For many years, one of my dreams has been to see the unique trulli homes in Alberobello, Italy. I remember watching television documentaries and travel shows that highlighted these unique structures and promising myself that one day I would see them for myself. I can't tell you how excited I was to finally get the chance to do just that! The day was even more exciting because it was our tenth wedding anniversary. What better place to celebrate?
Alberobello is located in Puglia, but north of the Salento region where we stayed for the two weeks of our trip. We kept most of our day trips within an hour's drive of where we stayed, but made an exception for Alberobello. The trip was about a two hour drive in each direction, with plenty of pretty countryside to admire along the way. The drive can be pretty straightforward from any decent sized town, or you can take the smaller back roads, which is the more scenic route. We took that route to arrive and I loved the scenery, but for efficiency with two young children we drove home along the faster, more practical route.
A trullo (trulli is plural) is a home made using prehistoric building techniques, and is mainly characterized by its conical stacked-stone roof that sits atop a (usually) square foundation. Trulli that are entirely circular tended to be used as storage or shelter for animals, whereas squre trulli were more often used as dwellings. What makes it unique is that traditionally they were built without using any mortar between the joints to hold the stone together. Traditionally, trulli were built using the limestone or other stone found in the fields surrounding the village, and were build without mortar so that the structures would be considered temporary dwellings, and thus avoid being categorized as permanent dwellings that would be taxed. A trullo could be disassembled and reassembled as needed, making them practical for farmers.
Trulli can be found dotted along the surrounding countryside, and many are still in fantastic condition. What makes Alberobello so special is the sheer concentration of trulli in a village setting, with entire streets of trulli concentrated together. UNESCO categorized Alberobello as a World Heritage Site in 1996, ensuring the ongoing protection of the trulli in the town, some of which date back as the 1400s. This construction is specific to the Itria valley, and are culturally significant in both their construction methods and appearance. The symbols painted on some of the trulli can mean any number of things, from the type of business it is to religious affiliation. As you can see in the photos below, the trulli found in the countryside tend to be less fancy than the whitewashed ones of Alberobello.
Alberobello is quite touristy, but not as busy as I had been expecting. We arrived early afternoon, however, which is when most tourists are off to lunch or enjoying a siesta, so in some spots we had the streets almost to ourselves. It doesn't take long to wander through Alberobello, but it is worth taking some time to enter some of the shops to see the inside of a trullo or to step onto some of the panoramic patios located in some of the restaurants. There are plenty of souvenir shops, as well as cafes and places to eat. Prices are quite reasonable.
After wandering around for a bit, having a nice lunch and picking up a few bottles of local wine, we took the less scenic route back to our beach house in Torre Lapillo. It is possible to stay in a renovated trullo in the countryside surrounding Alberobello, but we had a great beach house awaiting our return. If our children were older and had more stamina, I would have loved to continue on to the white city of Ostuni for the rest of the afternoon, but that's a stop for another trip!