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Apulia, a land of olive trees.

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The Enlightenment fashion for far and strange countries, fostered the will by some gentlemen and ladies to directly know the South of ltaly.

With their attendants, they went towards that extreme border of ltaly that sometimes was called Puglia, other times even Calabria. They were attracted by the glorious past, they had read about on the books, about these areas upon a time Graecia Magna, territory of Byzantines and Normans, reign of the great Frederick …

They dealt with ali the difficulties coming from bad roads, malaria, difficulties in having water, lack of accommodations … Nowadays they allow us to know how Puglia was approximately two centuries ago. Covering the long roads at the speed of the carriage and the often disarranged feather-edge, looking at the country they passed through and the different views, olive groves and olive trees are often described.

George Berkeley, who was in Puglia in 1717, in his Diary of a travel through ltaly, tells us of the “olive trees small wood” just out of Lecce and around Oria, and stili expanses “of olive grove and grain, vines, walnuts, almonds trees with olive trees … ” towards Guagnano but also near the Gulf of Taranto. Here he stili observed together with “tufts of chick-pea plants, junks, olive trees, grain … “The noble plant can also replace a hotel, as the Russian traveller, Vasilij Grigorovic Barskij told, when he was in Puglia in 1724.

And stili olive trees in Mola where it is written about “a very wìde olive grove … a stretch of big olive trees” and towards Polignano “a six-mile olive grove”, and more ahead, towards the remains of Egnatia,”o/d olive trees” and Janet Ross  told the “fantastic shapes of the carob tree and olive trees, in whose deformed trunks bandits were used to hide, dressed with fabrics whose colour was similar t o the tre es’, therefore soldiers often passed only a few steps from the men they were chasing …

” The scene was the same for Joahn Hermann Von Riedsel, sent like observer in Puglia by the German archaeologist Winckelmann, to discover the traces left by the presence of the colonies of Graecia Magna in this land, he made notes of the ancient remains and landscape and social environment. He reached Puglia, Taranto strett sea, on 20th May. His stops were: Taranto, Gallipoli, Otranto, Lecce, Brindisi, Bari, Barletta, Canosa.

While covering the Apulian roads he found that the country between Otranto and Gallipoli “is rich in olive trees”, from Otranto to Lecce ” .. . the villages are the most beautiful of ltaly, churches and houses are built with a white stone similar to the stone of Malta”, but that ali the expanse between the towns of Lecce and Brindisi “is covered with olive groves” and the latter town “produce high quality wines and olive oils in great quantity”.

 From Ostuni to Monopoli “you go through olive forests” and that if in Bari “the site is one of the most beautiful and the ground ali around is one of the most fertile: grain, oil, wine, fish are abundant” … also Bisceglie, as the traveller remembered, whose name reminded him the ancient one of “Vigiliae”, “is so fertile it reacts well to good cultivation and produces oil and grain”. Cari Ulisse De Salis Marschlins, stili in ltaly according to the documentary sources in June 1790, among the important foreign travellers, was the most careful of the agricultural aspect of the territory he was covering in the tour he made when he was 29.

In “Viaggio nel Regno di Napoli” he told about the presence of olive trees in several Apulian centres he visited with many particulars, and noticed that even if in Puglia “the country is melancholic for the monotonous stretch of olive groves, the mind is reassured thinking about the wealth in those very wide lowlands”. He wrote about the presence of “majestic olive trees” everywhere: from Supersano in Salento, to Bari area, going through the immeasurable lands between the lonian sea and the mountains beyond Martina (where “a continuous forest of olive trees” is) and Palagiano near Taranto (“with very wide olive groves”) and Terlizzi “where the inhabitants have planted olive trees ali over the outskirts”.

Moreover h e realized that ali the stony land in Puglia was good for the “immeasurable forests of o l iv e tre es southward an d northward and “very fruitful” for olive oil production. Particularly he noticed that ” … leaving from Naples while travelling … “, he had seen “the first olive trees in the territory between Trani and Molfetta and even if in the province of Lecce wide expanses of territory were destroyed, the real olive growing starts and continues from here … ‘ the two principalities of Calabria and the province where are the main olive growing centres”.