One of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, the unusual town of Alberobello in the Italian region of Apulia, is famous for its typical, unique though very primitive constructions – houses and various buildings – called the trulli.

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The word derives from the Latin turris, or from the Greek tholos, or from the Greek-Byzantine torullosa, that all mean the dome that, in the case of the trulli of Alberobello, refers to the typical form of their conical roofs on top of cylindrical buildings. The whole construction is made of simple stones put together without any means of connection such as, for example, mortar, exactly the way the primitive inhabitants of the area used to construct their houses in the remote past.

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Why not improve the method? There’s an explanation to that.

Alberobello was born between the 15th and 16th centuries built by a group of peasants commanded to settle in the area by the counts of Conversano. At that time the counts owned the territory that made part of the Reign of Naples. One of the laws of the reign imposed a tax on every new settlement. The Conversano counts, to avoid the heavy economic burden, told the peasants to colonize what was at the moment an oak forest and to erect some temporary houses and constructions that could be easily demolished in case of an inspection ordered by the Reign of Naples. That is why the constructions were carried out putting stones simply one upon another without any fixing glue element. And what was born as a catch became a civilization. 

In 1797 some of the residents of Alberobello went to the King Ferdinand who recognized the town as legal and free of any eventual taxes.

The town’s buildings underwent a number of improvements we can even call stylistic now: the limestone rock typical of the area provided the material used to perfect the trulli from the outside, while the roofs were covered by the layered stones called ‘chiancole’ that made the trulli so unique and the whole urban landscape so special.

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Moreover, the chaincole got decorated by mysterious symbols of diffrent inspiration, some of them being either of pagan, or Christian, or primitive origin. According to various interpretaions, some of these signs served to protect the family living in the trullo against the evil eye, others were dedicated to pagan Gods in the hope to receive their protection, some others have clear zodiacal and astral meanings or those metaphorical Christian and even Jewish. Some of the symbols were simply used to indicate the owner of the trullo or his/her occupation.

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Alberobello, apart from being the heart of the hinterland of Apulia, the land of the trulli, is also the epicentre of its gastronomic culture based on the poor peasants’ cooking tradition and antique recipes of the territory, jealously protected and passed over from one generation to the following one making them proud conductors of the local culture to the rest of the world.

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Some of my usual tips:

1. Alberobello is quite small, so one day is enough for a visit.

2. When in Apulia, we stayed in the white town of Ostuni situated on a hill very close to the sea. It is easy to arrange a day-trip by car from Ostuni to Alberobello. It also allows you to admire the wonderful view of the countryside and numerous small villages placed between the two towns.

3. A one-day trip to Alberobello is an amazing discovery and also a great idea for a day not perfectly suitable to spend by the sea.

4. Apulia is famous for its cuisine. One of the most typical dishes of the area is that composed of fresh orecchiette pasta with cime di rapa. But a typical local menu offers you an embarassing number of amazing dishes to choose from.

5. If you are looking for a place for a nice lunch or dinner, take into consideration the following two restaurants that both participated in a famous TV show 4 Ristoranti and proved to be a good choice for anyone looking for a traditional Apulian meal in Alberobello:

  • restaurant Evo in Via Giovanni XXIII, 1
  • restaurant Trullo d’Oro in Via F. Cavallotti, 27

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Do not miss the magic of Alberobello when in Apulia, a place of tradition, story and heritage.

Photos credit: Machs Gut (c)

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