The oddest-looking buildings in Italy are the arcane “trulli”, unique circular dry-stone buildings typical of the region of Puglia, the ancient Apulia. There is nothing like them anywhere in the world. These constructions are commonly called “trulli di Alberobello”, but they can also be found in other Apulian locations: Locorotondo, Fasano, Ostuni, Martina Franca, and others. Travel in Italy offers an excellent accommodation near Ostuni!
But the largest number of these conical marvels is concentrated in Alberobello, a small town that looks like a fairy tale place. Alberobello was built on top of a hill surrounded by almond groves and olive trees, and its name means “beautiful tree.” Such is the extraordinary appearance and magic beauty of these mysterious rural constructions that in 1996 UNESCO declared the Alberobello area a Patrimony of Humanity. Since then the interest in these particular dwellings has enormously increased, causing tourists from all over the world to flock to admire them, and even buy them and live in them.
The origins of the “trulli” are unknown. According to some theories, they date back five thousand years. But other historians date them back to the fifteenth century, and claim that their peculiar shape arose as a tax evasion ruse. In feudal times, anyone erecting a dwelling on the King’s land had to pay a tax. The inhabitants of Puglia devised the dry-stone “trullo” as a way to evade taxes. At the first notice of the tax collector’s arrival, the “trulli” were rapidly dismantled, moved and rebuilt again afterwards.
The “trulli” have been called “living stones” because they contain and embrace the lives of their inhabitants. Traditionally, each “trullo” consists of one vast round room only with one entrance door. Once in a while, you see a conglomeration of three, four or five “trulli” interconnected among themselves. But that is rare. The circular space within one “trullo” contains the kitchen, the bedroom, the storeroom and, in the old times, even the animal shelter. More space is eaked out from the thick walls, where some recesses are dug out for sleeping areas, which are hidden by courtains.
The restored, modernized “trulli” now have bathrooms and bathroom doors, of course. The simple, sturdy furniture is generally handmade by local craftsmen, and made mostly of olive wood. The hearth is the source of heat in the winter, and for this reason there is a flue in the ceiling. Puglia is a fairly hot southern region, and in the summer the stones protect one from the hot sun. In the winter the thickness of the walls keep the warmth inside.
The “trulli” remind one of houses you see in the Greek islands, or on the Southern Italian Aeolian islands. The whiteness that pervades the towns and villages is refreshing to the eye and to the mind. I encourage everyone to visit Puglia, to see not only the “trulli” of Alberobello, but also other architectural marvels of this ancient land and its scenic coastline.
The “trulli” have been internationally recognized for the magical buildings they are. And the region that created them, Puglia, enchants visitors with its simple and arcane architecture. The British and Germans especially find the region delightful. Many have bought abandoned and dilapidated “trulli” and have remodeled them to use them as a summerhouse.