Many of us have travelled extensively in Italy. We’re drawn by the romance of Venice’s canals, the beauty of the Tuscan countryside or Rome’s long history. But we often overlook Puglia, the narrow heel of Italy’s boot. Here’s why you should include its prettiest town, Alberobello, in your next Italy itinerary, and discover the charms of the Alberobello trulli.
Alberobello is synonymous with trulli. Mostly, you’ll see these conical structures in fields, surrounded by orchards of cherry and olive trees. Once, they were rustic and functional, used to house livestock in the frigid winters. Blocks form two layers, a thicker outer layer and a thinner inner one. Instead of tiles, the roof was created from overlapping stones. Tiny apertures served as windows, letting just enough light in to make the trulli useable. But unlike other Puglian towns and villages, in Alberobello, those same trulli cluster in significant numbers in the town itself. So what are they doing there?
History sheds light on this mystery
To understand why, you need to look to the past. When the area was under the rule of the King of Naples in medieval times, permanent dwellings were liable for tax. But the simple trulli, built without the need for mortar, could be easily dismantled. By the time the King’s tax collectors arrived, all they’d find would be a pile of stones. Eventually, the political situation changed and Alberobello’s residents were able to improve their properties, safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t face a crippling levy.
These days the majority of Alberobello’s 20,000 or so inhabitants rely on the thousands of day trippers who come to the village, intrigued by its charming architecture. Top of the sightseeing list is the hilly district of Rione Monti, where trulli house a glut of souvenir shops selling olive oil, hand woven textiles and ceramics. Amongst them you’ll find the quirky Trulli Siamesi; the only pair of trulli to share the same roof, and a trulli church.
Facing Rione Monti is Rione Aia Piccola, a mostly residential neighbourhood. There, you’ll also find the Museo del Territorio, a collection of 15 interconnected trulli in which you can learn about the town and its colourful past. In a separate part of town, Trulli Sovrano is unique in that it’s the only two story trulli structure. A flight of stone steps leads to an upper floor in which a trapdoor once opened onto the warehouse below.
Rent your own Alberobello trulli
There are plenty of holiday lets scattered among the private homes. Their sloping walls are now rendered and painted, but there’s still something enchanting about sleeping under one of the domed ceilings. One of the best is Trulli Anti, located conveniently a few minutes stroll from both Rione Monti and Rione Aia Piccola.
The owners have given as much thought to the design as to the functionality. Effortlessly chic interiors boast underfloor heating and in the whitewashed courtyard, you’ll find bicycles propped against the comfy garden furniture. Best of all, the street on which it stands is so narrow, barely a car passes its gate, meaning all you’ll hear when you wake is the chirrup of birdsong.