Puglia’s most iconic image is the trulli, unique huts with conical roofs that you find scattered amongst the olive groves all over the Valle d’Itria in southern Italy. These strange limestone dwellings look like somewhere a hobbit might reside and there’s nothing else like them anywhere in the world.
The trulli are built using drywall construction, a prehistoric building technique that is still used in the region today. Instead of using mortar the stones are layered on top of each other. Puglia is made of limestone bedrock so it was easy to find building materials—the boulders were collected from fields.
The origins of the trulli are debatable but one of the beliefs is that they were an elaborate form of tax evasion. In the mid 14th century the Count of Conversano was given some uninhabited land as a reward for his services in the Crusades. He colonised the land, bringing in peasants from other areas and allowing them to build these simple stone huts. The Count didn’t want the authorities to know that a village existed here so he could avoid paying taxes. If anyone came to investigate the villagers would remove the key stone, the trulli would collapse and they’d flee to the surrounding countryside. It would take them six months to rebuild again. This crazy practice continued for 300 years until 1797 when it became an official town.
You can find trulli all over the countryside in various states of disrepair, some derelict and beginning to be absorbed back into the limestone earth, others restored to their former glory and now used to house tourists. The biggest concentration is in Alberobello, a whole town made of 1500 trulli and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Alberobello is Puglia’s most touristy town and many of the trulli are now souvenir shops selling miniature trulli and local produce, but it’s still an enchanting place.
We stayed in a trullo at Masseria Ferri, a working farm in the countryside between Martina Franca and Ostuni which we think is the best way to experience the area.
When you visit Puglia don’t miss seeing the unique trulli both in Alberobello and amongst the olive trees in the Valle d’Itria countryside. They are one of the things that make the region special.
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