We made it! We drove to Alberobello for lunch and then on to our new abode: i setti coni (the seven cones or trulli). Alberobello, which means beautiful tree, is home central to trulli, cone-shaped huts made of stacked rocks. They only exist in this small area in Italy. They date back to the 1000s, although the one we are staying in goes back to the 1800s. Ours is the beautiful one I’m standing in front of:These photos are from Alberobello. There are only 5000 trulli in all, but nowhere are they more concentrated that in Alberobello. We had a delicious lunch on a terrace and wandered a bit. It was too Disneyfied for a long visit although a woman invited us into her trulli. It was two rooms only: the first cone was a hearth and table for kitchen and dining, and the second room houses a bed. Her grandmother lived there until 25 years ago, and we chatted all in Italian because she knew no English. Here are photos of Alberobello:
To get to Cisternino, we drove from Alberobello through the Valle d’Itria, which is the most famous for trulli. The roads are lined with dry stacked stone walls, and the scenery is beautiful.
P. S. Rachel had me change my spell check to Italian, so please forgive all typos.
Richard loves it here also. He is doing research on olive production. Our hostess, Anna, gave us a bottle of her family’s olive oil. They harvest the olives in October or November. The harvest is called the racolta. Here’s Richard’s addendum:
Puglia is beautiful. The half hour drive from Alberobella to Cisternino was as beautiful a drive as any we’ve ever taken in Tuscany or anywhere else in Italy.
Puglia is known for its olive trees (as well as trulli and beautiful Adriatic beaches). No one knows how many olive trees there are in the region, but estimates range from 50 to 60 million. Needless to say, Puglia produces 40% of Italian olive oil. But perhaps more fascinating is the age of many of the trees. As I mentioned in another email, southern Italy was colonized by Greeks as early as the 8th century BC, long before Rome arose. The Romans themselves called the area Magna Graecia. (Our host, Anna, looks Greek, and I asked her about her ancestry. She didn’t know but said her Greek friends assume she shares their ancestry. She says people here do not generally consider themselves of Greek heritage.)
The Greeks brought their olive trees, so the tree may be considered virtually indigenous to the area by now. I have read that there are olive groves that are some of the oldest if not the oldest arboreal landscapes in the world, and that olive trees between 400 and 800 years old produce the best fruit. Eventually, their productive life declines, but because in the recent past an illegal trade arose in which thieves would dig up a family’s ancient olive tree and sell it to northerners who wanted them for their landscape, the trees are now protected and may not be dug up or cut down even when no longer productive. If you love a tree growing in your yard, imagine how an Italian family felt when they awoke to find their beloved 500 year-old tree dug up and gone. It must have been awful.
As with wine (and now beer and, for that matter pretty much any food that people love) there are all sorts of subtleties to olive oil, depending on such factors as the type of tree, when the fruit is harvested, the soil the tree grows in, the manner in which it is pressed, and so on.
One other interesting thing I learned from our host is about water. Although yesterday afternoon and evening, we enjoyed a thunderstorm, the area does not receive a lot of rain. Only about 18 inches a year. I think the average in Austin is about 32 inches. Our host’s father dug a well 500 meters down (that is deep) on his property. The rural area around Cisternino is dotted with many houses, and they do not get city water. No doubt many of the houses have their own wells, but many don’t, and Anna’s father pumps water from his well and delivers it to people’s cisterns. I want to find out how much that costs.