One was educated in the humanities, the other in economics. One studied Classical Literature, the other graduated in Business Economics. One specialised in Archaeolog y, wrote 20 children’s books and was a correspondent for Topolino, the other closed corporate transactions, managed stock-exchange listings and startups, and worked at the Tate Gallery in London.Fiorella and Maria Elena Congedo took different roads away from home, they quickly intersected in Milan where they both studied and worked for a few years for important TV productions, until they went back to their roots to work for Congedo Publishers, founded in Apulia, in
southern Italy, by their father 50 years ago.Fiorella now lives in the Salento region, she is the Editorial Director of the family publishing house and manages picture
books, tourist guides and cookery books, while Maria Elena, from the Milan offices, handles international projects and strategic partnerships.And so, bringing their
talent together, the Congedo sisters invented, created, produced and internationally launched “Trulli Tales”, a TV series that has brought the magic of Apulia around
Fiorella and Maria Elena, what is Trulli Tales?
F It is a cartoon narrating the adventures of four children enrolled in the Cookery and Magic School in a small village of funny, cone-shaped homes. There is an enchanted kingdom at the foot of an ancient olive-grove, a precious book of secret recipes, a grandmother that seems like a fairy, an oil with super-natural powers and a mean and goofy wizard…
ME The children have kitchen utensils instead of magic wands and in each episode, they have adventures that will help them grow up as chefs, wizards, and most of
all, as persons.
How did you get the stories and the name Trullaleri?
ME We were making a photo book on trulli [the typical Apulian dwellings shaped like a cone), called Trulli Style, and we noticed that many people who bought or
restructured a trullo resembled each other, in the sense that they have particular artistic inclinations and a marked sense of creativity. We called them Trullalleri.
F At the time, my little girl would eat very few things, and to get her interested in food, I would tell her stories every night about a group of children living in a trulli
village, who were handling a recipe book and had to choose ingredients one by one, with great care. Every recipe, in truth, is nothing more than a magic formula
that transforms many ingredients into something else that is wonderful and delicious. It was 2011, the adventures of the Trullalleri started from there.
Now there are 52 episodes, translated in 25 languages and exported in 123 countries. What do children around the world like about your cartoons?
ME It’s a combination of many things. We tell a very familiar story, in which all children can see themselves, but it is also original: the children go to a school where
they don’t study subjects such as history or geography, but instead freshly-made pasta, herbs, vegetables… In real life, in school, they talk about food and nutrition as a duty, an obligation, on books showing the food pyramid, how boring! We believe even a cake with cream or a muffin can be good and nutritious if you cook it yourself, eat the right amounts of it and if making it becomes a game involving different generations.
F We also try to encourage children to live a healthy life outside, in a clean way. There are four towers in the village, with large windmills on the roof. Trulloland is
an eco-friendly, organic, mechanical, analogical and 2D world, where Trullalleri enjoy themselves playing and using their hands. A world that attracts children and
that grown-ups also like.
The cartoons also won the Prix Gemeaux – the Canadian equivalent of Emmys – as best animated series of 2018. How has your work been rewarded?
ME Certainly, in terms of the care we took in the development of the project, which was followed at every single step. But also the contents, the values we support
through our stories: friendship, playing and team work, they are hugely appreciated everywhere.
F To which we have added the concept of healthy food and sharing, very Italian values. For us, the table is a reflection of life: through food comes love.Of someone
we don’t like, we say: Have you eaten with them? On the contrary, we are always ready to welcome guests and prepare a nice meal for friends and family.
Your teamwork looks like a family value.
ME We are complementary, one is more creative and the other is more commercial. We are quite different in looks, character and inclinations, but we work alongside.
F We discuss everything and followed our project together, from the initial idea to the dubbing, including the soundtrack. And when it is a case of going abroad to
present out project, we always go together.
How much of Apulia is there in your cartoons, on top of trulli and the tradition of good food?
ME Loads. There are the colours and the light and the brightness. Of course, Trulloland is a magical place suspended in time and space, but in fact it exists, it is
F And then there are the references to classical myths, to the roots of our land. Apulia was western Greek soil, it is not casual that among the characters in Trulloland
there is a small owl who loves olives, called Athenina, and that the village finds itself in an ancient olive grove. The olive tree is the gift that the goddess Athena made
to the city she protects, and it is a symbol of peace and of victory.
On the subject of roots, how important was the family in your training and professional growth?
ME First of all we grew up surrounded by papers and books, and this certainly pushed us in a set direction. When it was time to choose our studies, our father let
us go away to Milan and encouraged us to follow our passions, because work is always hard, he said, and it needs to be something that can excite and energise you. He was always our greatest fan and a shining example. He is the true signature entrepreneur: optimist, concrete, a pure soul driven by a sense of duty and sacrifice. After all, he did and does what he likes. He is 80 and is still happy to go to the office every day.
F Our mother also rooted for us. A solid and practical woman, she supported us in all of our adventures and taught us to face each thing with lightness, enjoying the
experience, and to transform stress into joy, with a joke, a touch of lipstick, a nice dinner… She is the one with the magic touch in the kitchen, she is of course Grandma Trulla. She wrote seven life-saving recipes, the ones that enable you to prepare delicious meals in a short time and to have an amazing success.
What is her magical dish?
F She conquers all with the typical regional dessert bianco mangiare [a white fluffy pudding, also known as blancmange]
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