Alberobello, Italy

Alberobello’s picturesque white-washed trulli, dating from the 15th century, are a sight to behold.

The unique Trulli of Alberobello are, to be expected, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A trullo (trulli is plural) is a traditional dry stone hut with a conical roof and their style of construction is specific to the Italian region of Puglia/Apulia.

Alberobello is considered the cultural capital of the region because it has the largest concentration of trulli. Countless huts can be spotted, however in surrounding towns and districts.

Alberobello, population 10,000, is a one-of-a-kind and exceptionally pretty small medieval town located just an hour south, by car, of Bari. We elected to take the 2½ hour scenic train to visit this quaint corner of Italy.

In one of the town’s oldest and most picturesque neighborhoods there are 400 trulli along 8 streets; the majority are occupied private homes. The town is enchanting to roam through but when you are armed with a little history it makes exploring Alberobello’s narrow streets that much more enticing.

A typical trullo has thick walls and can be built with either a round or square base. Trullo are typically built as rural buildings meant to serve as field shelters and storehouses. Alberobello is unique because the trulli became homes for the local population.

The origins of Alberobello date back to the end of the 15th century and are linked to a royal decree which required every new settlement to pay taxes to the Spanish viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples.

In 1481 the Counts of Acquaviva offered immunity to peasant families to settle and cultivate the land in Alberobello. The peasants were instructed to build their homes with dry stone and without the use of mortar. They would begin by digging an underground cistern ensuring that their dwelling had its own water supply. The roof of the cistern would be the floor of the house and the rocks recovered from the excavation were used to construct the walls. Having only the ability to use stones, the peasants learned to build round or square shapes with a self-supporting domed roof. It was the simplest and most practical design.

The Counts knew that taxes due on lands with no permanent settlers were far less than those with, so whenever the tax collector was headed in their direction, they would order the peasants to disassemble their trulli, remove their personal belongings and then send the peasants off to hide in the forest. The Counts would claim to the tax collector that any parts of the structures that remained were used strictly for animals and storage and that they had no settlers, thereby minimizing the tax bill.

Alberobello residents remained trapped under their feudal lords for 300 years until in 1797, King Ferdinand IV of Bourbon freed the small village from the Counts. After the peasants gained their freedom they would continue however, to build their homes in the traditional trullo style.

A trullo usually is a single-storey small building and there are a rare few two-story trulli in town. Apparently it is also much easier to construct several small trulli than one big one which is why we saw many trulli ‘groupings’ where the roofs look like they have melted into each other.
Large families in Alberobello would not live in a single trullo, but rather in trulli groupings.

Today’s residential trulli are whitewashed and their roofs are often decorated with good luck or religious symbols. The design of the spire can be significant too as it shows the builders’ skill and the wealth and prestige of the owner. These delightful structures are still being built today and are used as both residential and vacation homes.

Trullo Sovrano

Sovrano in Italian means King or Ruler of the Valley and this impressive cone-shaped building is located in the historic center of Alberobello. Trullo Sovrano, built in the 18th century, is the largest in town and the only one with a second floor, reachable by a 23-step masonry staircase. It is among the first to be built using mortar. The conical dome, which stands 45 feet (14 meters) high, towers over the neighboring cones.

Trullo Sovrano today is a museum, furnished with period pieces and, we thought, a fascinating visit.

Inside the Trullo Sovrano

The original part of the building can be traced back to the early 1600s, whereas the expansion and 2nd story was constructed in the first half of the 1700s on behalf of the wealthy family of a local priest.

A peep hole next to the door allowed residents to inspect their visitors, and according to the information posted, to shoot at any unwelcome brigands.😳

Trullo Sovrano

Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano

The neoclassical style of the Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian, also called Basilica of the Medical Saints of Alberobello, was built in 1885.

Basilica of Cosmas and Damian

It contains the relics of Saints Cosmas and Damian, twin brothers who lived in the 3rd century CE in Asia Minor (now Turkey). Both were physicians who treated rich and poor alike, asking for no compensation and who preached the Christian gospel. They were martyred for their faith by the Emperor Diocletian.

Basilica of Cosmas and Damian

The church, pictured below, is the pretty Sant’Antonio di Padova Church in Alberobello. It claims to be the only trullo church in the world.

Sant’Antonio di Padova Church

Alberobello has more than 1600 beautiful white trulli to enjoy and photograph. The streets were sparkling clean and we received a warm welcome from every resident we interacted with. We visited in mid January so the town, besides ourselves, had only the occasional tourist.

Saluti from these Alberobellesi,

Ted + Julia

View our Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian photo album here

View our Trullo Sovrano photo album here

View the Rest of Alberobello photo album here

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