Alberobello is a small town that has a unique appearance with its small historical houses called trullo (plural trulli) in Italy’s Apulia region. The name of the city originated from the medieval Latin name of the region “siva arboris belli” (The wood of the tree of war). The small town has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unusual districts of trulli, the characteristic white-washed conical-roofed houses of the area.
Alberobello has a unique appearance with its small historical houses called trulli
The trulli, limestone dwellings found in the southern region of Puglia, are remarkable examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighboring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs.
Alberobello’s unique trulli houses’ story goes back to the mid-14th century
The story behind Alberobello, once a town of trulli alone, is a typically Italian one: its design was to fiddle taxes and fool the authorities. The local feudal lord, Count Acquaviva, moved his peasant workers here to clear woodland and cultivate the land. To wriggle around laws and taxes, it was important that Alberobello didn’t class as an inhabited settlement. So until 1797, when Alberobello was finally given ‘town’ status, the people had to live in trulli, which could be dismantled in a hurry when necessary.
The buildings are usually square and have very thick stone walls, constructed without mortar. The thickness strengthens the structure and also helps regulate the internal temperature. The roof is actually a dome, as you can see when you enter one of the buildings, but is almost invariably built up on top into a cone shape, topped with a spire. There is generally a central room, with additional living spaces in arched alcoves.
Residential trulli are smartly whitewashed, and their roofs are often decorated with fancifully painted symbols supposed to have religious or superstitious significance. The fanciness of the spire decoration was something of a status symbol: it showed the builders’ skill and thus the spending power of the owners. Frequently the houses consist of more than one trullo roof: they are more like trullo complexes crowned with several roof cones.