A personal history of the Gelpke-Goldschmidt family and the Fattoria Corzano e Paterno

La Fattoria Corzano e Paterno, founded by the Swiss architect Wendel Gelpke, is now owned and operated by his heirs, the Gelpke and Goldschmidt families. The farm extends over two hundred hectares (five hundred acres) of verdant and stony hills enabling the production of our extensive range of wines, sheep cheeses and high quality olive oil.

Lying seventeen km southwest of Florence along the Via Cassia, Corzano e Paterno were once two distinct farms lying adjacent to one another. Gelpke acquiring one, then the other, and in 1976 united them.

Corzano had been in the hands of the Niccolini family for centuries. The Marchese Niccolini was a friend of Gelpke’s so when the family decided to sell the farm, he wanted Gelpke to see it first. Interestingly, by ancient contract, the profits from La Fattoria di Corzano were to go to dower the daughters of the Niccolini family. But over time the heirs had becomeso numerous and the profits so negligible, that the only option was to sell. When Gelpke saw the beauty and potential of the property, Gelpke offered to buy it himself with the promise that it would not be divided for speculation purposes. Niccolini agreed willingly.

When Gelpke bought Corzano he acquired two large houses, Il Poggio and Corzanello and a complex of houses, Corzano, as part of the estate. They were in poor condition, lacking modern facilities, and requiring a great deal of restoration. The small and random vineyards were sparse and in poor condition.

Gelpke moved to Corzano with his seven year old son, Till. Gelpke’s sister, Katerina Goldschmidt, moved from Holland to Corzanello with her husband Peter and their sons Aljoscha and Pascal.

Gelpke began his reinvigoration of the farm by acquiring milk sheep from Sardinia to clear the scrub and then he planted vineyards, began restoration work on the houses and started work to make the land arable again. Over the fire in the kitchen in Corzano, Gelpke made cheese from the milk of his sheep, a cheese which the local people found remarkably good. His sister Katerina, a linguist and painter, made the weekly wood oven baked bread.

La Fattoria di Paterno sits on the neighbouring hill. A much loved property in the area, it belonging to the Rangoni-Machiavelli family. The property is comprised of the main house and three large farmhouses. Villa Paterno, at the time long uninhabited, is a rectangular building with two internal courtyards flanking a thousand year old tower once belonging to the Pitti Family of Florence. They were obliged to sell to meet expenses in the construction of the enormous Palazzo in Florence that bears their name. The Ragoni-Machiavelli family had kept the property for its hunting reserve so when the hunting laws changed they decided to sell. Later these two farms were to form the Fattoria Corzano e Paterno as we know it today.

In 1977 Gelpke met Susan Doran, a Boston native, who joined him on the farm and three daughters were born to them in the Villa Paterno: Sibilla, Arianna and Aglaia. At that point Paterno was the hub of farm activity. Till, Wendel’s son Wenzel, Aljoschia and later Sophie Partridge and Antonia Ballarin and many of their young friends helped with every aspect of farm work from harvesting to hay making and milking sheep. Sophie and Wenzel would eventually have their own farm and Aljoschia and Antonia would have their family of five children in Corzano where the dairy and shop would move in 2010.

The Farm’s primary activity is viticulture. Beginning with the six hectares planted in the 1970’s, we have evolved to twenty hectares today. Aljoscha worked to elevate our wines from simple Chianti to a quality wine and gave great importance to improving olive oil quality and production.

In 2005 Gelpke’s daughter, Arianna, following her studies in enology and viticulture and experience in other cellars, came back full time to the farm. She has been responsible for the cellar since 2005 and works alongside Aljoscha in the management of the estate.

Cheese production is our second sector. In the early days we sold our milk to another cheese maker then in 1992 Gelpke bought a dairy and asked Antonia if she would like to be responsible for the cheese production. She apprenticed herself to local cheese makers and once she mastered the traditional Pecorino went on to invent many other new and original sheep cheeses which have become internationally recognized.

Till has worked with the milk production since a very young age and has also created the market for our first cheeses that went on the become fixtures in the best restaurants and shops in the area and abroad. Aljoscha is our general manager and sales director. Together with Arianna he handles the day to day operations of the farm. Sibilla, after studying and working abroad for many years, has returned to the farm to work its hospitality sector. In 2018 Aljoscha and Antonia’s twin sons, Oscar and William, finishing their studies in wine and cheese respectively, have returned to work on the farm.

The farm has a thriving guesthouse sector (agriturismo). We offer two large farmhouses that can sleep up to twelve guests and various apartments that accommodate from one to six guests.

Gelpke, in his earliest vision for the farm, strove for the highest quality in the products that we produced guided by their essential simplicity. He insisted that we strive for independence and self sufficiency and that our scope was not to compete in an over saturated market but to create the best possible products from the raw materials at our disposal in our own particular way. Our cheeses are served in some of Europe’s finest restaurants and our wines have received national and international prizes and this is the result of the care taken at the origins of our products.

Wendel Gelpke died in 2001. He left the farm to us with the same ideals that it was given to him, with the promise that it will not be divided but remain the foundation of the life and work of his extended family. Fattoria Corzano e Paterno is co-owned by Susan Gelpke, her daughters Sibilla (1979), Arianna (1980), Aglaia (1986), Gelpke’s son, Till (1967) and Gelpke’s nephew Aljoscha Goldschmidt (1961)

Interview to Susan Doran Gelpke, Till Gelpke, Antonia Ballarin, Aljoscha Goldschmidt and Arianna Gelpke

Read the detailed History of the Gelpke-Goldschmidt family and the Fattoria Corzano e Paterno