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DAUNO “ALTO TAVOLIERE”: AMID MEDIEVAL CASTLES AND BAROQUE CHURCHES

D.O.P. Dauno extra virgin olive oil with the geographical indication “Alto Tavoliere” is produced in the flat area known as the “Granary of Europe,” located between the Gargano Park, Lake Lesina, and the Daunian Mountains, a name given by the Greeks to the inhabitants of northern Puglia, between the Ofanto and Fortore rivers.

Ascending through the golden meadows of Tavoliere towards Castelnuovo della Daunia, overlooking the Stàina stream valley, one can appreciate the richness of the countryside and its cultivations, benefiting from various springs. In the medieval village, where subsequent interventions have given an airy appearance to the settlement with wide streets, a visit to the expansive central square with the Town Hall and the parish church is worthwhile. Dedicated to Maria Santissima di Murgia, the church boasts elegant Romanesque lines and a beautiful 13th-century semicircular portal with Corinthian capitals.

Heading towards San Severo, you traverse a countryside where olive groves of D.O.P. Dauno with the geographical indication “Alto Tavoliere” alternate with fields cultivated with vegetables, vines, and wheat. In the town that was long the capital of Capitanata, the historic center stands out for its characteristic bell towers with majolica spires and is rich in Baroque monuments and noble palaces, constructed after the 1627 earthquake that devastated much of the city. The church of San Severino Abbot dates back to the 11th century and stands along the path of the “Via Sacra Langobardorum,” the subject of a significant influx of pilgrims, likely contributing to the city’s foundation as Castellum Sancti Severini. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta has medieval origins and boasts an admirable Romanesque rose window, one of the few elements surviving the heavy Baroque restoration of the 18th century.

A few kilometers from San Severo, Torremaggiore is a center with a solid agricultural tradition that arose around a Benedictine monastery from the 11th century, later becoming the fief of the Sangro family, who commissioned a crenellated castle with cylindrical corner towers. A few kilometers from the town is the archaeological site of Castel Fiorentino, where, according to legend, Emperor Frederick II died. Built shortly after the year 1000, the city was part of the defensive system of the northern frontier of Puglia and housed a Frederickian residence, from which probably come medieval sculptures reused as furnishings in the mother church of San Nicola in Torremaggiore.

P.D.O. Dauno extra virgin olive oil with the geographical indication “Alto Tavoliere” is produced in the flat area known as the “Granary of Europe,” located between the Gargano Park, Lake Lesina, and the Daunian Mountains, a name given by the Greeks to the inhabitants of northern Puglia, between the Ofanto and Fortore rivers.

Ascending through the golden meadows of Tavoliere towards Castelnuovo della Daunia, overlooking the Stàina stream valley, one can appreciate the richness of the countryside and its cultivations, benefiting from various springs. In the medieval village, where subsequent interventions have given an airy appearance to the settlement with wide streets, a visit to the expansive central square with the Town Hall and the parish church is worthwhile. Dedicated to Maria Santissima di Murgia, the church boasts elegant Romanesque lines and a beautiful 13th-century semicircular portal with Corinthian capitals.

Heading towards San Severo, you traverse a countryside where olive groves of P.D.O. Dauno with the geographical indication “Alto Tavoliere” alternate with fields cultivated with vegetables, vines, and wheat. In the town that was long the capital of Capitanata, the historic center stands out for its characteristic bell towers with majolica spires and is rich in Baroque monuments and noble palaces, constructed after the 1627 earthquake that devastated much of the city. The church of San Severino Abbot dates back to the 11th century and stands along the path of the “Via Sacra Langobardorum,” the subject of a significant influx of pilgrims, likely contributing to the city’s foundation as Castellum Sancti Severini. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta has medieval origins and boasts an admirable Romanesque rose window, one of the few elements surviving the heavy Baroque restoration of the 18th century.

A few kilometers from San Severo, Torremaggiore is a center with a solid agricultural tradition that arose around a Benedictine monastery from the 11th century, later becoming the fief of the Sangro family, who commissioned a crenellated castle with cylindrical corner towers. A few kilometers from the town is the archaeological site of Castel Fiorentino, where, according to legend, Emperor Frederick II died. Built shortly after the year 1000, the city was part of the defensive system of the northern frontier of Puglia and housed a Frederickian residence, from which probably come medieval sculptures reused as furnishings in the mother church of San Nicola in Torremaggiore.

Arriving in San Paolo di Civitate, through a countryside dominated by olive groves giving rise to P.D.O. Dauno extra virgin olive oil with the geographical indication “Alto Tavoliere,” you can see both the Gargano and the pre-Apennine hills. A visit to the Civic Archaeological Museum is recommended, collecting evidence of the troubled history of the village, from Daunian origins to the Gonzaga family, passing through Roman, Byzantine, and Aragonese dominations. This is evidenced by the stratification of names that the urban center had before becoming San Paolo in Civitate: Tiati-Teanum-Apulum-Civitate.

Serracapriola allows you to enjoy a beautiful view of Tavoliere and the entire territory of P.D.O. Dauno extra virgin olive oil with the geographical indication “Alto Tavoliere.” The origin of the village is traced back to the Frentani, who founded Urbs Frentana, a large fortified fortress. Today, the medieval castle stands out in the urban fabric, along with about thirty churches and convents, many of which were destroyed by the great earthquake of the seventeenth century. Before moving on, take a stroll along the elegant Corso Garibaldi, a tree-lined avenue built in the 18th century following the model of the Parisian Champs Elysées.

Chieuti, known as the “Gateway to Puglia” as it is the first Puglian municipality when coming from the north, is one of the two Arbëreshë villages in the province of Foggia—the other being Casalvecchio di Puglia. Both were founded in the 15th century by Albanian immigrants. In the village, visit the church of San Giorgio Martire to admire the canvas depicting Saint George and the dragon by the 18th-century painter Alessio D’Elia.

A silvery crown of olive trees guides tourists through Gargano. These cultivations, now considered heroic as they often thrive on steep slopes, are believed to be the first olive groves in the Foggia region. Fratepietro, in his work ‘L’olivo in Capitanata’ from 1932, reconstructs the path of olive expansion that began many centuries ago in areas—now favored by national and international tourism—including Rignano Garganico, Vieste, Ischitella, the city of Santo Pio, also known as San Giovanni Rotondo, and the UNESCO site Monte Sant’Angelo. ‘From Gargano, the olive gradually spread first to some municipalities of the Subappenino Dauno and then to the plains. The major expansion occurred in the 17th century, with already several thousand hectares, almost all in specialized crops’, Fratepietro continues. ‘The trade of products, especially by sea, was very intense. By the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th century, olive cultivation rapidly spread to various areas of Daunia. Every dish in Foggia’s cuisine is characterized by extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality.

In Puglia, there is the quintessential town of love: Vico del Gargano, whose patron saint is San Valentino. In mid-February, it is celebrated with a grand religious and folk festival, adorned with citrus decorations that embellish the main church and the charming medieval alleys, featuring processions, fireworks, and tastings of typical dishes.

Yet, in the ancient village, Vico del Gargano also houses the Trappeto Maratea Museum, located in a 14th-century olive mill. Visiting this municipal museum means immersing oneself in the local culture, which had its foundations in olive groves, olives, and oil, along with the wheat of Foggia (still considered the granary of Italy today) and hard wheat bread. This is crucial to understanding the local culture, which found in olive cultivation, and thus in the environment of the oil mill (trappeto), one of the cornerstones of its sustenance.

The oil mill has preserved and displays two areas for visitors. In one, there are vertical wooden presses for olive pressing, the ancient millstone, and other tools used for oil production and fieldwork. In the other, the oil tank, warehouse, and stable have been preserved: the machines were powered by the strength of animals, usually a donkey. There is also the monastic kitchen that prepared humble meals for those who lived and worked in the mill.