Alberobello is a name most people are probably not familiar with, but perhaps you’ve heard of Puglia? Alberobello is a small town in the Puglia region in Southern Italy, along the “heel” of the boot. There are so many great things about Alberobello, it’s hard to know where to start.
For the purpose of this blog post, I want to focus on Alberobello as a producer of olive oil, based on the amazingly delicious olive oil tour I went on with an award-winning extra virgin olive oil producer, Intini, on my recent trip to Italy. However, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention how charming and breathtaking this town is. Visit the Alberobello Tourism site if you want more information, but I felt like I was walking through the shire from The Lord of the Rings series as I strolled down narrow streets dotted with miniature white conical-shaped houses dating back to the early sixteenth century called trulli (basically hobbit houses) and interacted with the friendly residents.
Something you may not know about the Puglia region of Italy that would become blatantly apparent once you visited is that it’s known for its olives and the olive oil it produces from them. Alberobello offers a plethora of opportunities to experience its delicious olive oils, including the local Museum of Olive Oil and its many fine olive oil producers.
Olive oil is an Italian tradition, dating back to the ancient Romans, and is like a religion to Italians who use it as liberally as salt and pepper and embrace it as a way of life in their cooking. There is not a competition between regions. “We all love olive oil,” said Francesco Biagiotti of Compagnia degli Oliandoli in Florence in an article for The New York Times. “If the whole world used as much olive oil as we do, we would be very rich.”
However, Puglia is the olive oil capital of the country, and if Puglia is Italy’s olive oil kingdom, Alberobello is the castle. Although olive oil is perhaps most well-known in the more touristy areas of Italy, like Tuscany, Puglia is “more prolific,” according to The New York Times. Puglia produces nearly 40 percent of all the olive oil in Italy, which is major considering the scale of the entire country. There are roughly 66 million (million!) olive trees in the region of Puglia alone, some of them so ancient (thousands of years old) they are protected by the government. Puglia has ideal olive oil-producing conditions, since it’s surrounded by water on three sides. it is a perfect port for shipping off olive oil; however, it also makes it easy to bring in olive oil from outside Italy and pass it off as the real stuff.
The olive oil I sampled at Intini was unquestionably the real stuff. Located on the outskirts of town, Intini makes its own line of oils and also serves as a community mill by pressing olives brought to them by the locals. After sampling the olive oils at Intini, olive oil will never taste the same to me again- the stuff on the grocery store shelves just doesn’t compare to the smooth, robust flavor or Intini’s olive oil! I agree with the Independent that “Olive oil is the nearest thing Puglia has to liquid gold.”
If the olive oil I had the pleasure to taste at Intini during my time in Alberobello is the best I’ll ever get in life, I’d be okay with that. I can’t see how it could get any better than that. If you ever find yourself in the Puglia region of Italy, don’t pass up the opportunity to stop in Alberobello for the best olive oil you’ll ever have, especially now that it is becoming an “increasingly precious commodity,” according to The New York Times. Some of the olive oil trees in Puglia are infected with a bacteria that has killed at least one million trees and has been a devastating blow to the olive oil market. I hope the infection goes away and Puglia doesn’t have any more loss of its trees but point is: get to Alberobello soon so you don’t miss out and definitely don’t take their heavenly olive oil for granted!