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TARANTINE LANDS: THE LAND OF GRAVINE

Exploring the territory of P.O.D. Tarantine Lands extra virgin olive oil, from Mottola to Ginosa, amidst incredible natural landscapes and evocative examples of cave civilization.

The territory of P.O.D. Tarantine Lands extra virgin olive oil, in the area stretching from Mottola to Ginosa, is dominated by the last extensions of the Murge, arranged in an amphitheater towards the coast. From the rugged and fascinating land of gravine, carved over millennia by karst phenomena and inhabited since prehistoric times, one descends into the fertile Taranto plain, with its lush crops of olive trees, vines, and citrus fruits.

Our itinerary starts from Mottola, which dominates the plain from the top of a hill, surrounded by fields cultivated with olive trees producing P.O.D. Tarantine Lands extra virgin olive oil. Thanks to its elevated position, it has been a stronghold since the Hellenistic era, as evidenced by the megalithic walls discovered in the 1990s. After visiting the historic center, with its whitewashed tuff houses and the 12th-century Mother Church, descend towards the cave villages, which are part of the Regional Park of the Land of Gravine. Through a medieval staircase carved into the rock, you access the village of Petruscio, with its typical cave houses and rock churches. It is in these unparalleled archaeological and natural scenarios that director Matteo Garrone filmed some scenes for his movie “Tale of Tales”: the cave complex in the village of Casalrotto, identified by some scholars as an Italo-Greek monastery, becomes the House of the Ogre and the Princess in the film.

Crossing a lush countryside cultivated with olive trees producing P.O.D. Tarantine Lands extra virgin olive oil, head towards Palagiano, where you can visit the 19th-century underground olive mill on Corso Lenne, with its large stone wheel for grinding olives. Continue to Palagianello, a charming Renaissance village dominated by the 16th-century Caracciolo Stella Castle. After a stroll through the historic center, stop at the Sanctuary of Madonna delle Grazie, which offers a marvelous view of the ravine. Then descend amid the luxuriant vegetation of the San Biagio ravine to the evocative rock church of San Gerolamo.

Perched on the ravine, Castellaneta has a charming medieval-style historic center, with narrow and steep streets. The city is famous, above all, for being the birthplace of Rudolph Valentino, to whose myth a museum is dedicated, narrating the public and private aspects of the first silent film star.

The town of Laterza rises, with its terraces, on a 10-kilometer-long ravine with various bends, offering some of the most suggestive views of Taranto’s Puglia. Along the steep walls and at the bottom of the deep cleft, a unique vegetation grows, characterized by Mediterranean scrub and oriental species, likely brought here by the Basilian monks who inhabited the caves in the area for centuries. In recent years, the area has become a protected naturalistic oasis, home to various bird species, including rare ones like the bearded vulture. At the bottom of the ravine, make a stop at the Sanctuary of Maria Santissima Mater Domini, preserving precious medieval frescoes.

Crossing a countryside rich in olive trees producing D.O.P. Tarantine Lands extra virgin olive oil, you will reach Ginosa, a crib city representing a fascinating example of cave civilization. In fact, from the Middle Ages until the 16th century, the settlement was entirely located in the ravine, where houses, churches, chapels, workshops, and mills were carved into the tuff caves.

In the workshops of the old town, olive oil was produced.

In Puglia, and also in the Taranto area, numerous houses still have small oil mills and wine cellars for family consumption, bearing witness to a Mediterranean passion and culture passed down through generations.

But let’s take a leap back about a thousand years and delve into the island of the old town of Taranto. The central Via Cava has preserved in its underground hypogea ancient workshops, among which stands out an interesting underground oil mill of the Municipality of Taranto. “It is probably placed chronologically in the Norman era following the finding of a notarial deed (dated 1084) that refers to the presence of an oil mill in this part of the city.” From the information of “Taranto Capital of the Sea,” it is learned that “the discovery of this important document not only testifies to the production of oil (both food and lamp oil) within the urban fabric of ancient Taranto but also makes the one in Via Cava one of the oldest underground oil mills in Puglia. The space, a wonderful example of negative and under-construction architecture, still preserves in situ some millstones used for the first pressing of olives and various tanks for the decantation of the product.”

In Ginosa, a face is admired in the trunk of the pensive olive tree.

The sacredness of olive oil is exceptionally told in the National Archaeological Museum of Taranto, known by the acronym M.Ar.Ta.

The Ionian capital, once the capital of Magna Graecia, includes in its vast collection of archaeological artifacts the famous tomb of the athlete with Panathenaic amphorae.

Three of the four finely decorated amphorae, dating back to approximately 480 BC, have survived to this day. The outer sarcophagus of the athlete’s tomb had amphorae at its four ends, which were tied to the Grand Panathenaea festival. The event took place every four years in Athens in honor of the goddess Athena, the city’s protector. Inside them was olive oil obtained from pressing the olives of the trees sacred to the goddess Athena. The prize given to athletes winning competitions, illustrated on the outside of each vase, was therefore olive oil!

The Taranto region is dotted with large olive trees that continue to attract the interest of modern travelers. Among these stands out in Ginosa, a plant known as the “Thinking Olive Tree.” This centuries-old tree has a trunk where at first glance, you notice a face with eyes, nose, and mouth that seem to have been sculpted into the gnarled bark of the olive tree.