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Salento Diary (Partenza)

Riding the train northwards from Brindisi, the by now familiar ubiquity of olive trees is nonetheless striking: in any forgotten corner of open land, along the train line, up the edge of roads and overpasses, in backyards, on the edge of fields where other crops are cultivated. It is as if - and this is not the case - all of Puglia was once an uninterrupted olive grove, from Leuca to Bari (over 200 km) and everything else, houses, towns, fields, vineyards, parks, roads, railway lines, has been carved out of that landscape of ulivicultura. Instead those trees were planted to produce oil, oil used primarily for oil lamps and for wool production (soap too) and only incidentally for human consumption. But oil lamps were replaced with gas and electricity, and the wool industry found cheaper lubricants in seed oils. So a massive production system was left with food oil as its main remaining outlet (with very different criteria). There is a story to explore there (and perhaps I will). I include above a shot of the crushing wheel in the frantoio of Muro Leccesse together with my guide there, Federica. You need a person in the shot to get a sense of the scale of these wheels.

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