The unique and unusual ‘trulli’ of Alberobello were a sight to behold. Wandering around these remarkably unconventional dwellings, one can only be curious as to how they came about. What did the strange symbols on their roofs mean and why were the white pinnacles on the top different shapes? We were certainly taking a step back into history in this extraordinary town.
Parking the Van in Alberobello, Italy
We had luckily researched ahead and knew that parking the campervan would be difficult in the centre of town. We found a Campercontact stop in the town which we could also overnight in. It had electric and rubbish disposal but no other facilities and was very convenient to the town, which was only a five-minute walk away.
The History of Alberobello
Trulli originated in this area from around the 15th Century. They are made of dry-stone walls consisting of limestone, which is abundant in the region.
Originally, the trulli were built ‘a secco’, meaning ‘without mortar’. This made them easy to demolish and knock down quickly. An unusual requirement of a home it would seem, but there was method to this madness! The resident Count in the area wanted to avoid paying settlement taxes to the King of Naples. Therefore he ordered the houses to be built only with dry stones and demolished if there was a royal inspection!
In 1797, the town gained independence. Henceforth, mortar was used and the dwellings became permanent fixtures in the area.
The name ‘trullo’ originates from the Greek word, ‘Tholos’ meaning ‘dome’. The building consists mainly of one main room under the dome, with sometimes two alcoves either side.
On the top of the cone-shaped roof is a decorative handmade, sandstone pinnacle. They come in different designs and are apparently, trademarks of the stonemason who built the trullo.
The white symbols painted on many of the roofs add to the exotic appearance of these intriguing dwellings. There are a multitude of varying designs, including a sun, moon, love hearts and other pagan like symbols. It is believed that some of these were of religious significance whilst others had astrological or mystical meanings. The purpose of the symbols being to ward off demons and to bring good luck to the inhabitants.
The white washed walls at the front of the trulli seemed reminiscent of the Cyclades bright, white buildings we recently experienced in Santorini, Greece. There, the bright blue domes paired with the white walls alluded to a crisp, more modern feel. However, the grey stone conical roofs of the trulli here in Alberobello, exude an ancient and mysterious air about them.
In Alberobello, there are two main parts of the town which house the majority of the trulli; Rione Monti and Aia Piccola.
Rione Monti Area of Alberobello
The more touristic side of Alberobello, Rione Monti, is located in the southern hill of the town. Here you will find the majority of the restaurants and bars. You can also buy a selection of gastronomical delights and local artisan products. I had read that the traders were quite pushy here, but we did not experience that at all.
At the top of the hill in Rione Monti, we came to the Church of St.Antonio, built in 1926. The dome is shaped like a trullo and is the only church like it. The church was impressive but there was also a beautiful quaint building to the right that may have been linked to the church, which was equally enthralling.
Aia Piccola Area of Alberobella
Wandering in the little streets of this ancient part of the town, where about 1300 people still live in the trulli, you really get a sense of the idea of a ‘compact home’. Perhaps minimalism isn’t such a new idea after all and it is just a return to the way things used to be.
These tiny hobbit-like homes were captivating. They transported you into a real life fantasy world full of mystery and magic.
We have seen so many wonderful places in our ‘year in the van’ travels throughout Europe, but Alberobello and its trulli will stand out as something very unique and amazing.
After finishing my Law Degree I decided to become a teacher. I am passionate about teaching, learning and most of all, about inspiring others. Now, as a writer and blogger, I love sharing our travels and our musings on life’s journey. I hope, through these, we can play a part in inspiring you to do whatever ‘satisfies your soul’.