In Italyâ€™s Puglia region, the architecture starts to look more gnome-like than Italian villa. Specifically in the town of Alberobello, clusters of these settlements, known as trulli, set up in a bewitching fashion. Standing in the midst of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you half expect a gnome to pop out from a trullo. And while this part of Italy seldom makes a visitorâ€™s list, it should just to see these strange structures in the flesh.
A town translating into â€œBeautiful Treeâ€ might leave visitors with a few questions beyond the name. While some are of the opinion that Alberobello is a mere tourist trap, the trulli truly are structures you have to see to believe, tourists or no tourists.
Whatâ€™s a Trullo?
Chances are, if you havenâ€™t been down to Italyâ€™s Puglia region, you probably have never heard of a trullo. The trulli are limestone dwellings characteristic of this area of Italy. They are mortar-less in their construction, a prehistoric building technique that still managed to keep out the rain. The roughly worked limestone used to make the trulli hail from boulders in the neighboring fields of Alberobello. A trullo features a pyramidal, domed or conical roof. Sometimes, in Alberobello in particular, you will see mythological or religious symbols sketched on to the roofs in white ash.
Why were they built this way?
The mystery surrounding the trulli of Alberobello and Puglia is one few can figure out. Once you see all of the trulli of Alberobello, you may wonder why this style of architecture can be found here and in no other area of Italy. Many believe the trulli were constructed in such a fashion so that they could be taken down quickly. This was in hopes of avoiding taxation on new settlements. Others believe the trulli were merely set up this way for punitive purposes, as they were a cost effective structure to build and live in for peasants without heaps of cash. Many contend they are positively prehistoric, what the early residents of the area came up with for dwellings.
Are they all just homes?
The trulli of Alberobello do not just function as private residences or homes. Wandering around the Zona dei Trulli, you will see shops and restaurants in a trullo or two. Many date back to the 14th century in their construction. The Chiesa Santâ€™Antonio is even in the trullo shape, situated at the top of Rione Monti. The church tops with a trullo dome measuring 19.8 meters.
Can I stay in one?
Many companies have realized the appeal of the trulli of Alberobello, turning dozens into apartments and hotels for rent. While you wonâ€™t be hard press to find a trullo to stay in, you will pay for it. Staying in these witch-hat structures isnâ€™t necessary a budget option. However, in very few circumstances can you claim you stayed in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Staying in a trullo is similar to that of a cave. There are generally no windows with the exception of skylight type opening in the roof. If you are looking to unplug from the rest of the world, most Internet and cell phone signals donâ€™t enter these thick limestone walls.
Is there any other reason to come to Alberobello?
Those that find themselves in Alberobello are probably here to see the trulli. However there are other aspects to this town you can appreciate. After you have explored the Zona dei Trulli, the dense mass of 1,500 beehive0shaped houses, head over to the New Town. Less touristy, you find a quiet piazza for a drink, amongst most of the locals of Alberobello.
Written by: Suzy Guese