World

Proposal to Include Apulia's 'Plain of Olive Trees' on Unesco List

Feb. 25, 2015
By Alfonso De Lucia

Recent News

The first of three meet­ings to sup­port the nom­i­na­tion of the “Piana degli Ulivi” (Plain of Olive Trees) to be inserted in the Unesco World Heritage list took place in Ostuni, Puglia.

The plain is an area between the vil­lages of Fasano, Ostuni and Carovigno claim­ing the largest con­cen­tra­tion of ancient olive trees in the Mediterranean area: some spec­i­mens date back more than 3,000 years and are con­sid­ered nat­ural archae­o­log­i­cal mon­u­ments.

The meet­ing was attended by del­e­gates of sev­eral asso­ci­a­tions, grow­ers, tourism oper­a­tors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of insti­tu­tions, includ­ing the mayor of Ostuni, Gianfranco Coppola, and Regional Director Giovanni Epifani.

Monuments of nature, still pro­duc­ing the same oil the Messapi, Romans, Byzantines, Angevins, Aragonese and Spanish tasted- Gianfranco Ciola, Park of Apulian Coastal dunes

The pro­posal is being coor­di­nated by Dr. Gianfranco Ciola, direc­tor of the Park of the Apulian coastal dunes. According to Ciola, the inscrip­tion of the Plains in the Unesco World Heritage “will rep­re­sent an impor­tant attrac­tion for the area so rich in mon­u­men­tal olive trees, farms, under­ground mills, coastal towers. This recog­ni­tion will surely pro­vide an impor­tant tool to pro­mote the area and to boost the agri­cul­tural econ­omy and local tourism.”

Olive Oil Times asked Dr. Ciola some ques­tions about the pro­posal.

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When was the idea of propos­ing the Plains as a World Heritage Site born?

The project came from the will of the three munic­i­pal admin­is­tra­tions to enhance the value of the land­scape and its vast cul­tural and archi­tec­tural assets.

The idea for the pro­posal was born a few years ago from the Rotary International which orga­nized sev­eral con­fer­ences on the topic. Later, the vil­lages of Fasano, Ostuni and Carovigno approved the start of the process of nom­i­nat­ing the Plain. By that time the pro­posal was sup­ported by many local actors: envi­ron­men­tal groups and cul­tural asso­ci­a­tions, public bodies, enter­prises, were all con­vinced that it could be a pow­er­ful tool for con­ser­va­tion and devel­op­ment of this unique agri­cul­tural land­scape and its con­nected tourist econ­omy.

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How does the appli­ca­tion process work?

The appli­ca­tion must be ini­tially for­warded to the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, for a pre­lim­i­nary read­ing, adjust­ment and refine­ment of the pro­posal. The work is car­ried out jointly with the Ministry of Culture and, in some cases, with the Ministry of Agriculture. If the pro­posal is con­sid­ered worthy, it is inserted into a ‘Priority List.’ Next, the Ministry of Culture, by the means of the Italian Office of UNESCO, will send the appli­ca­tion to the cen­tral UNESCO office in Paris.

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The pro­posal must meet the guide­lines estab­lished by UNESCO and is divided into four parts:

a) the proof of the excep­tional uni­ver­sal value of the site, through a study that high­lights the fea­tures making the site unique and/or in pos­ses­sion of an out­stand­ing uni­ver­sal value

b) the com­par­a­tive analy­sis, that com­pares the pro­posed site with national and inter­na­tional sim­i­lar ones, show­ing that the can­di­date site owns excep­tional values world­wide and not just at local or national level

c) the require­ments of integrity, authen­tic­ity, and stew­ard­ship con­di­tions, as defined in the UNESCO guide­lines

d) means of pro­tec­tion of the site, at any national or local levels, that are essen­tial to submit the can­di­dacy.

What are the ben­e­fits of includ­ing the Plain among the World Heritage Sites and what are the oblig­a­tions to ensure that it remains?

The recog­ni­tion of World Heritage has a pretty sym­bolic value, since UNESCO rep­re­sents a “qual­ity mark,” a seal of pres­tige within the pro­tec­tion of cul­tural her­itage. Secondly, the recog­ni­tion has an eco­nomic value, derived from the adop­tion of poli­cies that will attract more vis­i­tors and more fund­ings for the devel­op­ment and preser­va­tion of the site.

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UNESCO main­tains rela­tions with both public insti­tu­tions, for cre­at­ing cul­tural projects (train­ing activ­i­ties, public art projects, etc…), and com­pa­nies, engaged in co-mar­ket­ing projects for the pro­mo­tion of their respec­tive brands, to acquire new tar­gets in the fruition of the site, in the opti­miza­tion of dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels and eco­nomic resources.

In the case of the Plains of Olive trees, the UNESCO recog­ni­tion requires the gov­ern­ment and all pri­vate enti­ties to imple­ment a man­age­ment plan geared towards its preser­va­tion. This tool will allow us to find all the suit­able instru­ments to pre­serve the sus­tain­able farm­ing meth­ods and the care of tra­di­tional olive grow­ing, thus pro­tect­ing the land­scape and its bio­di­ver­sity.

At what point in the process is the pro­posal?

We are prepar­ing the pro­posal, but the per­ma­nent lab­o­ra­tory sup­port­ing the nom­i­na­tion has already been enriched by many sub­jects in the com­mu­nity. Local author­i­ties, farm­ers, oil pro­duc­ers, tourism and agri­tourism busi­nesses, cul­tural and envi­ron­men­tal asso­ci­a­tions, schools and train­ing insti­tu­tions, are united to achieve the goal, in the belief that the land­scape of the plain of mon­u­men­tal groves of Puglia con­fig­ures an area unique in the world for its exten­sion and the homo­gene­ity of the mil­lenar­i­ani olive groves, with its plants having extra­or­di­nar­ily beau­ti­ful mighty and twisted trunks.

They are real mon­u­ments of nature, that is a living nature, still pro­duc­ing olives and oil; the same one that, in the old times, Messapi (the ancient inhab­i­tants of Puglia), Romans, Byzantines, Angevins, Aragonese and Spanish tasted. The Plain’s tra­di­tional olive groves, with 40 – 50 plants per hectare, are one of the oldest agri­cul­tural areas of the Mediterranean, enriched by the numer­ous his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural, archae­o­log­i­cal and archi­tec­tural evi­den­cies, and it is unique in the world, as it still pro­duc­tive after more than 2000 years of life.

The pro­ce­dure for sub­mis­sion of the pro­posal will end on February, 28.