It’s no secret that Italy is home to some seriously breathtaking architecture. From the colourful facades of Venice to the old stone farmhouses of Tuscany, every region has its own distinct flavour and it’s what gives the areas such a unique character. But there’s one town in Italy where the houses are unlike anything else in the country. Cone-shaped, pointy and downright adorable – today I’ll be taking a look at the amazing trulli houses of Alberobello, Italy!
The deep south of Italy is a veritable treasure trove. Breathtaking coastlines, historic towns – it goes without saying that you’ll be head over heels in love as soon as you set foot in the region. But in Puglia in particular there’s something unique that really sets them apart. Perhaps you’ve seen them before – these little white-washed houses with their cone-shaped roofs. Calledtrulli in Italian, these iconic little houses bring flocks of visitors who dream of strolling through these unbelievably idyllic scenes. Today I thought I’d take a closer look at what makes these humble little abodes so magical, and shine a little spotlight on this otherwise overlooked part of the country!
A trullo (plural: trulli) is a very special style of house, with a very special history. Found only in the region of Puglia, these conical houses have long been used for housing, storage and shelter by the local people. The name actually derives from the Greek word troulos, which means dome or cupola. A variety of legends surrounds the origin of the humble trullo. Even to this day no-one really knows where they come from or why they started being built, but archaeological discoveries in the region suggest that trulli can even be traced all the way back to the Bronze Age.
The geology of Puglia itself meant that there was always an abundance of limestone to be used in construction. The region is a karst formation, meaning that any rain water that falls quickly drains away into bedrock below. With no bodies of water on the surface such as lakes and ponds, it would be hard for anyone living here to have enough water on hand. The solution that the locals came up with was to dig cisterns into the bedrock that would store the rainwater needed for day-to-day life.
The leftover rock from the cistern dig sites was then used to build trulli, traditionally constructed without mortar much like our own dry stone walls we see in the countryside. You could think of the walls of a trulli like an onion, with layers of rock roughly cut to different sizes and cleverly stacked together on top of the bedrock itself. It might not look like it, but trulli are in fact incredibly sturdy structures. They’re even completely waterproof and the thickness of the walls mean that the houses stay nice and cool in the summer, where temperatures stay well within the 30s.
One thing in particular that I love about trulli are the distinctive pinnacles – they’re those white bits of stone that protrude from the top of the conical roof. There are many different shapes and sizes of pinnacle, incorporating different forms such as spheres, squares or even stars. The expert trullisti, stonemasons who specialise in building trulli, would essentially use pinnacles as a sort of signature, so you could see exactly who built which house. Isn’t that just fascinating?
You might also notice that some houses have symbols painted on the roofs as well. Many of these are religious symbols, thought to bring good luck to the household living there. Take the heart with the arrow through it for instance. It’s not a homage to Cupid, but instead a representation of Our Lady of Sorrows, or Santa Maria Addolorata in Italian. You’ll also spot a dove which represents peace and the Holy Spirit, crosses, and the initials of various Christian saints.
Alberobello is considered by many to be the trulli capital of Puglia. The famous Monti Quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one the most extensive trulli neighbourhood of all, where an estimated 1,030 of them still exist today. But Alberobello is by no means the only place where you’ll find them. In fact they’re spread all across the Itria Valley, peppered across the provinces of Taranto, Bari and Brindisi. Simply keep your eyes peeled as you’re travelling around the region and you’ll be bound to find some!
Getting to Alberobello
If you’re dreaming of seeing the trulli, then you’ll be glad to know that it’s very straight forward to get to Alberobello from the UK! The closest airports to Alberobello are Bari and Brindisi, both of them being just an hour away by car. There are loads of low-cost flights going direct to both airports from London, Liverpool and Manchester. Once you’ve landed, there are trains that can bring you from Bari to Alberobello. The journey takes around an hour, but amazingly it costs just under €5 each way – very handy if you’re looking to save on pennies.
However, hiring a car is definitely the way to go when you’re in Puglia. Since it’s quite a rural region there is a seemingly endless amount of beautiful towns and villages that are very much off the beaten path that you might otherwise miss. Being able to cruise through the wonderful countryside and drive along the coast is just an unbeatable feeling! I recommend checking out Ostuni, a city with many bars and restaurants for you to choose from. A market is held every Saturday which boasts a wealth of local produce. Martina Franca is also another must-see in the area. It features the typical whitewashed architecture with generous amounts of beautiful Baroque ornamentation and design.
To help you plan your own adventures to Puglia, I’ve included some handy links where you can compare cheap flights to Puglia as well as cheap car rental.
There are many trulli in Puglia that can be rented out as holiday accommodation. They can range in size from a humble two-cone cottage to sprawling villas, so whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway to Italy or a luxury group holiday, you’ll be bound to find something to suit you. I’ve gone ahead and put together some of my absolute favourite trulli – you might get a bit of house envy just looking at them!
Spacious trullo in Ostuni
This beautiful trullo is situated just a few kilometres away from the centre of Ostuni, set in a tranquil corner of the countryside where guests will be able to unwind and relax. The building dates back 300 years and the 4 acres of land feature amazing olive groves. There’s space for up to 6 guests, spread across 3 bedrooms – you’ll also find a spacious kitchen and a cosy living room, but you’ll more than likely be spending most of your time chilling in the garden. Kick back in the hammock with a good book, or simply crack open a nice bottle of wine with your nearest and dearest and enjoy the magical Mediterranean atmosphere.
If you’re looking for a holiday with friends or family that comes with a healthy dose of wow factor along with it, this stunning trulli mansion will do the trick just nicely. Situated in a peaceful area just outside of Alberobello, this 3-bedroom mansion is the perfect place to go for a proper retreat. Outside you’ll find a lush pool complete with a hydromassage facilities and a beautiful seating area where you’ll be able to simply enjoy the peaceful and secluded atmosphere. Since the mansion is an elevated location, you’ll even be able to enjoy views of Alberobello’s trulli in their full splendour.
Another property that’s more on the luxurious side, but I think you can all agree that it’s an absolute beauty. From its beautiful location high up in the hills, you’ll be able to enjoy some truly stunning vistas as the sun slowly sets on the horizon. I absolutely love the little pool built with the dry stone walls – it definitely adds an extra bit of that rustic, country charm to a property that’s already bursting with character. Again this trullo has space for up to 6 guests, spread across 3 bedrooms.
Writing this article has got me wanting to just hop on the next flight over to Bari and enjoy my own little retreat in one of these wonderful little trulli. If all of this wasn’t romantic or charming enough for you, then here are some other magazine articles I’ve written which take a closer look at some of the most beautiful regions in Italy.