The Internet's most comprehensive Travel website for Italy
Use quote marks to search for exact names eg "Hotel Florence"

Trulli in Alberobello

A road near Alberobello

View of Alberobello

The Pinnacle
At the top of each roof is a decorative stone pinnacle. Some say their origins are drawn from ancient worship of the sun, which inspired people to imbed stones of odd shape, believing them to have fallen from the sun, in the walls of their buildings. Others say these pinnacles are the "signature" of the master builder who created the trullo to distinguish it from those constructed by another. Still others say they are of purely ornamental function.

Motifs and Symbols
Many trullo contain symbols white-washed onto the roof. The origins of these, too, is shrouded in some mystery, though they have been the subject of academic study. Whether of magical, Christian, or purely decorative significance, these symbols were considered a part of the trullo and were periodically repainted - a custom that continues today in many households.

Trulli were originally built without the use of mortar. Floors, walls, and roofs were crafted from the local limestone, which often lies just inches beneath the surface. Except for doors and windows and occasionally lintels, the only wood used in trulli construction is the tavalato, a wooden floor laid upon hand-hewn beams and reached by ladder, which forms an attic space that was used for storage and sometimes as sleeping space..

Exterior walls are laid in square or circular plan and from the walls springs the most visually striking feature of the trulli, their cone-shaped roofs. These are created by laying concentric circles of stone, each circle slightly larger than the following one. The horizontal friction between the carefully crafted and fitted stones, and the horizontal arch effect of each ring resisted the tendency of the roof to collapse inwards, thus allowing these massive roofs to be constructed without formwork. The roof is covered with thin slabs of stone "shingles", called "chiancarelle". Elaborate guttering systems are built into the roof to carry the water away from the building or into cisterns beneath or nearby the trullo.

Welcome to Alberobello
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 10,855 (2004)
Official site: Alberobello
Wikipedia: Alberobello
Map: Mapquest

Alberobello was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 and is now among the most famous and  frequently visited UNESCO sites in Italy.  As a result, Alberobello The town has increasingly become a  centre of mass tourism.  The primary reason for the UNESCO designation, and for the tourism, is a unique and very interesting architecture, called trulli, that is found in the town and its environs.

Trulli are pyramidal or conical-shaped  dwellings built of corbelled "chiancole" (overlapping limestone slabs) without the benefit of mortar.  The base and points of the buildings are always painted a pristine white, while the roofs are left their natural colour. The slabs used in the building were quarried from the surrounding territory, which is made largely of calcareous rock that has been stratified by millions of years of fast moving surface and ground water.  Alberobello is the only place in the world where these kinds of buildings are found.

Historians and archaeologists are not certain when trulli were first built.  The question is, were they an indigenous building method before the 16th century or were they invented at that time to satisfy a specific need?

During the 16th century, the area around Alberobello was part of a fiefdom ruled by the Counts of Conversano, a branch of the Acquaviva family.  During the preceding two centuries, farmers had settled on the Selva, a hilly wooded area, potentially subjecting the ruling family to a royal census tax.

During the mid 17th century, in order to curry favour from the King of Naples, after having been denounced and exposed by a competing family for having illegal settements on their lands, the  Conversano ordered the destruction of the existing buildings.  Later, however, the farmers were allowed to return and rebuild, but only on the condition that they build without mortar so their dwellings and other buildings could be quickly disassembled should the royal taxation officers decide to visit the area.

Looking at them from the point of view of the inhabitants, the trulli are, therefore, an ingenious human adaptation to the specific historical and geographical circumstances that obtained at the time.  From the Conversano's point of view, the prescribed method of building was an ingenious tax evasion scheme.

The precarious illegality of the villagers situation could not last, however.  So, in 1797, weary of their uncertain and illegal status, a delegation of villagers went to Taranto to seek the pardon from the Bourbon King, Ferdinand IV.  Pleased, with their "honesty", Ferdinand granted a royal decree, dated May 27th of that year, granting recognition and freedom to the village, which had grown considerably during the intervening time.

The Selva upon which the town of Alberobello sits, at about 420 meters above sea level, is actually two hills divided by an ancient, now dry riverbed.  The Roman's Latin name for the area was Silva Arboris Belli, or silver tree wood.

The trulli settlement is on the west hill, and the modern town on the east. The western side is itself divided into two historic quarters, the Monti and the Aia Piccola, both of which are designated national monuments.  Three other trulli style structures on the periphery, the Trullo Sovrano, the Casa D’Amore and the Casa Pezzolla are also designated.

Virtually all the trulli have been restored and renovated and are used as private habitation, hotels and B&Bs or public buildings.  Some of the structures have been renovated with very lavish interiors and glorious gardens - a very unique environment for the traveler who is looking for a special experience.

The countryside surrounding Alberobello, by hundreds of years of careful farming, has been rendered  into a highly productive agricultural area boasting olive and cherry orchards, vineyards and plantations of almond trees.  In medieval and later  times, the nearby forests yielded oak lumber which was valued in the larger cities, but deforestation has more or less put an end to this industry.  Today, tourism is the mainstay of the local economy.

One can see Alberobello in under a  day, but the town makes a wonderful  place to stay while one explores the  Itria Valley, a vast expanse of  territory with breathtaking scenery, and home to some of Italy's best olive oils, wines, and cheeses. 

Posted by Jesse Andrews on September 12th, 2006.

Puglia Region

40.46N   17.15E


Locorotondo -10 km:
Taranto - 48 km:
Brindisi - 74 km;
Matera - 65 km  Bari - 66 km;
Lecce - 112 km;
Foggia - 195 km
Pescara - 371 km


Hotel Trullidea

Grand Hotel Olimpo

Coat of Arms of Alberobello


It is against the law in Italy to build a replica of a Trullo


Tourist Information Office
Piazza Ferdinando IV, 74011 Alberobello (Bari)
Tel: 080 4325171