As their white walls sparkle against the blue sky, trulli have become an attractive backdrop for that quintessential Italian Instagrammable moment in Puglia.
Trulli - or trullo when you’re talking about just one dwelling - were initially built to provide temporary field shelters and storehouses. Over time they also became permanent dwellings for agricultural families and labourers of smallholdings. The simple traditional lime whitewash that decorates the trulli’s exterior complements the local geology and pastoral landscapes.
To protect against the elements and balance the temperature all year round, the trulli walls are incredibly thick, made up of a double skin filled with rubble. Similarly, the doorways and windows are small.
These iconic rural dwellings began appearing as early as the 14th century, and their popularity originated because of a 15th century decree that made urban settlers pay taxes to the crown under feudal rule. If the king’s inspectors came collecting, the villagers could easily demolish these inexpensive buildings into a pile of stones and hide in the forest, and then rebuild them once they’d gone.
However, it was in the mid-18th and 19th century, brought on by an emerging winemaking scene, when many of these structures first appeared in the little town of Alberobello.
These circular living spaces come with alcoves for storing things, and an internal fireplace. The unusual conical roofs are built from a layering of limestone slabs called chianche that sit directly atop the walls, and taper to a point or sphere called a pinnacolo. These pinnacles are not only hand-carved, but selected for their spiritual or proprietary symbolism, and some roofs also have esoteric markings.
You’ll find the distinctive cone-shaped trulli all across the sunkissed Itria Valley, but the best-preserved examples remain in Alberobello, which boasts over 1,5000 trulli and dominates three-quarters of the quaint town’s architecture, of which 30% are used solely for residential use. Today, trulli are on the UNESCO World Heritage list and protected - they cannot be modified without a trullaro, a master craftsman.
Head to the neighbourhoods of Monti and Aja Piccola in Alberobello for the largest concentration of authentic trullis. Don’t miss these exemplary trulli, some of which have been declared national monuments!
• Trullo Sovrano, a rare two-storey trullo with a backyard
• Casa d’Amore, today the town’s tourist information centre
• Museo Storico, a local heritage museum
• Rione Aia Piccola, a pretty collection of trulli
• Parrocchia Sant'Antonio di Padova, the only trulli church of its kind
• Trulli Gemelli, two conjoined twin trulli
• Trulli Soave, where you can enjoy a stay in one of five trullo!
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