I can’t remember the first time I saw a picture of the trulli in Alberobello in Puglia but I’m sure I didn’t even know it was in Italy because they seem so mythical. To me, they look like Hobbit houses, if the hobbits from the shire had cousins in another part of the world…
What I did know was that I desperately wanted to see them! Last month we were in Polignano a Mare in Puglia for a little beach break and my husband just casually drops in that we were only 30 kms from the trulli and that we were going to see them. I was like a kid in a candy shop, I was so ecstatic!
So off we set on our rented Vespa to see the trulli. It should have only taken us around half an hour but annoyingly there weren’t any signs from Polignano a Mare directing us to Alberobello. This meant we had to stop about four times at gas stations to ask people directions. A top tip is to get to the centre of Monopoli and then you’ll find the signs to Alberobello and it’s really straightforward from there. So that half and hour turned in to about an hour.
What are trulli?
A trullo or trulli (plural) are traditional Apulian dry stone huts made of limestone with a conical roof and are specific to the Itria Valley in Puglia, Italy. You can find loads of them clustered together in Alberbello, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, however trulli can also be found more sporadically in other places in Puglia, such as Ostuni and Fasano.
They were apparently originally used by farmers to store their equipment or even animals and the first record of a trullo dates back to the 14th century. According to a BBC article, in the 1600s there was a tax on new buildings so the locals cunningly built trulli so they could be dismantled when the inspectors came and rebuilt after they had gone. Clever! Nowadays, trulli are still being built by specialist craftsmen but for hotels, rather than their original purpose.
Some people still live in them today, however in Alberobello they are mainly shops or restaurants. Whilst we were walking around, a little old lady invited us into her trullo. She told my husband that she doesn’t live in it anymore because it’s too quiet at night and she’s scared that something might happen to her (as in, if she fell or became unwell) but that she keeps it for tourists to come in and have a look. How lovely is that!
There are quite a few trullo that advertise panoramic views. They are usually above shops and there is no charge – it’s just a way to entice you to come in and perhaps buy something. The views let you see the trulli from a different perspective.
Some of the trulli have white symbols painted on their roof. They have religious or mystical significance and were painted to protect those who lived inside them.
Lots of trulli also have a hand-made sandstone pinnacle on the top of the cone of the roof. They are said to be the trademark or signature of the stonemason who built the trullo, who in Italian is known as the Trullisto. As you can see, the trulli below would have all been built by one Trullisto as their pinnacles are the same.
There is even a trulli church – the Church of Sant’Antonio da Padova and was built in the 1920s and took just 14 months to construct. The day we visited, they were preparing for a wedding. How lovely to be married in a trulli church!
There are a few places to have lunch but you’re not spoilt for choice. We ate at Ristorante Pizzeria Il Pinnacolo and they have a really big outside area – it was deceptive from the front! The view was lovely. The food was quite nice but nothing to shout about. They did have some traditional dishes, which was good to see.
You only really need an afternoon to explore Alberobello as it’s fairly small and there are only so many shops selling tourist souvenirs that you can go into! There was one shop we went in to though where they were actually making little trulli replicas. It was so interesting to watch the craftsmen at work.
I absolutely loved our visit to the trulli and would really recommend putting it on your travel list.