otrantoThe Salento is a rich and fertile land with outstanding olive production. Interesting remains of the oil milling culture are kept in the famous "Folk Museum" at Santa Maria di Cerrate Abbey, in the Squinzano area, north of Lecce. Here you can admire two medieval underground oil mills with the stone grinders in their original positions. It is like entering a living place, where men and animals still move the millstones in order to crush the olives.
"Seeds of fire" was the name given to the Salento olives, because in the past they were not considered good enough for the production of extra virgin oils but were used for lamp oil. Not so long ago, this part of Puglia provided the oil to light the whole of London.
The commercial interest of the entire Mediterranean basin in Salento oil can be traced back to the Middle Ages: in 1327, the Angevin King Roberto, exempted the city from all taxes on grinding olives. This is testified by a diploma in the official archives of the city of Gallipoli.
In the nineteenth century, the oil mills were gradually abandoned and replaced, but still symbolize rural culture. The Frantoio Granafei in Gallipoli or the Frantoio Caffa in Vernole, for example, deserve a visit.
The words of many Salento dialect poets still survive, and much of the dialect poetry was inspired by the hard work of the "trappitari"(mill workers), the “anichirio "(master miller) and their "ciuccia” (donkeys), which is the main topic of the Salento's popular poetic production.