On the streets and back alleys of Italian towns, you might come across a communal dinner like this... a miss-mosh of chairs, tables, sawhorses and plywood hobbled together to create an impossibly long dining table--often blocks long. The celebration might be a birthday, a wedding, a baptism, anniversary or even a more organized event or town festival. But the result is the same... bringing families together in one huge feast, sharing wine, food, laughter and love.
Citrus fruits were brought to Italy via Sicily by the Arabs around 850 AD. Its warm climate and mild and sea breezes are perfect conditions for large-scale cultivation of many types of citrus. At first only bitter and yellow oranges were grown, though over time sweeter, loose-skinned and even red varieties were developed.
The climate and local conditions in the plain of Catania, near its volcano, is the only place in the world growing Sicilian Blood Oranges. Sicilian citrus groves are found throughout the island region. There are also Mandarins, Tangerines, Cicilian Lemons, and Limette (Sicilian Limes).
If you love flowers, especially flowering vines, then Italy is the place for you. The flowering season is long and dazzling displays are everywhere, from the northern regions all the way down the Boot to Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia. Early spring is best to see the wisteria displays, but don't worry, there are many types of flowers that grow all through the season, such as the amazing tropical bougainvillea. The grow up and around houses, seemingly in an attempt to swallow them up completely. The balcony gardens are another pleasure to see when Voyaging throughout Italy. So, bring your camera, your pastels or watercolors and take in the scents of Fioritura Italia...
You may also want to see Creating a Hanging Italian Wall Garden.
When we planned out Voyage to southern Italy, one of the things on my bucket list was to stay in a trullo--the pointy roofed stone houses of Puglia. Trulli are dotted throughout the countryside, some in the more ancient style of chopped-top cone, others abandoned and in ruins, and many in farm complexes made up of as many as 6-8 trulli. Their roofs can be adorned with painted hex symbols by their owners and they are topped with a wide variety of finial, sometimes in the shape of stars. They are restored into B&Bs and year-round villas with some being very chic. But nothing can prepare the Voyager when he visits the UNESCO town of Alberobello, with over 1600 trulli clustered in the town center.
In Alberobello, there are many wonderful gift shops, and while some offer the standard tourist kitsch, what I loved about the town is the amount of local artisans offering their hand made products. You can buy beautiful jewelry in the many different religious and pagan shapes found painted on the pointy roofs, local pottery and ceramics, wooden bread stamps carved with your initials, hand made pocket knives (I came home with a sommelier version)... but my favorite local craft are the miniature trulli. They are all made using local stone to mimic the real stone and techniques used to built the real trulli. There are tiny ones that you can hold in your hand and large ones that you can place in your garden.
Here's a short video about trulli and how they make miniatures.
When I Voyaged throughout Puglia, it became obvious that the Olive Tree is king here--and has been for thousands of years. There are more ancient olive trees here than anywhere else in Italy, many of which are hundreds of not thousands of years old. What is intriguing about these gnarly giants is their bizarre, fantastical shapes, often twisting and turning about themselves, even when the interior of the tree is gone, they continue to live.
One can regard the resulting shapes as one does when finding animals and babies in passing clouds... but these shapes aren't going anywhere.
This particular olive tree was given the name L’Ulivo Pensieroso (the Pensive Olive Tree) by photographer Michele Grecucci. What is he thinking after living on this Earth for over 500 years? Is he forlorn about the loved ones and neighbors he has lost over the centuries? Does he miss the children who used to play at his feet? Is he worried about the future with blights, wars, drought or fire? Is he simply pondering, worried, concerned or trying to unravel a problem of the ages? Perhaps we'll never know...
The photo was captured near Ginosa, Puglia but in order to retain the olive grove owner's privacy--and to protect the tree from damage--Grecucci is keeping its precise location a secret.
Grecuci's photography captures the essence of Italy and being Italian. I highly recommend taking a tour of his work. To see more of Grecucci's creations...
Facebook: Michele Grecucci
Website: Michele Grecucci Photography