The region of Puglia begins on the eastern shores of southern Italy, at the bottom of “the boot,” and runs north, extending more than 200 miles up the Adriatic coast. But its location is not the only reason one might call it the Achilles heel of the country. At the heart of the Italian spirit is Puglia’s affinity and commitment to traditional farming methods, family-focused communities, and food that’s gathered within walking distance of where it’s consumed. Nowhere is this more exemplified than in the little-known, 5-mile long Dune Costiere Park in Brindisi, where olive orchards date back two thousand years to the height of the Roman Empire.
Throughout this coastal park, you can find a collection of fortified farmhouses—known as masserias—where the Puglians once produced olive oil underground. The masserias are still operational today as functional farms, and also double as small inns. Run like bed and breakfasts with gardens, fertile fields, and a focus on culinary and cultural experiences, these farmhouse-castle combos have turned to tourism as a way of supplementing income and spreading the word about their traditional lifestyles. The real goal, however, is to bridge the gap to the next generation. Dune Costiere is currently applying for UNESCO World Heritage certification, hoping to increase the price of the region’s olive oil. Maybe then, local guide Daniele Pomes says, the modern, younger generation can be convinced that our world still sees value in old-world farming.