The pictures of this olive oil mill (probably from the 17th century) were taken in Carpignano Salentino, Lecce.
The soil and climate of the Puglia proved ideal for olive cultivation so that the area today is home to various olive varieties which contribute to the unique flavors of the region’s olive oil.
But the history of olive oil in Puglia has its roots back in the distant past.
Olive oil in Puglia: from the Neolithic to the present day
The first traces of the presence of the olive tree in the area date back to several millennia ago; the findings of olive stones from the Torre Canne excavations, incorporated into the Neolithic rock, would give us evidence that the first populations settled there were already feeding on olives 8-10 thousand years ago.
During the Roman Empire, Puglia became a significant olive oil-producing region. Romans constructed trappeti with advanced technology for that time, such as screw presses, to extract oil from olives.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Byzantines continued and further developed olive cultivation in Puglia. Monasteries played a crucial role, preserving knowledge and techniques.
In the Middle Ages, Puglia’s olive oil production continued to thrive. Trappeti became integral to the region’s economy, and the oil was not only a culinary staple but also used for medicinal and religious purposes.
At the beginning of the 1600s the port of Gallipoli was a crossroads of frenetic commercial activities including the olive oil trade. The quality of Salento production is unrivaled and is appreciated throughout the Mediterranean but not for culinary use, but for lighting. The lampante oil from Puglia reaches important cities throughout Europe up to Russia.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Puglia modernized its trappeti with the adoption of hydraulic presses and centrifugal extraction methods. Olive oil from Puglia gained recognition for its quality and became a key player in the global olive oil market.
The quality of Apulian oil
Puglia has several Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) labels, highlighting the distinct characteristics of its olive oils.
The olive oil production is deeply ingrained in the cultural identity of Puglia. The traditional olive harvest, which often involves communal efforts, continues to be a cherished tradition.
Today, Puglia is renowned for producing high-quality olive oil, and its trappeti blend traditional methods with modern technology. The region’s olive oil remains a symbol of its historical and cultural legacy.