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Trulli Magic Alberobello
The Trulli of Alberobello, Puglia, Southern Italy. A Guide and History With Photos & Pictures.
Do you believe in Goblins, Elves and fairy tales? If not, take a walk at sunrise amongst the beehive shaped Trulli of Alberobello in Puglia and you will discover a fairy tale town that looks like it should be inhabited by the little people of fables. The story of Alberobello is also reads like a fairy tale with evil tax dogging feudal Counts oppressing their peasant tenants who are eventually rescued from tyranny by the King of Naples and lived happily ever after.
Once Upon A Time.
Domed constructions date back thousands of years as can be seen in the beehive shaped tombs, or tholos tombs, of Iberia built around 3000 BC. The Minoans, The Ancient Greeks, The Mycenaeans and The Etruscans all built dome shaped tombs and dwellings so the design of the trulli of Alberobello is rooted in ancient building practices.
Puglia was settled from 1000BC by the Illyric and Italic peoples then by the Ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Goths and Lombards consecutively. In the 6th Century Justinian, the Emperor of the Roman Byzantine Empire based in Constantinople, reconquered Puglia. The Greek speaking Byzantine Romans called domes "Torullos" from which the words trullo [singular] and trulli [plural] derived for Alberobello's unique dwellings.
In 1059 the Norman knight Robert Guiscard ended Byzantine Roman rule in southern Italy by conquering the region and making Apulia his Duchy. The Normans were tough rulers exacting heavy taxes and fighting between themselves for control of the region sacking villages as they did so. When The Normans conquered Sicily, Palermo became the Norman centre of power and Puglia was demoted to a province and neglected. Centuries of Saracen raids and malaria decimated the population of Southern Italy and led to a serious depopulation of the region.
In the mid 14th century the King of Naples Robert of Anjou, known as Robert the Wise, encouraged the re-population of Puglia by granting permission for new settlements to the Count of Conversano. This came at a price though with an edict of The Kingdom of Naples asking for tribute for all new settlements. Alberobello dates from this period and by the mid-16th century the Monti area of Alberobello was occupied by some 40 trulli. In 1620 the settlement began to expand when Count Gian Girolamo Guercio ordered the construction of a bakery, a mill and an inn. By the end of the 18th century the community numbered over 3,500 people.
The feudal Counts of Conversano, who ruled Alberobello, designed the trulli as a tax dodge against their overlord the King of Naples. The peasants of Alberobello were forced to follow the Counts trulli design which included a ban on using mortar to cement the stones together. , This allowed the roofs of the Truilli to be easily collapsed by the Counts Bailiffs when the King of Naples Tax Inspectors were about to visit Alberobello. As tax was only paid on complete buildings the ruined Trulli were tax exempt and the Counts avoided taxes at the expense of their poor tenants who had to literally pick up the pieces and rebuild their Trulli.
By 1797 the inhabitants of Alberobello were tired of rebuilding their ruined trulli and complained to the King of Naples, Ferdinand IV, who used the Counts of Conversano tax evasion tactics as an excuse to end their feudal rule altogether. Ferdinand gave Alberobello Royal Status and the ownership of the trulli was given to their occupants and the name of Alberobello was then adopted by the town, taken from the medieval Latin name of the region siva arboris belli.
To build a trullo firstly a hole is excavated and a stone well is built for water and covered with a barrel vault that supports the trullo floor. 3 mt. square walls are built that consist of 2 layers filled with rubble or loam for insulation. The trulli have very small windows and a single door entrance. On top of the thick walls, which slope slightly inwards , stone slabs are arranged in a circle with consecutive layers being stepped inwards and upwards, like steps, to form a the conical roof. A second layer of smaller slabs is arranged outside this to make a double skinned roof. The conical roofs are topped by a decorated pinnacles of varying designs. It is not sure if these designs were functional or designed around magical symbols but they are perfectly shaped for a rope to be tied to so the plug could be pulled out and the roof collapsed.
The trulli are a wonderful example of eco building that has been honed to perfection by centuries of development. In the spring the thick double walls of the trulli are cool from the winter cold which keeps their interiors cool through the summer. By mid Autumn though the Trulli walls have warmed up from the summer sun which keeps their interiors warm through the winter. The walls slowly cool again through the winter and in spring the cycle starts again. The Trulli design is also an example of early modular building where dwellings can be expanded by butting trulli up next to each other. Families joined several trulli together with alcoves in the wall with beds for the children and a ceiling so food could be stored in the conical roof.
The Trulli are whitewashed to reflect the sun and some have traditional freehand symbols painted in white on their roofs. Most of these are Christian symbols although there are also pagan, magic and Jewish symbols.
(NOTE FOR EDITORS: symbols can be seen in this photo no: 55680.jpg from left to right)
Radial Host - The symbol for Christ
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Alberobello has 2 Trullii districts, the Monti quarter, which contains over 1,030 truilli and the Piccola quarter which contains 590 Truilli. In 1996 These districts were granted Unesco World Heritage status so the trulli are assured protection for future generations to marvel at. The Trulli have become the savior of Alberobello. What started as a tax dodge bringing great hardship to Alberobello's inhabitants now attracts tens of thousands of tourists to stay in Trulli hotels, eat in trulli restaurants and buy souvenirs from trulli shops making it a "trulli" unique town.
The Whistle Blowers Of Alberobello.
It is often true that communities that have suffered poverty and oppression tend to have extremely friendly inhabitants and Alberobello is no exception. Years of neglect have taught the people of Alberobello that you don't bite the hand that feeds you. Their charming friendly ways are guaranteed to get you in a spending mood and who can resist people who live in fairy tale dwellings and have a tradition of whistle blowing?
Blowing whistles, fischetti, have a long tradition in Alberobello. At night courting couples would use unique whistle sounds to tell each other it was safe to meet. Brightly decorated terracotta whistles in the shape of cockerels were given to newly weds as fertility gifts.
La Botteca is a whistle shop, opposite the Trulli church of in the Rione Monti area of Alberobello, selling over 5,000 whistle designs. The whistles are mostly made of decorated terracotta pottery and are fashioned to please the diverse tastes of the tourists that visit the shop from all over the world each year. La Botteca has been run by Anna Maria Mataresse for 42 years since she took over the business from her family when she was 18. Her charming manner will draw you into her shop where you will be so overwhelmed by the variety of whistles that it will be impossible for you to leave without buying at least one. If the shop is not too busy Anna Maria Mataresse will probably soften you up with a cup of coffee in the trulli she lives in next door. There is no escaping the infectious charm and sense of humor of these Southern Italians and their natural salesmanship. Each year she runs a whistle design competition and the winning design this year is a whistle that shows Berlusconi sitting in an armchair. The whistle comes out of Berlusconi's……..well modesty forbids telling where!!
Apart from the whistles Anna Maria specializes in local linen embroidered with traditional Puglia good luck folk designs. An Italian tradition was for mothers of brides to put together a trousseau, the Corredo, full of all the necessary items to begin married life often decorated with good luck symbols. "We sell many gifts for the corredo" Anna Maria explains enthusiastically, showing the traditional folk designs on the linen cloths and T-towels, "because everyone hopes that married life will be blessed with good fortune and children". She has a workshop in the trulli next to the shop and products are also made and embroidered by women at home to supplement their income. Anna Maria is not just a natural entrepreneur she also brings in much needed income to many households whilst keeping the traditions of her beloved Puglia alive. At over 60 Anna Maria's passion is as strong now as it was when she took over the family shop 42 years ago . She casts her spell over thousands of tourists each year and has been mentioned in tourist guides and travel articles published around the world. She has even had an all expenses paid trip to appear on Japanese Television. This suggests that her products do bring good luck, especially for her.
Alberobello is a surprising place full of interesting inhabitants who are proud of their unique trulli and the ancient traditions of Puglia. Southern Italy has long been neglected and towns like nearby Old Taranto still show a level of neglect and dilapidation that is unbelievable in a modern Italy. Tourism, with all its benefits and problems, is injecting much needed cash into Alberobello and businesses like La Botteca are making sure that the money is kept in the community. Trulli are now a popular purchase amongst the Germans and English, so maybe Tuscany-shire in northern Italy will soon have a rival in the form of Puglia-shire in the South. Time will tell. One thing is for sure though and that is Alberobello should be on any list of top 20 places to see in Italy.
Recommended accommodations in
Trulli Holiday offers a unique experience and attentive, personal service in the picturesque town of Alberobello. The traditional trulli dwellings feature wrought-iron beds, antique furnishings and private bathroom.
Prices from 55 Euros. Booking possible on www.booking.com
Made up of trulli of various sizes, scattered all over the historic centre of Alberobello, this unique hotel is ideal for individual travelers or groups of up to 6 people.
Prices from 95 Euros. Booking possible on booking.com
Trulli Holiday Residence
Holiday Residence Trulli has a peaceful countryside setting, around 15 minutes' walk from Alberobello centre. Breakfast is served in a café in the town centre.
Restaurants in Alberobello
La locanda di don antonio
Il Poeta Contadino
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