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  • Writer's picture5 Senses CulinaryTours

Thousand Year Old Trees

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

I hadn’t been in Puglia in many years but after a stay in Bari, I worked my way further south down to Fasano and the amazing property called Borgo Egnazia. Taking a deep breath and just absorbing this five star enclave built to replicate a genuine Puglian old style village was eye opening. You could not imagine it hasn’t been here for a hundred years – everything in Puglia is solid and strong from the Greeks and all the others that marauded the coast and made it their own. It looks like you are entering a fortress… but once inside your breath is taken away by the décor, contemporary cool white with stone floors and walls. A large olive tree draws the eye to the atrium, its leaves are tiny paper cones, surrounding the base are candle lite lanterns and baskets and burlap bags filled with nuts, wheat, dried beans.

Soaring and elegant rooms are mixed with hidden spots and hallways, almost a maze to give you privacy but also it adds to the anticipation of what you will find next, or what is behind that gauzy white curtain. Candles give a radiance from inside jars, hanging lanterns, wine bottles bathing the white walls with a halo. Tables are accented by lemons, bouquets of herbs and lavender. Walls with heavy old keys hang in clusters, ropes, and nooks that glow with hidden lights.

Coming out to the restaurant and bar area – it is wide open airy and light with large doors that are open. Dining tables have square baskets of vegetables, like eggplants, tomatoes and peppers add color to the palate. Food is fresh understated and served unencumbered. There are several outlets for dinner to give you choices.

Lots of open air spaces with scents of lemon, jasmine, and rosemary in profusion. Brilliant colored Bougainvillea drape archways, olive trees and prickly pear abound around the property. It is a complete village with bell and clock tower, a chapel, donkey carts, farmers’ tools add to the authenticity. In the evening the piazza is a great place for a traditional passeiggiata and aperitivo with wood burning pizza ovens, pasta making and mozzarella making stations, along with local artisan crafters.

My room was again so spacious and inviting creamy white floaty curtains, baskets of dried lavender, and all kinds of amenities of comfort. My roof top terrace with linen cushions beg you to settle and enjoy the views of the sea and sunset or sunrise. My favorite was a stone mold filled with sea salt to absorb the humidity, what a clever idea!

Cycling, walking, the main pool retreat, 18 hole golf course or the beach club give you lots of opportunities to get in your ten thousand steps. I loved walking the golf course at sunrise….fresh sea air and rosemary bushes abound. The property is surprisingly child friendly too. Sitting out at the golf club or the beach club gives you further options for a drink and a light meal.

The surroundings of Borgo Egnazia are covered, not dotted, but covered with century’s old olive trees this area of Puglia is known for the oldest trees to be found. Authorities claim some found here on Penisola Salentina are 3000 to 4000 years old. Try and wrap your head around that – we gasp at the pyramids or Greek temples that old, but we are talking about a living growing and producing wild olive trees. The girth of the trees and even more the gnarly twisted intertwined trunks beg to be touched.

Driving in from Bari, I was spellbound by the olive trees, literally everywhere. Sanding majestically in rows in the red soils of Puglia, but also many fields planted with radicchio in strips below them, green, red and purple contrasting with the silvery leaves of the olive branches. It was beautiful leaving a lasting mental photograph.

One of the saddest things is a blight called Xylella upending the traditional order, threatening to wipe out olive groves worth billions of dollars. Rather than succumb to great loss, scientists and some growers have been throwing themselves into the fray to figure out what, exactly, is going on and whether they can mitigate the damage. Xylella causes plants to die of thirst from the inside out. The bacteria get passed from tree to tree by tiny pests called spittlebugs, which latch onto their hosts’ xylem—the straw-like tubes inside plants that transport water from roots to leaves. If the bugs suck liquid out of an infected tree, they can carry the bacteria in their maw and inject them into the next plant they feed upon.

They are replanting areas where they had to destroy the infected trees. The cultivar is descended from the Frantoio variety and was bred for medium to high-density cultivation. The Favolosa trees usually yield high numbers of olives each year and the fruits ripen early. The variety is also self-fertile, which allows it to grow well in monovarietal orchards. In addition to these selected qualities, Italian researchers have also discovered that the cultivar is immune to the highly deadly and contagious Xylella fastidiosa. There is hope for the giants in the future.

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