On Tuesday evening, Kate and I left Matera (see yesterday’s post) and settled into the beautiful new B&B Cavour in Gioia del Colle, our tour guide’s hometown in central Puglia, for four nights. For two of the next three days, we wandered the narrow roads in the Valle d’Itria in the center of Puglia. Both Kate and I couldn’t wait to see the main attraction of the valley (and of Puglia, for that matter)—the fascinating, magical huts called trulli (trullo means dome). Although the town of Alberobello is the trullo capitol and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, trulli dot the countryside throughout the Valle d’Itria.
The conical, dry-stone, single-story trulli of Puglia are unique in the world. Made from local limestone without mortar or cement, they have been described as beehives, Hobbit houses, igloos, and fairytale houses. Mysteries surround the trulli, including when people began constructing them (some sources say the 13th century; others say later), and why trulli are constructed the way they are (some sources postulate that trulli could be taken apart quickly to avoid taxation; others say that trulli could be moved quickly to places where workers were most needed).
Each conical roof covers one trullo, although some trulli are combined to make a multiroom structure (with a conical roof over each individual room). A trullo or a group of connected trulli is typically occupied by only one family. In Alberobello the tip of many of the cones sport sandstone finials—a disk, a ball, a cone, a bowl or some other design that may be the signature of the stonemason who built the trullo. Some trulli have primitive symbols painted on their roofs—crosses or hearts pierced by an arrow, for example—probably for decorative purposes.
The walls of the trulli are quite thick—about 3.5 feet—making the inside much smaller than the exterior suggests. Frommer’s Italy 2013 says, “Those thick walls become a nuisance, too, when it comes to buying a trullo: All that extra square footage is counted in the price.” Many trulli have no windows, and those that do generally have only small windows. Trulli stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Some have chimneys; in others the tip of the roof allows smoke to escape.
As I mentioned, the trulli area in Alberobello is the most visited place in Puglia, but late on a cool, sunny winter afternoon, we had the place to ourselves. We dawdled a little too long over a delicious lunch in Conversano and arrived in Alberobello about an hour and a half before the sun went down, so we didn’t spend a lot of time there. The trullo that is open for visitors was closed, although I could see what the inside of a trullo looked like when we visited a trullo church at the top of the hill. Some trulli have been converted into hotels and B&Bs; others are souvenir or snack shops.
Here’s my advice for Alberobello. GO! Do not miss it! When you walk through Alberobello, you will feel as if you are wandering through a storybook. A half-day visit in the town will be perfect. Drive through the Valle d’Itria and discover hundreds of trulli dotting the countryside—spotting one is such a thrill! You do not need to stay in Alberobello overnight, but you can if you like, and you can stay in a trullo.