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P.D.O. Dauno Basso Tavoliere: where the olive meets the wheat

Exploring the territory of Extra Virgin Olive Oil P.O.D. Dauno Basso Tavoliere, amidst prehistoric underground structures, golden plains, kaleidoscopic coastal salt pans, and ancient Roman ruins.

The itinerary of Extra Virgin Olive Oil P.D.O. Dauno Basso Tavoliere crosses a flat and highly agricultural territory, largely reclaimed from water through reclamation efforts at the beginning of the 20th century. The remnants of the vast lagoon that once occupied this area are still visible in the picturesque landscape of the Saline di Margherita di Savoia. From the sea to the foothills of the sub-Apennines, you’ll encounter not only olive groves producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil D.O.P. Dauno Basso Tavoliere but also fields of wheat, vineyards, and vegetable crops.

Let’s start in Trinitapoli, a town located in the valley of the Ofanto River, where a visit to the Archaeological Park of the Hypogea is worthwhile, telling the spiritual and religious universe of a Bronze Age community. The underground structures were originally dedicated to the worship of the Mother Earth Goddess but were later used as tombs for the wealthy warrior elite who lived over 3,000 years ago. Before you depart, explore the Church of the Blessed Virgin of Loreto and the Mother Church of Santo Stefano, with its beautiful neoclassical façade.

Rent a bike and follow the bike path from Trinitapoli that leads you to the Saline, the largest wetland in Europe for sodium chloride production. The succession of basins, besides being an extraordinary natural environment, offers a captivating landscape with ever-changing colors. The area also hosts 100 species of birds, including the enchanting pink flamingos. Continuing along the coast towards Margherita di Savoia, a tourist center characterized by wide sandy beaches, visit the Salt Museum housed in an old salt warehouse, which collects a thousand artifacts of industrial archaeology related to production processes and the history of the saltworks.

Head then, crossing the Tavoliere plain, towards Foggia, the center of Capitanata and one of the 6 regional capitals of Puglia. Walk through the streets of the city center, starting from the Cathedral, whose current structure mostly dates back to the 18th century. Continue along Corso Garibaldi, where you can admire the Prefecture Palaces and the City Hall, built during the fascist era, stroll among the historic buildings of Via Arpi and the shops on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, where the 19th-century Giordano Theater overlooks. Before you leave, take a break in the monumental Municipal Villa, built starting from 1820, under the reign of Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies.

Heading south through fields cultivated with wheat, vineyards, and olive groves producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil D.O.P. Dauno Basso Tavoliere, in a plain that stretches as far as the eye can see, you’ll reach Ordona, the ancient Herdonia. The remains of the Roman city destroyed by Hannibal during the Second Punic War, known as the ‘Pompeii of Apulia,’ are still visible on a hill southwest of present-day Ordona. Continuing towards Cerignola, take a break with a bike excursion to the Capacciotti dam, one of the most picturesque spots in the area and part of the water system of the Ofanto Valley.

Built on the Via Traiana, Cerignola is now an important agricultural center. The Old Town was almost entirely destroyed by the earthquake of 1731, so the current grid layout dates back to the 19th century. The agricultural vocation is evidenced by the presence of the Wheat Museum and the ‘Piano delle fosse,’ with its over 600 bell-shaped cavities dug into the ground, representing the last example of a wheat preservation method typical of Capitanata, dating back to Roman times. A few kilometers from the city is Borgo Libertà, a village founded in 1951 after the Land Reform, which houses Torre Alemanna, one of the most important sites built in Puglia by the Teutonic Knights.

There is a silver corolla of olive trees that 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, traces the path of the olive tree’s 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, namely San Giovanni Rotondo, and the UNESCO site Monte Sant’Angelo. ‘From Gargano, the olive tree gradually spread first to some municipalities of 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.