Puglia is a stunning, authentic part of southern Italy that seems to escape the tourist crowds. If you’re looking for something really unique and rewarding that won’t cost the earth, the upcoming olive celebrations could well be your ticket.
Tales of the Trees
The legends of the olive trees are one of many reasons to love Puglia. One tells the story of a war that happened over one hundred years ago. A woman betrayed her husband while he was busy fighting in the war. To repent her sins the wise gods told her to pray and plant a tree. The purpose of the tree being that every time she looked in the garden it would remind her to be faithful. You’ve probably heard of the olive tree being described as a symbol of peace and some believe this legend is why.
Others believe that the first olive tree was planted by the ancient Greeks. Legend says that a new town was discovered in Greece. Both the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena, and the God of Sea, Poseidon, wanted to name it. Zeus decided they would have to give a gift to the town and the best one would win the naming rights. Poseidon gave a big white horse. He said it would help to carry crops and tools. Athena gave an olive tree. She said it would produce fruit to eat, olive oil for lights and wood for furniture. Athena was deemed the winner, so the town was called Athens.
Whether you believe in the fairytales or not, there seems to be a growing trend for people to go on holiday to give something back or to learn. Lots are choosing to include the autumn/winter olive harvest in their trip to Puglia. They stay with a local and become immersed in the family life, helping with the traditional harvesting methods. These tours usually take place between September – December, with November being one of the ideal months.
Another option is to visit a mill to see how it’s created and to taste the different oils. After seeing some of the olive mills first-hand at L’Astore Masseria in Cutrofiano, L’Acropoli di Puglia in Martina Franca, and Masseria Il Frantoio in Ostuni, you’d probably be really surprised at how interesting the process is. Some mills are hundreds of years old and have been refurbished with twinkling lights. Others have more of a rustic feel and a loveable charm of the passionate owners.
Romantics who simply want to enjoy the olive trees should head to Masseria Il Frantoio for the special ‘Cinema in the South’. A temporary big screen has been set up in the ancient, millennial olive grove so that you can watch films under the stars. Every Tuesday night throughout the months of July, August and September they show various films, both classics and less well known Italian films by Italian and foreign directors.
Olive Trees in Puglia
Puglia is filled with a staggering sixty million olive trees. That’s practically one for every person! Their trunks bend and twist, looking like arty sculptures. Driving around this region, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer number of them. Be warned though – even though there are loads of them, you’ll be fined if you try to kill one.
The trees are really valued. Italy is said to produce 200million litres of olive oil, which is between one third and half of the global amount of olive oil. Top producers include Spain and Greece too. However my guide was quick to point out that it’s about quality not quantity. She was fiercely adamant that Italian quality standards are higher than others.
Even the old trees are treated like royalty. Some are 3,000 years old and it is estimated that there are four million olive trees that are thousands of years old. Older trees still produce olives (which are said to taste better). I loved the way our guide explained that eating an olive from an older tree is like eating the same olives that the Romans once ate. It’s like time travelling and if that isn’t reason enough to go, I don’t know what is!
Have you been to Puglia? Is this somewhere you’d like to visit? Leave me a comment in the box below. X