Sunday, April 8, 2012


Continuing stories of travels in Puglia
Trulli in Alberobello
From Otranto, I traveled north again, to Alberobello, home of the trulli. First, I went back to Lecce, caught a train to Martina Franca, and then another to Alberobello. (However, if one is coming from Bari, it's a quick train ride to this tourist site.) Along the way,  I passed many fields covered with yellow and orange flowers, more seas of olive trees, and the ever present stones, which are handy for building fences and, well, all those trulli. I also caught a glimpse of Locorotondo, another hill town I hoped to visit.

Fields of flowers were a common sight in Puglia.
Once I arrived in the village, I had a short walk to Hotel Lanzilotta, located in the heart of the centro storico. From Martina Franca on, trulli dotted the landscape: small, circular stone buildings with conical roofs that were once a common living space in this area of Puglia, starting in the 18th century. Now most trulli are used for selling souvenirs or as tourist lodging. 

A park area in Piazza del Popolo, near my hotel. Note the way they trim the trees into a rectangle!
Though trulli are scattered throughout the Murge area of Puglia, most are concentrated in Alberobello, and it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Since that time, the cost of owning and repairing the trulli has sky-rocketed. There are over 1500 trulli in Alberobello and many stories exist as to why they are shaped as they are. Early trulli were made without mortar, and legend has it that they were easy to assemble and disassemble, to avoid the taxman. But after seeing them up close, it's clear that it would be no easy task to move a trullo. A more accurate explanation may be that the trulli were built to look like temporary buildings, with small doors and few windows, so that they would not be considered permanent structures that functioned as homes, thus avoiding the wary eyes of tax inspectors.
The town of Alberobello caters to tourism in a big way, and the Rione Monti, an area where there are nearly 1,000 trulli, seems a bit slick and commercial. Trulli are well-taken care of, and goods are sold in every trullo along the main streets. Since many of the same goods were available in each one, the owners were active in trying to attract people to their spot. Some offered free wine and liqueur tastings, or nibbles of various snacks. In particular, taralli, which are like small, thick pretzels without the salt, are a popular Pugliese snack food. I enjoyed trying the various liqueurs, and bought a small bottle shaped like trullo that contains an almond liqueur.
Shopping amidst the trulli
In one trullo, I chatted with the owner, who had lived in the building as a child, and he hopes to make it into a B&B when he retires in a few years. There were many Japanese tour groups in town while I was there, and several of them stayed at my hotel. Alberobello is popular with Japanese tourists, perhaps because it has a link to the UNESCO site in Shirakawa, Japan, home of another type of unusually built traditional house.

Souvenirs for sale
I made a point of going to several museums that explained the history of the Trulli, which I found of great interest. (Museo del Territorio, and the Trullo Sovrano, which is the only one with two stories.) I was surprised how spacious some of the trulli are inside, and how families of 6-8 people made good use of the space.  I also learned about the pinnacles on top of each trullo, and the meanings of the symbols painted on many of them. Some symbols date from pagan times, some are considered magical, and others are Christian pleas for protection.
Interior of a Trulli home (museum recreation)
The Rione Aia Piccola part of town has fewer trulli, but most of them are still lived in. I came across a newly constructed trullo that was not quite finished, made from lovely amber stones.

I'd love to see the inside!
While having dinner one night,  I met a woman from Reno, Nevada who is traveling by herself in Italy for three months. What's unusual is that she's 65, has never been abroad before, doesn't know anyone in Italy, and doesn't speak Italian. Gutsy! And she must have money to afford 3 months of hotels and eating out. I was impressed with her gumption. Brava!

An older, more authentic trullo.
I never made it to Locorotondo, which was only 10 minutes away, as there were no trains on Sunday to take me there. I could have taken a bus in the morning, and returned later that day, but there was still too much to see in Alberobello to risk spending the entire day in Locorotondo. Chiss√†, perhaps I'll go there on my next visit to Puglia. But I'm glad I had the chance to visit Alberobello and learn about the trulli in more detail. 


Cathy said...

Lovely photos Marybeth, I would love the opportunity to visit Puglia one day. Thanks for sharing your time there.

marybeth said...

thanks, Cathy! Puglia is definitely worth seeing, and I'm sure I'll return to see more of it.