Valle d'Itria

The olive Trees of Puglia, the Green Patriarchs

  • 04/11/2019
  • Maria Teresa Acquaviva
  • Landscape
  • 0

Text translated by Google translate.

The Olive Trees of Puglia, the green giants that populate the Ionian and Adriatic coast, identities of this splendid land.

Bizarre sculptures in movement, now twisted now merged in sinuous hugs, sometimes they evoke the arcane with ghostly features, others appear as good giants or seem to dance. So the Olive Trees of Puglia unleash the imagination especially if shaped by the wind, always skilled stonemason. Centuries-old and monumental the olive trees in Puglia are omnipresent in the municipal areas, from the Gargano promontory to the Bari area, passing through the Murge and up to the Salento peninsula. The olive tree in the region is the main arboreal crop and Puglia is the first oil producer in Italy.

Almost certainly the cultivation of the olive tree in Puglia was introduced by the Achaeans in the eighth century, who immediately sensed the particular favorable environmental conditions. With the decline of the first Hellenic colonizations of the Region, the Romans arrived and greatly developed the agricultural potential of the area. They, among other activities, developed tree crops, and in particular the olive tree. Plinio il Vecchio wrote of an excellent production of the Sallentina olive in the Taranto and Lecce areas. To celebrate the construction of the Via Traiana, the emperor Traiano had a coin minted which had its effigy on the obverse and on the reverse the Via Traiana represented by a young girl who held an olive branch in her left hand, a symbolic representation of Apulia ; the Via Traiana connected Benevento to Brindisi on the route of an older street from the Republican era. With the fall of the Roman Empire and the invasion of the Barbarians and Saracens there was a sharp decline in olive cultivation and oil production, which continued over time. At the end of the Middle Ages, arboreal crops such as olive trees also flourished in Puglia, thanks also to the strong demand of European merchants and maritime republics. Over time, progress in agriculture improved the cultivation of the olive tree with the contribution of many researchers. We remember the contribution that was given by the scholar John Presta of Gallipoli, which in 1794 published the treaty Dell'ulivo, delle olive e della maniera di cavare olio. Then we come to the present day with an industrial modernization in the sector.

So over the centuries Puglia has become that immense olive grove, which is not only an economic resource but also an invaluable tourist and cultural heritage since the olive trees are also associated with the suggestive hypogeic oil mills, places now abandoned because they have been replaced by modern oil mills but of great historical and archaeological interest, equipped with animal-drawn millstones, presses, tanks, clay containers for storing oil, a huge hearth, stables, feeders for the cattle used and improvised beds for workers who for a few months could not see the sunlight.

A spectacular scenery of the Ulivi di Puglia can be enjoyed from the hills of the Murgia Brindisi area where the view is overhanging the endless Piana degli Ulivi. From here the view is lost in the silvery green sea of the foliage, which then leaves space on the horizon to the blue of the Adriatic Sea. Immersing oneself in an Apulian olive grove is an adventure in search of green giants, where the atmosphere envelops you, if during the day, with a constant chirping of cicadas which at first is deafening then becomes hypnotic. Olive trees are almost always associated with other crops, vegetables in the Adriatic plain above all.
Where the olive trees climb up the Murgian hill, almonds and vines are also associated, while citrus fruits are on the Taranto plain. In short, a changing landscape is offered by the green Apulian patriarchs so precious.
A popular saying recall that those who planted olive trees knew that during their existence they would not see the fruits. In fact, the olive trees were a precious legacy for postery, for this reason the Extra Virgin Olive Oil of Puglia is also called Green Gold. 

The olive tree has been used in many ways, not only its fruits, oil and olives, but also its immortal wood shaped by the artist's hands, which is inspired by the same twisted forms of the branch to be modeled. Even the craftsman still engages in the manufacture of domestic utensils, the same ones of the peasant culture, now highly sought after by tourists. Like the trulli, the olive trees of Puglia are identities of the region and it is hoped that one day they will officially become a World Heritage Site, while for the Apulians they are already.

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