“Fairytale houses” in Sardinia, Italy: what they are, where they are, and tips for visiting

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Trulli, the fabulous houses of Alberobello

Trulli, the fabulous houses of Alberobello

In the south of Italy, in sunny Puglia, on the Adriatic Sea coast there is a small fairy-tale town Alberobello. Its name comes from the Latin phrase “silva aut nemus arboris belli”, and was given to the city by its inhabitants at the end of the 18th century. The phrase translates as “forest of war trees”, which is explained by the presence on the site of oak groves used for the production of reliable military machinery. Over time, the lush Latin phrase was reduced to the last two words – arboris belli, Alberobello

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The city’s fame is due to its unique white-stone urban structures – trulli. What are trulli? Trulli are small houses with a conical roof. This name appeared in the early 20th century and comes from two words – Latin “turris” (tower) and Greek “tholos” – dome. Although the locals like to joke that the name comes from the distinctive “trrruul!” sound of the house crumbling when the latch stone is removed, they have never called their homes that, until now, they call them “casedda”. This is the most unique structure in the world and for its uniqueness these amazing sights were included in 1996 in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

History first mentions the valley of Ittria in the 16th century. Around this time, Andrea Matteo III, Count of Converseano of the Acquaviva dynasty, to whom the Neapolitan king had granted this area as a reward for his military exploits, brought his peasants here to cultivate the land. But the stingy feudal lord was unwilling to pay the tax to the king that was due on the settlement. Because of this, the inhabitants had to collect pieces of limestone from all the surrounding fields and use them to build their dwellings without the use of mortar.

The peculiarity of such a structure was that it could be destroyed quickly and easily. A special stone laid in the foundation was used for that purpose. When it was removed, the house was turned into a pile of stones for which no tax was due. The king’s tax collectors were known in advance. And by the time he arrived, the settlement no longer existed. This allowed the local dukes to prosper for a long time, but their peasants had to rebuild a roof over their heads every time.

In 1797 King Ferdinand of the Bourbon dynasty legalized the city of Alberobello, removed from the power of the Counts of Acquaviva and exempted from taxes. Thereafter, some did begin to erect their homes using the fixation. But most residents were never able to fully believe in the gift of freedom, for the king could at any time take away the gift. And classic houses with a domed roof continued to appear until 1925, when the Italian authorities issued a law prohibiting the construction of trulli. It is still in force in our time. This means that you can only reconstruct existing buildings, but in no case build new ones.

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Despite all external similarity trulli still differ from each other a little. For example, the presence or absence of the cupola with the sign of the master. Buildings with a cupola are considered masculine and those without – feminine. You can also notice a difference in the drawing on the masonry of the dome, made with lime. Most often there are signs of the zodiac, religious or pagan symbols. For example, the heart pierced by an arrow symbolizes the suffering of the Virgin Mary, the dove means the Holy Spirit, the sun symbolizes Christ.

Today Alberobello is the only city in the world where the whole neighborhoods with trullas are preserved. From which it is considered the cultural capital of the Ittrian valley. The narrow streets, small houses with round domed roofs attract many tourists every year who want to see these unique cultural attractions of Italy.

Not all of these houses are just houses. Some of them house museums. The largest of these trull-museums is called Sovrano (Trullo Sovrano). It was built by the Perth family around the middle of the 18th century. And since then, all the living conditions have been preserved in their original form. The cost of visiting the museum is quite symbolic – only 1.5 euros.

Other buildings have something to offer to visitors, inform about this special signs at the entrance. In most cases, these are still souvenir shops, but some still serve as a place of residence of the indigenous population.

You can only marvel at the skill of those people who can build a house of several rooms with a hearth without using cement with their own hands. In addition to trully museums, the city has trully workshops, trully hotels, trully stores, trully exhibitions and even…a trully temple. The city has about 1400 trulli for every 11 thousand inhabitants. The total number of trulls in the city surroundings is about 20 thousand.

A nice feature of the trull houses, especially in the very hot weather of the southern coast of Italy, is the interior coolness. At noon, the entire population swiftly hides inside so as not to melt in the staring sun. You can dine at trulli restaurants that offer visitors the local cuisine. True, a visit to such institutions will not be as cheap as a visit to the museum. For example, trulli restaurant Il Poeta Contadino fully immerses visitors in the atmosphere of the Middle Ages, but the cost of a simple two-course breakfast approaches 30 euros.

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Tourists who come to Alberobello also have the unique opportunity to visit the Trull Wine Bar. Inside you can enjoy the coolness, and below, in the wine cellar you can even feel the cold. But this is where you can taste the exclusive wine of southern Italy.

In addition to wine making other crafts are well developed in Alberobello. Many of the workshops are located next to the stores where the products are sold. The friendly vendors are happy to offer a wide range of handmade products right on the spot. This includes the aforementioned wines and liquors, and pasta, and various sweets, and much more. Any souvenir, bought in a Trulli shop will remind you of a visit to a small “fairytale” town.

Alberobello stands on two hills. The eastern one is a modern city with a new architecture. Its main attraction is the church of Cosmas and Damian – the patrons of the city, which contains fragments of their relics. The main street of this part of the city is Corso Vittorio Emanuele Avenue. It runs through the center of the city and ends in Piazza del Popolo. Along the avenue are many stores and restaurants. And admire the beautiful square, you can sit outdoors at a table.

West Hill is almost completely occupied by neighborhoods with trulli buildings. One of the most popular among them is Rione Monti. There are about a thousand different trulli. Walking along Via Monte Michele past the commercial town center you can see the Chiesa di Sant’Antonio church, dating back to the 12th century and built in the trulli style.

A less touristy area is Aia Piccola. But this is where life in Alberobello appears as it did in the Middle Ages. It is in the midst of an amazing building that was built more than 400 years ago, always crowded with delighted tourists. Tour guides tell the story of Alberobello’s trulli in a variety of languages. And local vendors entice customers to buy organic produce. Almost everything is in demand and sells out quickly.

Many tourists create a constant demand for lodging, souvenirs, and food. Therefore, locals do not want to part with their trulli business for any money. After all, if in the 16th century, such rapidly eroding buildings brought only a headache, today, thanks to tourism, they bring nothing but considerable profit.

Trulls are the fabulous houses of Alberobello. Italy

In southern Italy, in sunny Puglia, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, there is a small fairy-tale town called Alberobello. Its name comes from the Latin phrase “silva aut nemus arboris belli”, and was given to the city by its inhabitants at the end of the XVIII century.

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The phrase translates as “forest of war trees”, which is explained by the presence on the site of oak groves used for the production of reliable military machinery. Over time, the Latin phrase was reduced to the last two words – arboris belli – Alberobello .

The city’s fame is due to its unique white stone urban structures – trulli . What are they? Trulls is a name derived from two words – Latin “turris” – tower and Greek “tholos” – dome. Although the locals like to joke that the name came from the distinctive sound of “trrruul!” with which the house crumbled when the locking stone was removed.

Similar structures are not found anywhere else in the world and therefore for its uniqueness these amazing sights were included in 1996 in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Ittria Valley was first mentioned in the 16th century. Around that time Andrea Matteo III, Count of Conversano, descendant of one of the most ancient Neapolitan dynasty of Acquaviva, to whom the land was granted by the King of Naples as a reward for military exploits, brought here his peasants for cultivation.

However, the stingy feudal lord did not want to pay tax to the kingdom of Naples for his settlement. To avoid taxation, the inhabitants began to build houses out of limestone without cementing the blocks together. This is how rolls appeared – small houses with conical roofs.

The peculiarity of such a structure was that it could be quickly and easily demolished. A special stone laid in the base of the house was used for this purpose. When it was taken away, the house was turned into a pile of stones for which no tax had to be paid. No house, no tax. This is how the town of Alberobello grew up.

The royal tax collectors were known in advance. And by the time they arrived, the settlement no longer existed. This allowed the local dukes to prosper for a long time, but their peasants had to rebuild a roof over their heads every time.

Rolls were assembled and dismantled until the end of the 18th century. In 1797 King Ferdinand of the Bourbon dynasty legalized the city of Alberobello, removed from the power of the Counts of Acquaviva and exempted from taxes. Thereafter, some residents did begin to erect their homes using the fixation.

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But most residents were never able to fully believe in the gift of freedom, for the king could at any time take away the gift. And the classic houses with a domed roof continued to appear until 1925, when the Italian authorities issued a law banning the construction of trulli. This law is still in force today. This means that you can only reconstruct existing buildings, but in no case, build new ones.

Despite all the external similarity, the trullahs are still somewhat different from each other. For example, by the presence or absence of the cupola with the sign of the master. Buildings with a cupola are considered masculine and those without are considered feminine.

You can also notice a difference in the pattern on the masonry of the dome made with lime. Most often there are signs of the zodiac, religious or pagan symbols. For example, the heart pierced by an arrow symbolizes the suffering of the Virgin Mary, the dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, the sun symbolizes Christ.

In some of the houses are placed museums. The largest of these trull museums is called Sovrano. It was built by the Perth family about the middle of the XVIII century. And since then, all the living environment has been preserved in its original form.

There are about 1,400 city trulls for every 11,000 inhabitants . In all, there are nearly 20,000 of them in the vicinity of the city. The walls of the trulls are very thick, which provides coolness in hot weather and insulation from the cold in winter. The trulls are two-tiered, and access to the top is by means of a ladder. The vast majority have one room under each tapered roof. A multi-room trull house has several cone roofs, each with a separate room under them.

In Alberobello, trullas are used as museums, stores, restaurants, souvenir shops, and some have people living in them. Many of the trullas have eighteenth-century furnishings.

Today Alberobello, the cultural capital of the Ittrian valley, is the only city in the world where entire neighborhoods with trullas have been preserved. The narrow streets, small fairy-tale houses with round dome roofs attract many tourists.

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