It’s not everyday one sees a tree that’s over three thousand years old. That’s what I thought to myself as we toured Masseria Brancati’s olive grove. The three thousand year old tree, familiarly called il grande vecchio, ‘the great elder,’ might be the oldest olive tree in all of Italy.
Located only five miles from the hill town, Ostuni, I had the opportunity to visit this agritourism during a yoga retreat in Puglia. The noble Brancati family was originally from the Veneto region and they came to Ostuni in the 1300s. The Romans were there a few centuries earlier. Over eight hundred of the olive trees are thousand years old. Our guide, Piero, told us the Romans planted them at the perfect distance for the roots, 18 meters apart. Our guide told us there was a tree that was even older.
Corrado Rodio’s family currently owns the property having bought it during the early 1800s.
The region is very important to the olive oil industry as 40% of Italy’s olive oil comes from the area. Unfortunately, there has been a terrible infestation killing trees. This bacterial pathogen has no cure. Researchers believed it arrived from the Americas in 2013. It has infected over one million trees in Puglia and is spreading all through Europe.
Back in the day olive oil was liquid gold. People would steal, maim, and kill for it. The Roman wisely tried to hide what they had.
This grove is organic. They don’t use any chemicals to treat their trees. Good olive oil is not cheap. It’s expensive to harvest. Keep that in mind when you buy it. There are a lot of brands claiming to sell Italian olive oil or extra-virgin olive oil and it’s mixed with something else or from another country.