Alberobello has such an evocative name that seems to be ripped off from one of Tolkien’s novels. Perched on a 300 meters hill, Alberobello is a very unique town: a giant labyrinth made up of more than 1,400 trulli buildings that look like Smurf houses. It appears from above as a mushroom farm with a remarkable and amazing set, a real cartoonish decor, which is all the rage among Japanese manga enthusiasts and British honeymooners alike. Ranked for several years as World Heritage by UNESCO, the town is very lively and offers many cultural and sports activities. Nothing but an open-air museum and a fantastic destination for a memorable holiday in the heart of charming scenery, only 15 minutes from the splendid virgin beaches of Puglia ‒ Alberobello is a place to visit at least once in a lifetime.
Historians are not unanimous in regard with the etymology of the name “Alberobello”. According to some, the name refers to the presence of a large oak tree nearby; others argue it comes from Sylva Arboris Belli (the tree of war forest). For a long time it was believed that the final part of the name “bello” was derived from the Latin bellum/war, i,e: The Tree of War or the Oak of War; yet this hypothesis is being discarded in favor of the more marketable and tourist-friendly “the Beautiful Tree”, opting for the suffix bella/beautiful.
The shaky beginnings of Alberoobello
In 1654, Ferdinand of Aragon, King of Naples, gave Count of Conversano Acquaviva the stronghold of Sylva Arboris Belli (in return for past services). The king, however, attached to the decision a ban: the donation of the land was restricted by a prohibition to build fixed dwellings. Wanting nevertheless to benefit from the work of the local workforce, the count then asked the farmers and shepherds to build rudimentary shelters that can be quickly dismantled in the event of a royal inspection. People therefore, to build their houses, used the traditional technique of dry stone with limestone collected from neighboring fields. Had the arrival of royal inspectors been signaled, this construction technique, without any kind mortar, allowed them to immediately destroy the homes by attaching a rope around the pinnacle and pulling it with horses. Legend has it that they could remove the roofs in no time to avoid the payment of tax.
Trullis were born
Came May 27th, 1797, King Ferdinand IV of Bourbon finally abolished the decree prohibiting the inhabitants of Alberobello from building houses. Nevertheless, villagers continued to maintain existing trullis and building new ones using the same technique, becoming sure-handed builders. The houses were built on the western hill of Alberobello, divided into two districts. Rione Monti, in the north, has more than 1000 trullis, while the district of Aia Piccola, in the south, counts about 500. Most often, the trullis (probably from the Latin turrula, small tower) consists of a unique living space with a door but no windows; the adjoining trulli used to build houses of several rooms, each of which has its own conical roof built using slates arranged in concentric layers. In the center, the last stone circle is covered with a pinnacle that ends in the top of the roof covering. To provide better insulation against heat and cold, the inhabitants of Alberobello amounted double wall whose inner walls are separated by a vacuum. The trullis are of a very traditional design that has since proliferated in the whole Apulia region. Some of the most basic forms of trullis have been used to provide shade in the olive groves; they are regularly whitewashed and the facade decorated with various patterns.
HOW LONG TO STAY?
It would be a shame not to stay more than a weekend in Alberobello, because it would be impossible to discover all its historical, cultural and traditional dimensions. A week-long stay is great if you want to delve into its mysteries and treasures. However, it is advisable to stay two weeks or more to spare some time to the Puglia region and its natural wonders: coves, turquoise water beaches, countless hiking trails that leave you with unforgettable memories. Note also that the Alberobello is very close to Bari, capital of Puglia: so staying in Alberobello is a unique opportunity to discover this cosmopolitan city with cultural heritage from all over Europe.
WERE TO STAY?
The Alcove-Luxury Resort nei Trulli (from 151 €/night)
A romantic 4-star hotel in Alberobello, a few steps from the Territorial Museum of Casa Pezzolla and other museums, the Alcove-Luxury might interest you. In addition to the complimentary breakfast buffet, this hotel offers Wi-Fi free internet access and free parking. The reception is open 24 hours per day and its multilingual staff offer necessary assistance.
Charming Trulli (from 126 €/night)
Only 08 minutes walk from Trullo Sovrano, Territorial Museum of Casa Pezzolla and the Olive Oil Museum, the charming Charming Trulli is an apartments hotel in the quarter of Trulli Alberobello. It offers apartments that will guarantee you a comfortable stay. Amenities include a ceiling fan, kitchenettes and cookware, dishes and utensils.
Tipico Resort (from 102 €/night)
Check the cosy Tipico Resort which has comfortable and air-conditioned 17 rooms with private bathroom, free internet Wi-Fi access and daily maid service. It also offers continental breakfast daily, bicycle rentals, allows pets and more.
Trulli Holliday (from 59 €/night)
Located in the center of Alberobello, within minutes walk from Trullo Sovrano and all the main museums, the Trulli Holiday is a very practical choice for families who have a wide selection of beautiful cottages.
Hotel Airone (from 40 €/night)
This hotel is a recently built property (renovated in 2012) offers impeccable service and spacious, fully equipped rooms. While staying at the hotel Airone, a delicious breakfast will be served at the bar and you can relax in the TV lounge, organizing your daily tours. Small room with games will also be available in case you bring children. Reception is open from 7:00 am to midnight and offers various services, including fax, luggage storage, safety deposit box and newspapers. Bicycles are free for guests and pets are welcome.
WERE TO GO?
Casa Pezzolla Territory Museum
Housed in an eighteenth century trulli, the Territory museum was born of the desire to preserve and tell the regional history, especially after the inclusion of the city in the World Heritage by UNESCO in 1996. The museum exhibits a variety of tools and pieces as well as many testimonials on the traditions and local folklore; it also hosts exhibitions of figurative arts.
The Basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano
It was built in 1882 in a neoclassical style, on the foundations of an old chapel of the twelfth century by the architect Antonio Curri. It hosts the relics of the two eponymous saints and protectors of the city. There are also beautiful statues of saints in period costumes and a magnificent painting of the Last Supper.
The Trullo Sovrano, built in the twelfth century by the Perta family, is the largest trulli of Alberobello, with two floors and a dozen pieces. Furnished, it gives you a glimpse of life that took place there. During the summer many cultural events are organized there: Jazz concerts, orchestras and theater. It is easily distinguished from other typical trullis because of its size; make sure to bring your camera to take some interesting pictures.
The square of Largo Martellotta is the starting point towards the trulli lanes and offers a magnificent panorama of these conical roofs buildings. From there you can easily reach any of the countless attractions, hotels, bars, gift shops and more.
Church of St. Anthony
St. Anthony’s church, cross-shaped, was built in 1926 by one of the last master architects of trulli art, at the request of priest Antonio Lippolis. Built of stone and topped with a 21 meters trulli-shaped dome, it reproduces the architectural features of the city. The resurrection of this architectural style was considered outdated at the time and had been widely criticized.
Albea Wine Museum
Visit Albea winery, the oldest in Puglia, built in 900, before entering the adjacent wine museum. It aims to preserve the art of wine tasting and make you discover the regional viniculture, history and traditions, local tools and wines.
- Location: Alberobello is located in the Apulia region in southern Italy.
- Weather: very mild spring, hot summer, mild autumn and winter.
- Trullis: they are built without any mortar. Most trullis are the ancestral homes of the local population, but there are also some that are used as commercial establishments such as restaurants, cafés, bars and gift shops.
- Local cuisine: Mediterranean. Try the orecchietteaux cime di rapa (a typical vegetable of the southern peninsula whose flavor resembles that of broccoli).
- Local wines: Castel del Monte, Negroamaro
- Activity: The main tourist activity in Alberobello is to wander through the trullis. Get lost in the trulli-lined streets, enjoy nature and discover the history of Puglia.