Alberobello: the Capital of Trulli

Alberobello, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, is a one stop place for all tourists, who want to give a look at the Capital of Trulli! The “Trulli” are dwellings, which used to be built centuries ago by peasants, who were working the lands of landlords. They are built with a technique, dating back to the prehistoric era.

The itinerary to discover the small roads and the most amazing corners of the town of the “Trulli”, with its monuments and museums, starts in Terrazzino Belvedere. Here, we can enjoy a beautiful view over the town centre, which is dominated by conical roofs (typical of the “Trulli”) with strange and mysterious signs painted on them. Standing here, we immediately have the feeling to be seeing a town unique in the world!

Our trip goes on with a walk around Rione Aia Piccola, so called because in the past the area was used to work the grain and where about 400 Trulli stand, most of them still used as houses. People from Alberobello are very warm and welcoming, so if you are lucky you may come across women preparing “Orecchiette” (the typical pasta with a ear shape) or men kneading stones, which are used to repair the Trulli and they will be glad to show you how they do all this.

In Rione Aia Piccola it is possible to visit the Museo dell’Artigianato dei Vecchi e dei Nuovi Mestieri, which is a museum, where you can admire all the tools that peasants and Apulian artisans used in the past to work. You can also stop by the Oil Museum, where you can see an original olive press and taste some olive oil, which distinguishes Apulia all over the world.

Again in the same Rione, stands Casa D’Amore, currently a UNESCO heritage monument, which represents the passage from the Trullo to a palace, soon after Alberobello was liberated from the feudal bonds of the Conversano family.

Last but not least, in Rione Aia Piccola, we suggest to give a look at the Basilica Minore, dedicated to the Saints Cosma and Damiano, and to the “Trullo Sovrano”, so called because of it majestic conical dome, 14 meters high and for being the most advanced example of a trullo on two floors

After this, you can move to Rione Monti, where about 1000 Trulli stand, mainly housing shops of craftsman and artisans, where you can buy some nice and typical souvenirs, like scarves made with ancient looms, handpainted potteries or handcrafted gold jewels

While walking through the alleys of Rione Monti, we suggest you to stop by some shops, because owners give you the possibility to have a look around and visit their Trullo. Obviously, they are doing this not only because they are generous and well mannered but also for commercial purposes; anyway they are not pushing people and nobody has never asked us to buy something. It is very interesting, because it’s like entering a free museum, where you can admire the structure and sometimes the old tools, which were found inside the Trulli.

Two more Trulli, which are nice to visit in Rione Monti are: Trullo Siamese and the inhabited Trullo, that you can both reach by walking along Via Monte Nero. The former is a twin Trullo, dating back to the 1400s, with 2 cone roofs joined together, which distinguishes the Trullo from all the others. Inside there are several rooms, once separated by a door. The latter is a inhabited Trullo, that the owner opens sometimes, so that you can see with your own eyes, how living in a Trullo is. The house is actually made of more than one Trullo, because what is under one cone is just one room..! Nowadays people have joined more Trulli in order to have more rooms and be able to comfortably live inside, but in the past people were living in the singe room and they were doing everything there. If you are lucky you can find inside the nice blonde lady, owner of the Trullo, and she will be pleased to tell you unique stories about the Trulli. As a matter of fact, she explained us the meanings of each symbol on the roofs and that people were probably living in just one room first of all for a matter of money, second because they were peasants, so they woke up with the sunrise, went to the countryside and spent the whole day working there, so they actually needed just a “shelter” to eat something at night and to sleep. The entrance to the house is free, but it’s kind and appreciated to leave a tip, since they are opening their house for you.

Last but not least, you can visit the unique Trullo-Church on Via Monte Pertica, dedicated to St. Antonio. It is quite a recent structure, since it was built in 1927, so it doesn’t have a special historical charm, but you’ll never have the chance to see such a church in the rest of the world, so we suggest you to go!

One day is more than enough to visit Alberobello, so you don’t need to book a hotel for a week, unless you want to live the experience to sleep inside a Trullo. Anyway, if you are in the area, you must stop by and you’ll never regret!

Alberobello: more than a panoramic place

Alberobello doesn’t have a proper typical product but it brings together the products, that characterize the greatest part of region Apulia, especially the province of Bari.

The ancient culinary traditions passed from generation to generation and they make Apulia a region where the taste coming from the sea and the land, blend together to create delicious recipes, which are prestigious flagship of the Apulian cousine.

Alberobello is not only that beautiful place famous for its characteristic buildings called “Trullo” and for the variegated surrounding landscape; it is also and above all an agricultural town of great importance for the cultivation of high quality wine grapes. One of the most appreciated is a kind of wine called LUI, produced with Troia Grapes. Troia is among the oldest and most typical grapes planted in northern and central Apulia. It’s probably coming from Asia Minor (Troia) and it arrived to Apulia during the Greek colonisation. The main characteristic of this wine is the deep ruby red colour with a purplish hue. The taste is intense, persistent and well-balanced, with spicy and fruited notes of vanilla and liquorice. The sophistication of this wine, is what makes it very precious and highly appreciated in the oenological scene. Among the finest grapes  we can find in Apulia, we remind the autochtons Negroamaro, Primitivo di Manduria, Primitivo di Gioia and D.O.C. Locorotondo.

Apulian wines are very intense and rich, and thus go well with the recipes of the area, such as mashed fava beans with wild chicory, orecchiette with rabbit sauce or turnip tops, with ricotta or tomato sauce, cavatelli and fricelli with chili or tomatoes, or even barbecued mutton, fried beans and hundreds of other recipes belonging to the ancient but still living culinary tradition. These are some among the best examples of how the simplicity of the dishes can ennoble thanks to the quality of the ingredients.

Alberobello and Apulia in general are famous also for their bakery products and we quote the most famous:

Taralli are pasta rings and they are made ​​exclusively using fresh ingredients, the most characteristic of the agricultural tradition of region Apulia: wheat flour, white wine, fennel seeds, salt and extra virgin olive oil that makes them fragrant and at the same time crisp. Tarally are basically used to replace bread during meals but they are also ideal as a snack.

Fish in Apulia is always fresh: mussels and sea urchins are always available.

Amongst the dairy products we quote mozzarella and burrata: Burrata is a fresh cheese, characterized by a spherical shape of about 7-10 cm, produced manually and stuffed with cream. The taste is almost sweet and buttery.

Our Tip: we have quoted in this review “orecchiette with rabbit sauce”. It’s perfectly normal in Italy to eat rabbits, but we know that different cultures can’t even think about it and find it very unpleasant. So, before eating meat, be careful and always ask for information if you don’t fully understand the menu. Anyway, rabbit is translated into Italian with the word CONIGLIO: watch out this word!

 

Trullo Sovrano

Trullo Sovrano means Supreme Trullo and its name is due to the fact that it is the biggest Trullo in Alberobello. It is the only trullo with a raised floor, and should be considered the greatest example of technique and style in this kind of construction.

The majestic conical dome, 14 meters high, stands imposingly in the middle of a group of twelve cones. It was built in the first half of the XVIII century on behalf of the wealthy family of a priest Cataldo Perta (1744-1809) and originally referred to the court of Pope Cataldo. The master builder – remained unknown – still respecting the old constraints imposed by the provisions of Count Gian Girolamo Acquaviva, adopted unique design solutions, that made this building the most advanced and admirable interpretation of a Trullo architecture.

It is possible to visit the Trullo Sovrano inside and it’s interesting to know that, during summer, theatre shows, concerts and other cultural events take place in the Trullo.

Trulli: a kind of primitive house

The word “Trullo” may come from Latin turris or trulla or from the Greek tholos, all meaning dome. It is said that probably, the first Trulli were built during primitive times and the traditional buildings have arrived up to our times. They have in common with the primitive dwellings the external form of a cylinder surmounted by a cone, but everything else is an original construction .

The Trulli are entirely built in stone: no mortar, or wood, or other means of support or connection are used for their construction. Primitive form and means, but there is nothing primitive in the technique used for their construction, with an excellent static, which allowed them to be preserved and arrive to us in perfect conditions.

The Trullo is built on the rock and it has a square base; the main room is the initial core of the dwelling and from here the other rooms can develop: to divide and isolate them there are no doors, but simple curtains. The chiancarelle are the flat stones, 7 cm thick used to cover the roof also used to pave all the rooms.

The walls are built with limestone found in the fields. Interior and exterior are then whitewashed with lime milk. The transition from the square perimeter, to the circle at the base of the dome is obtained by forming an octagon. The base of the dome is built so that the dome itself can be used as a storage, that can be reached thanks to wood staircase.

The roof of the Trullo ends with the pinnacle. It is commonly formed by three stones one above the other: one has a cylindrical shape, then there is a bowl-shaped or dish stone, and a sphere or other shapes on top. Its true meaning is still unclear, but several hypotheses have been put forward: some give them a magical meaning, for others they have only an ornamental function, according to the taste of the trullaro (Trullo builder). It is also said that the pinnacle, before becoming ornamental, was a hallmark, useful to the regnant and imposed by himself.

The mysterious white signs painted on the front of the cone of the Trulli are magical and propitiatory symbol. Some come from the pagan tradition, others from the Christian tradition, because in Alberobello used to live people from different origins. These symbols drawn on “chianca” have various meanings; the most common are: protection of the family from evil, propitiatory worship of a deity for a good harvest. Actually, the blonde lady, owner of the open house-Trullo, explained us that probably if on a roof there a cross was painted, it meant that inside there was a family, which supported the powerful Conversano family, ruler of Alberobello. This way, they could enjoy some privileges from Count Conversano.

Alberobello: the Forest, which defeated the feudal power

Since the XI century there are signs of a wooded area called “Sylva aut nemur arbors belli” (Forest or wood of the tree of war).

The town of Martina Franca did assert its rights on the Forest until 1481, when Ferdinand of Aragon (King of Naples), showing kindness to the illustrious Family Acquaviva di Conversano, decided to repay for the damages suffered in the war against the Turks for the defense of Italy, giving the investiture of the feud, including the Forest to Andrea Matteo Acquaviva, Count of Conversano. The Counts of Conversano where very fond of the Forest and they began to lead people to the area: they were mostly farmers and peasants, who cultivated the land. The Conversano family conceded to the people immunities and some advantages, but they did not concede nor rights, or civic privileges, or any form of property.

In order to live in the area, the farmers were allowed to build houses, but with the express prohibition to use any kind of cement lime. This way, as the Conversano family used to say, maybe to scare and oppress the peasants, they could banish people and demolish the house. Actually, this prohibition was due to the fact that, due to a royal law, it was not possible to build houses in that area. By not using lime, in case of direct inspection, it was possible for the Conversano family to break them down quickly, spread all the stones away and rebuild the houses, once the inspection was finished.

The small group of families of the Forest, started feeling the need for a church to honor the cult of religion. So in 1609 the Count of Conversano had the first chapel built and that was the beginning of the Sanctuary .

The person, who mostly supported the development of the Forest was Count Gian Girolamo II Acquaviva. He brought more people and had more houses built and in 1635 he had a villa built for himself. He also wanted and obtained the construction of an oven, a mill and an inn for travellers. He also wanted the construction of a church, dedicated to Saints Cosma and Damiano, with a connecting door to his rooms.

In 1644 the Duke of Martina Franca, who was mostly damaged by the increasing number of farmers moving to the Forest,  appealed to the Reign because Count Gian Girolamo, without the consent of the King had built the village in the Forest. The Count Gian Girolamo was asked by the Royal Chamber to submit within twenty days a document, declaring the right, which allowed him to erect the village. As a result, the Count demolished in one night all the houses built, spreading here and there the construction stones and asking people to temporarily go away. The Royal Inspector saw nothing and the appeal was without effect, while people rebuilt their homes, again not using lime.

This is how they used to live in the Forest, until 1797.

The number of inhabitants had meanwhile grown to 3,500, the church of SS. Medici had been enlarged and the first priests, doctors and a lawyer arrived. The thirst for freedom had penetrated the minds and the desire for civil rights became stronger, being in other areas already a reality. In the end, the Forest got its freedom from King Ferdinand IV of Naples in 1797.

During the spring of 1797, King Ferdinand was in region Apulia and a small delegation of the Forest, to the Count disadvantage, asked and obtained a meeting with the King, who listened to the words of the small delegation and was moved by hearing that 3.500 people were living with nor civil rights, or government, or laws, being slaves of a landowner, so he promised the “Decreto Regio”, which was signed on the 27th of May 1797. This document stated that the Forest was free from feudal slavery and it was elevated to a status of Royal City. Count Giulio Antonio Acquaviva , surprised and angry, tried to make an appeal against the document, protesting the King’s excessive benevolence towards the people of the Forest, but it was useless. So suddenly the baronial oppression  and the abuse of power stopped, as well as the prohibition of building houses with lime. That’s when Casa D’Amore was built.

Great was the joy of the “People of the Forest” upon receiving the news. In the open air, under a large tree beside the church on June 22, 1797 they held their first parliament; Francesco Lippolis was elected the first mayor and the name for the town was chosen. At first, some proposed that the village was called “Ferdinandina”, as a sign of gratitude towards King Ferdinand, who set them free, but the majority chose to confirm the ancient “Sylva aut nemus Arboris belli”, but giving it a more Italian sound. That’s how Alberobello was born, perhaps in memory of  the majestic tree, under which they were gathered together to realize the dream of freedom dreamed for centuries. It was then composed the municipal coat of arms, depicting an old oak tree – a typical plant of the Forest – under which a courageous knight (representing freedom) and a lion (representing the feudal power) struggle for the possession of the tree. On top of the oak two doves flutter, as a symbol of peace and love.