While writing about the Land of Otranto and its numerous villages divided into six oil-making areas, Cosimo De Giorgi stated that: “This is one of the most relevant regions when it comes to oil production, thanks to its natural habitat, the position of the land, and the temperature of the climate”.
The oil industry played a centuries-old central role and represented a key economic pillar for Apulia and the Land of Otranto.
The olives were carried in the “trappeto” (the oil mill, its name coming from Latin “trapetum”): this productive structure hosted machines that pressed the olive paste (obtained from squeezed drupes coming from animal-powered oil mills) and extracted oil.
Within the “trappeti”, better known as oil mills, an exhausting and inhuman effort was needed to perform the process of transformation (i.e. pressing the olives): this is why they were known as oil mills working “a sangue” (lit. to blood). They were defined as “a sangue” or “a tiro” (lit. pulled), because the massive millstone (or, afterwards, the smaller stones) was put in motion using both animal power and presses activated by the strength of workmen.
The Land of Otranto hosts a peculiar typology of production structure: the underground oil mill, carved into local stone. The first mills were made according to the “calabrese” typology and then, starting from 1768, the “genovese” type spread. Afterwards, during the last decades of the eighteenth century, the first half-underground oil mills made their appearance: they were half carved and half built.
During the industrial age (1875 ca.), the first modern oil plants appeared, whose mechanical force was initially powered by steam, then by hydraulic and electric energy.