of reference for the Italian olive oil industry and beyond.


The company started its activity in 1907, in the wonderful location of the hamlet of Camogli. That was the time when Giovanni Battista Santagata decided to turn his passion for high-quality olive oil into a successful company, which never forgot to focus its attention on the quality of its products and on the surrounding territory. Now, the company is based in Genoa and is managed with the same passion, dedication and professionalism by Cristina and Federico, fifth generation of Santagata family.
For over 100 years Santagata has been selecting high-quality olive oils and extra virgin oils, which are sold in Italy and worldwide in accordance with the most restrictive European rules and respecting rigid quality and safety standards. Throughout the year Santagata reviews all the production areas and it verifies the trees health conditions, because it is aware of the fact that the quality of finished products relies on the proper functioning of the whole ecosystem.
At present, the activity of Santagata is divided into the selection and trading of bulk products, which are specifically created for important national and international brands and for the food industry and, into the selection and trading of bottled products under the Santagata and Frantoio di Portofino brands, which are intended for the final consumer.


As Cristina and Federico are not writers, they decided – in order to celebrate this important anniversary – to compile the book in collaboration with others, allowing the choral collective to arise.
Together with Luigi Caricato, many experts collaborated in the writing of the book: Tommaso Sitzia, professor of the University of Padua, Department of Territory and Agro-Forestry Systems wrote a scientific intervention on the importance of the cultivation of olive groves for environmental health; nutritionists Luca Spigno and Giulietta Spadafora on the role of olive oil in nutrition and its nutritional and healthful qualities; chefs Toni Mörwald, Seita Nakahara, Simon Gault, Ivano Ricchebono, Claudio Fortuna and Andrea De Galleani with their culinary proposals.
The common thread of the book is the voice of Cristina and Federico, the story of their family and their company, the centrality of a territory – the region of Liguria – and the constant attention and research to quality and innovation.

“One does not inherit a business simply because you were born into the family who founded and managed it for years. A business with strong family ties, like ours, also represents a way of being, an approach to life and a lifestyle. It is for this reason that we wanted to understand our past in the light of the present.”

(by Cristina and Federico Santagata, Introduction)


Cristina Santagata (1978) majored in Philosophy at the University of Genoa and holds a DEA form Paris-Sorbonne. After studying in France, she returned to Genoa and devoted herself to the family enterprise. Today she is the chairwoman and handles the international markets.
Federico Santagata (1983), sportsman by vocation, is a ski instructor and passionate of water sports. He started his professional career in a well-known olive oil company, of which Santagata is shareholder, and later joined the family business where he is in charge of the selection of raw materials. He divides his time between tasting olive oil samples in the company and visiting olive farmers.
Luigi Caricato, journalist and writer, olive oil expert. He collaborates with the main national and international newspapers, has published numerous books on the theme of olive oil. He is director of the weekly “Olio Officina Magazine” and of the bilingual Italian / English quarterly OOF, runs the homonymous publishing house and organizes every year in Milan “Olio Officina Festival – Condiments for the palate & for the mind”. The next edition is scheduled from 1 to 3 February 2018 at the Palazzo delle Stelline in Milan.