Alberobello trullo


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To be eligible to become a World Heritage site, at least one of the ten requirements outlined by the committee must be met. Alberobello meets multiple requirements, including “to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change”.  

The trulli of modern day Alberoblello is once again a thriving community. photo by Pululante

The earliest records of the existence of Alberobello date back to the 16th century. The small settlement, located in a clearing inside a wooded area in the county of modern day Bari, takes its name from its location.  Alberobello, meaning “beautiful tree”, started off small with just a few families. As time passed, the trees were cleared to make space for the growing village.  There are different theories on why trulli were the housing of choice in the area and eventually spread throughout Puglia (Apulia). But, a very likely theory is that building these stone homes was both convenient due to the plentiful limestone, as well as a way to avoid paying property taxes. Farmers needed to remove the stones from their fields in order to work the land and grow crops. The plentiful limestone was essentially free building material, and many farmers built little trulli sheds for storage and shelter from the elements. Some also say that these stone structures could easily be dismantled before the arrival of tax collectors, while other sources say that the fact that mortar was not used meant that they were not characterized as homes.

Example of the small trulli sheds used by farmers for storage and shelter. photo by Patrick Denker

Detail of the stones used to build Italian trulli. Mortar was not used during the original construction, however over time plaster or cement has been added to some trulli to strengthen and protect the crumbling, centuries old buildings. photo by Tatinax

Whatever the truth behind the origin of the trullo and Alberobello, it is clear to see that they are a unique and special part of local Pugliese (Apulian) culture, and therefore an important part of Italian as well as western history. In recent years, people have begun to renew their appreciation for the trulli of Puglia. Moving back into Alberobello, which now has more than 10,000 inhabitants, and restoring the trulli scattered all around Puglia. Some trulli have become everyday homes, other have become holiday homes, and some have even been incorporated into restaurants or part of hotels and B&Bs. Rooms have been added, cisterns converted into pools for underground spas, as well as other modern day conveniences and necessities. Although these modern additions are being made, the authenticity and rustic charm of the original Italian trulli are always the centerpiece of the restoration, seamlessly bridging the gap between old world and present day Italy.

Restored trullo interior.

Tourists visiting the trulli of Alberobello.


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