Even if it isn’t known exactly when people first began constructing trulli, it is known that they existed before the 16th century when evidence of trulli was first documented. Ancient rural families had to use the natural resources available to build homes, shelters, and storage sheds in a practical and efficient way. A trullo is an excellent example of this because they were constructed out of the stone cleared from fields to be used as farmland or stone excavated during the digging of cisterns.
By digging a cistern, a private water supply was created for the family.
The reinforced walls and ceiling of the cistern became the foundation of the above trullo house. Although not all trulli feature a conical roof, this is the typical form of a trullo found central and northern Puglia. The entire structure was made from two layers of stone, fitted to and stacked together in a sort of jigsaw pattern. The space between the inner and outer layers was filled with small rocks, creating a solid and sturdy structure. The roof was made of flat stones staggered like the tiles of a shingled roof, which kept water both from getting inside and allowed it to easily slide off the structure.
Although many trulli now feature plastered walls or have been repaired with cement to hold the stones together, originally trulli were constructed without any sort of mortar. Some argue that this was because it allowed people to dismantle the building when word had spread that a tax collector was on his way to come collect property taxes. Others argue that the fact that no mortar was used meant that a trullo was not classified as a home and therefore the owner was automatically exempt from property taxes.
Whatever the reason(s) behind the popularity of the trullo over the centuries, it’s clear to see that trulli were an important part of southern Italian life. Although the trullo fell out of favor in more recent decades, with people choosing to live in larger towns or cities in more modern homes, there has been a resurgence in the appreciation for the trullo in recent years. People have begun restoring trulli and incorporating them into more modern structures, making the trullo a functional and important part of contemporary life once again.