“Perhaps the masterpiece of Puglia is precisely Alberobello: there is no tourist manual that ignores it, nor a geography book for middle schools that does not carry the photograph of its trulli.” So Pier Paolo Pasolini described this fairy place located on the Italian territory, one of the 54 sites of the Peninsula included in the list of World Heritage by UNESCO. Alberobello and its trulli represent an inestimable heritage, a historical testimony of immense cultural value, a place that seems designed by the imagination and yet it is real, here and now, unchanged over the centuries. The trulli of Alberobello resist the passing of time and tell the story of an Italy of roots, of the attachment to their land, of tradition, of craftsmanship. Flipping through the pages of any world atlas under the heading Puglia, you cannot miss the symbolic image of a trullo, a true Italian excellence.
The history of the Trulli: from peasant homes to luxurious hotels
Before understanding how these characteristic Italian buildings were born, it is good to understand where they are located. So, where are the trulli? These shining examples of spontaneous architecture crowd the Valle d’Itria, located between the provinces of Brindisi, Bari and Taranto. Alberobello, in Puglia, can be considered in all respects the capital of the Trulli. The first traces of these characteristic buildings date back to prehistoric times: the vaulted structures were used to bury the dead. But to see them used as dwellings, we must wait for the fourteenth century. At that time an uninhabited land was awarded as a prize to the first Count of Conversano by Robert of Anjou, first prince of Taranto and then king of Naples. The nobleman began to repopulate the land with the inhabitants of the surrounding areas. The new settlers were allowed to live there, but on one condition: their dwellings should not have been anything more complicated than a dry construction without mortar. The reason? The massive taxation of the Kingdom of Naples on new settlements. Too many houses, too many taxes to pay. So it is better to build up precarious constructions, easily demolished or dismantled at any time. Or so it must have seemed. Right, because of the precariousness, the trulli of Alberobello have nothing and the time thought us to demonstrate the solidity of this building technique: after over half a millennium the trulli are still there, eternal witnesses of the history of an entire nation.
Sleeping in a trullo: a unique way to experience the Apulian hospitality
“I wake up and see a dream town, as if I were sleeping,” Gabriele D’Annunzio wrote enchanted in front of the horizon studded with white houses. Today we still live in those fairy-tale trulli that have become beautiful houses with completely renovated interiors, but there is more: many former farmhouses have become luxury hotels or five-stars B&B, with all the amenities that offer such accommodation facilities. Beautiful relais immersed in the Apulian nature await you for a unique experience: sleeping in a trullo. Enchanting pools surrounded by centuries-old olive trees, majestic beds carved in wood, romantic atmospheres and restaurants where you can taste all the typical dishes of this marvellous and uncontaminated land that still preserves all the colour and warmth of the origins.
How a trullo is made: dwellings carved into natural rock
Just like Matera, even the trulli of Alberobello have entered by right in the list of precious jewels of the tricolour culture, countries with no time to cherish and protect to ensure that future generations can enjoy it too. But how are the trulli made? The plant of these characteristic structures is circular, the base is directly dug into the natural rock of the Murge plateau, on which are then raised the walls in lime. The interior of a trullo consists of a central room around which further modular units are developed. The walls are very thick and the windows are few: this allows the heat not to disperse and creates a perfect climate in the trulli, warm in winter and cool in summer. An igloo all Made in Italy. The name of these stone houses comes from the late Greek τρούλος, which means “dome”. The roofs of the trulli, symbols of the Apulian landscape, are precisely domes of limestone slabs positioned in successive smaller and smaller circles up to the top. Each trullo has its keystone, almost always decorated with magic symbols and propitiators that are linked to the history of the family owner. An example of functional peasant architecture, the trullo also has a ledge that can be used to collect rainwater. The result of the skilled hands of peasant engineers who have managed to design the appearance of an entire country.
What to see in Alberobello: the legend of the Siamese trulli
To experience a 360° journey under the sun of Puglia, one of the obligatory stops to be included in the itinerary is a visit to the most particular trulli of Alberobello, an Italian culture with which to fill your eyes and memory. In the quaint village of Southern Italy the district of Monti still survives, a nucleus composed of about 1030 trulli. Crossing the village of Aja Piccola and the narrow alleys you arrive at the Trullo Sovrano, the only example of a two-storey trullo. Also the Church of Sant’Antonio here in Alberobello is shaped like a trullo, with a monumental entrance and a large rose window. Alberobello, like all the countries of southern Italy, is a land of legends and one of the most famous concerns the “Siamese trulli” with double façade, double pinnacle, low fireplace and zero windows. Two houses that once were a single dwelling: here lived two brothers, in love with the same woman. She, betrothed to the eldest son, would have gladly married her younger brother. As if in a modern ménage à trois and in spite of the malcontents of the village, the three began to live under the same roof, but jealousy, you know, does not get along with love. So, after a short time, the older brother feeling too much pronounced the end of the unlikely three-way, driving away the two lovers and dividing the property into two twin trulli and attached, “Siamese” in fact.
Fairytale, History, Tradition, Legend, Culture. Under the domes of the trulli of Alberobello there is a world to be discovered, a past world that continues to thrill in the present and that does not fear the challenges of the future. Even in the new millennium, as technology advances run faster than us, it’s nice to know that there’s a place where time seems to stand still, a place where you can catch your breath in perfect harmony with nature, a place in whose flavours and aromas have the same value as a dusty book in an old and precious library of the world. The “poor” houses of Alberobello (Puglia) are today a World Heritage Site, an added value, a precious treasure.