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The overlooked region of Italy that’s like an ‘enchanted land’

There is, in the heel of Italy’s famous boot, a marvellously gnarled olive tree held (sort of) upright by a chunky pile of brickwork. It’s just one of the more than 50 million olive trees in this unspoiled rural region of Puglia but it has one outstanding claim to fame – it’s said to be 3000 years old.

It sits on more than 12 hectares of the Antica Masseria Brancati olive farm, just off the Adriatic coast between Bari and Brindisi, with 1000 other trees. Of these, 800 have been designated as national monuments and many are said to have been planted 2000 years ago at the height of the Roman Empire.

It’s quite a thrill to touch something that’s been growing for so long. It is, quite simply, living history.

It’s an idea which sums up Puglia (pronounced Poolia) to a tee. It’s a palimpsest on which the names, beliefs and cultures of successive historical conquerors – Greeks, Moors, Barbary pirates, Turks, you name it –  are writ large. Here is history you can touch, and taste.

Here you’ll find ancient Game of Thrones-style castles perched on the edge of glassy seas, golden baroque cities crafted from buttery sandstone and medieval cathedrals filled with the skulls of Christian martyrs.

And yet tell people that you’re off to…

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