Trulli touring in Alberobello


The main street of Alberobello looks like something out of Grimms’ "Fairy Tales." When we first saw its trulli on a gray January day, I expected hunched gnomes in Transylvanian gear to emerge from the hundreds of squat, conical roofed buildings lining Monti Piccola.

It has a merrier aspect in mid-May, with the limestone-roofed, whitewashed huts offering a blinding panorama in the noonday sun. Inside the clustered commercial buildings you’ll find wine shops and candy stores, fruit vendors and laundries. They’re cute, but cramped, leading many merchants to display their wares outdoors.

Once you get over the visual oddity that is this World Heritage site, you can’t help but ask "why?" And there’s a good answer – trulli were a 16th Century tax dodge, erected by farmers averse to paying the local aristocracy’s fee for building a house. So they built the cottages with no mortar between the stones and essentially created removable roofs, easily disassembled and hidden when the tax collector came around.

Most are tepee-sized, but people still use them, and in fact, still build them. They’re businesses, store houses and homes, even if you have to duck as you pass through doorways (O.K, Don had to.) Alberobellians are very proud of Trullo Sovrano, the only two-story trullo in town, but only one of the 12 buildings has a second story and it seems to have been used primarily for secretly storing grain.

Don’s assessment? “A prosperous tourist trap.”

Mine? Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Should you find yourself there at lunchtime, try Gli Ulivi. Don enjoyed grilled lamb, and I appreciated the tasty seafood pasta.

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