GARGANO, AUTUMN 2019
The Gargano promontory is a nature reserve in Puglia, the south of Italy. While Puglia is often called the heel of the boot, the Gargano peninsula is the spur of the boot. The Gargano national park consists of deep woods, Mediterranean vegetation, valleys, bays, coves, cliffs and stunning beaches on the Adriatic coast. The most important part of the Gargano national park is the Umbra Forest, a primary forest predominantly made of beech trees. It is admired for its rugged beauty and unspoilt appeal.
Puglia is one of the most famous regions in Italy for extra virgin olive oils. The landscape is dotted with olive groves, vineyards and citrus trees. Unfortunately many of these ancient and often family run groves are abandoned because of the economy of producing extra virgin olive oil. Industrial farming has made it economically very difficult to run traditional olive groves, because the large scale, high impact farming practices have much lower costs and so in the market they appear much more competitive to the average consumer.
However we know that these smaller groves who use authentic practices can produce some of the best and most delicious oil. As they are forced to turn away from commercial farming and move to only personal production and use, the amazing extra virgin olive oil does not often make it out of the local areas. One exception is Terre di Merino, a young Limburg start-up with roots in Gargano. Vincenzo and Valentino Langi distribute this liquid gold throughout Europe, together with other bio-products like wine and pasta. Born to be organic, they inspire you with their philosophy and life style. At the backyards of the coal mountains of Beringen, they maintain a biological vegetable garden. Most of their family members live and grow a variety of vegetables and fruits in Gargano. They run a biological olive grove and invest in good pruners and short-chain production.
In autumn, when the olive harvest began, they invited me together with a nice group of like-minded people in their breathtaking home town Vieste. Travelling with the Langi’s is going back in time. Their day unfolds according to the songs of the birds and the capriciousness of the funghi porcini, commonly known as cep. Touring in this hilly landscape learned me a lot about surviving in southern Italy. Every plant or extract is reused to distillate a new product. Inhabitants of Gargano live in complete harmony with nature.
In partnership with the Langi family, I will organise small group tours to the Gargano promontory where secular olive trees, trabucchi fishing nets, stunning rocks, grottoes and arches, as well as epic trees and wild orchid, wild asparagus and mushrooms are to be detected off-season. Together with Terre di Merino, I support regional initiatives and look for ways to link them to sustainable travel. Gargano is still an intact, unspoilt land, a place of close communities remaining faithful to ancient local traditions and to a rural life holding on to its image of wild, rough territory.
While September is the wine month, October and November mean olive harvest, truffle hunting and mushrooms. If interested, please let me know!