Wines of Arneo
Ever since the Roman Empire, Apulia has been regarded as the “cellar” of Italy because of the enormous quantities of excellent wine the region produces. There a four DOC zones in the Arneo area alone: Salice Salentino, Nardò, Leverano and Manduria, where they cultivate native species of vine and some imported ones as well. The best ones are Negroamaro, Primitivo, Malvasia Bianca and Nera (which give us excellent table wines) and Aleatico, from which a remarkable sweet wine for drinking after meals is produced. For many years, wine producers in Salento concentrated on producing quantity rather than quality, in view of the fact that Salento grape must was used by North Italian wineries to strengthen their wines, where they lacked “punch” oralcoholcontent.
For about ten years now production has, at last, been geared to quality: companies have modernised their marketing and sales structures, and local grape varieties have been rediscovered, bringing enormous success to the wines of Salento. At the international level, they have become an established point of reference when it comes to choosing an Italian wine. Some Arneo wines we should like to mention are:
- reds produced from Negroamaro, Primitivo, Malvasia Nera, Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Aleatico grapes;
- whites produced from Malvasia Bianca, Chardonnay, Pinot or Sauvignon grapes;
- exclusive rosés, produced with Negroamaro or Malvasia Nera grapes. There are many wineries to choose from: Candido, Cantele, Conti Leone de Castris, Feudi di Guagnano, Castello Monaci, Taurino, Conti Zecca, and Cantine Cooperative di Salice Salentino, Nardò e Veglie.
Olive Oil Manufacture
In ancient times, olives were milled in a trapetum, the Latin word for a machine for separating olive stones from the pulp. This machinery crumbled the olive pulp and separated the stone, to produce olive paste (sampsa). This collected in a basin in the trapetum, allowing the sediment (amurca) to deposit. The sampsa was then taken to the lacus (cistern) platform for pressing in a torcular.
The local oil mills are almost all underground, cut into the seams of calcarenitic tuff or carparo of Lecce, improving oil storage. All these mills were constructed along the same lines: stairs cut in the rock led down to the rooms, which had barrelvaulted ceilings; there were some rooms, called sciave, on either side of the ramp, where olives were stored before pressing. The stairs led into a large room, the main processing area, where there was a milling basin, consisting of a circular platform on which the large millstone was placed. Around the milling room were rooms for storing olives and others for pressing. The underground structure also contained rooms in which the trappitari, the workers in the mill, slept and ate their daily meals. There was also a stall for the mule, a storeroom with containers for oil storage, a store for sediment, and other rooms for the various other jobs of the mill.
The manufacturing stages were carried out in perfect synchrony by the mill workers. First of all, the carts or sacks of olives would arrive and be unloaded into the storerooms awaiting delivery to the basin for milling. The mill stone was driven by a blinkered mule with a bell round its neck, to signal when it was moving. The olive paste was placed on a wooden kneading trough and then spread on cane or string fiscoli (filter mats) which were lined up under the manually operated presses. This initial stage was called mamma (mother) because it produced the first, clearest oil. The remaining paste was processed again, using another press, called a conzu. The oil dripped into the decanting wells and, after about one hour, was collected in a terracotta container, the sciuanna. This was then poured into the big Lecce stone containers.
Baked Goods and Cakes of Arneo
Some of the loaf shapes can only be found in Salento, but there are also the classic ones: pucce (round bread rolls) filled with olives (look out for the stones!), pizzi (small, classic pizza flavoured panini, or with olives), and remilled semolina ciabattina.
From among the bake goods, we mention frise (described above), ta ralli (savoury biscuits) and tarallini, both sweet and savoury (which are “boiled”, unlike those of Bari), a rich variety of focaccia, with either onions or tomato, and the “fabulous” potato pitta, a kind of focaccia with mashed potato, filled with tomato, onion and capers or prosciutto and local mozzarella.
The same is true for the sweets and pastries of Arneo: many of these are traditional Italian ones, while others can only be found in this area. There is, above all, the pasticciotto, a small oval pastry consisting of a shortcrust pastry case filled with custard. It must be eaten hot! Marzipan is also very popular.
It is made from ground almonds mixed with sugar, flavoured with can died peel, jam or chocolate and made into various shapes, depending on the time of the year: at Christmas it is fishshaped, and at Easter, the shape of a lamb.
Other typical sweets are mustazzoli, biscuits made with almonds, co coa, cinnamon and chocolatecoated candied peel. If you are in Arneo around the feast of St. Joseph, we recommend you try the famous zeppole, either fried or baked.
The Craft Tradition
Craftsmanship, of great importance to Arneo as a source of economic wealth and employment, is deeply rooted in the cultural and social traditions of the whole of Salento. Over the years, local craftsmen have succeeded in the difficult task of fusing popular art forms with technological change and developments in people’s habits, tastes and fashions. There is renewed interest in skills that seemed doomed to extinction among young apprentices and discerning customers alike. They are becoming available and taken up once more in Art Schools, in the old professions like pottery and glassmaking and in papiermâché workshops, which are full of customers and enthusiastic young people. The craft tradition is based on the working of Lecce stone, papiermâché (the school is now of the highest level), terracotta, wrought iron, glass, weaving, basketwork and wickerwork; also, wood and stoneworking have found their craftsmen and admirers, reviving a local identity that seemed lost for ever.
Textiles and Embroidery
There is a very long tradition of embroidery in Terra d’Arneo and it is still practiced there. A rectangular, olive wood treadle loom is used for embroidery. The shed is opened in order to speed up work: in other words, the gap between the warp and weft threads is increased by operating the treadle and the weft is then inserted by the shuttle.
Very probably the introduction of this art can be traced to the Hellenic colonisation, as well as to oriental influences which can also be found in the arabesque designs although lacemaking originated in Italy in the 15th century for practical rather than aesthetic reasons.
The most well known types of lace are chiaccherino, made with the spool on the fingers, and tombolo, made using the famous technique of twisting threads around others that are pinned on to a drawing that is fixed to a large, cylindrical cushion.