The Trulli of Alberobello, Italy

Remarkable examples of dry-stone construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in the region

Alberobello (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Located in the Itria Valley in southern Italy, Alberobello is a small town which is famous for its distinctive cone-roofed stone buildings, known as trulli, and while it is home to a population of only 10,000 inhabitants, more than 1,600 of these structures can be found here. 

Trulli of Alberobello (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Although there are many of these unique dwellings dotted around the Itria Valley, the highest number and best preserved are to be found in this town. The Trulli of Alberobello were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996.

Rural trulli (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Humans began to settle along the Itria Valley, and in Alberobello in particular, around a thousand years ago. It is more than likely that the construction of the trulli (in singular, trullo) began around this time, however the origin of their shape goes back much further.

Conical roofs (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Some sources say the construction technique arrived with the Greeks when they colonised southern Italy, between the 8th and 5th centuries BC: Greek funeral chambers, known as tholos, had similarly domed roofs, and the ancient Greek word trullos (τρούλος) means “cupola”.

Limestone use (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

The exact material used for construction depended on their location. In Alberobello, the material of choice was compact limestone due to it being readily available in the ground.

Original material (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

The digging of a sub-floor cistern (cisterna), which was essential in this dry region, provided the initial load of stones. Boulders which were gathered from nearby fields and rocky areas were also used for construction. 

Inside the trulli (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

The walls, which comprise a double skin and a rubble core, were built directly onto the exposed layer of bedrock, typically without using mortar (a secco). Only the keystones were fixed in place. Inside, a fireplace and alcoves were built into the thick walls.

Among the stones of the roofs (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

The roofs are also double-skinned, with a domed inner skin of wedge-shaped stone (as used in building an arch or vault) and a watertight outer cone which is built up of corbelled limestone slabs, known as chianche or chiancarelle.

Alberobello street (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Water is collected via projecting eaves at the base of the roof which divert water through a channelled slab into the cistern beneath the house. Flights of narrow stone steps give access to the roofs.

Dry-stone construction (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

It is said that trulli were built using the drystone method so that they could easily be dismantled and moved by their owners, to avoid paying the taxes set by the Kingdom of Naples. They were actually illegal until 1797, when King Ferdinand IV declared Alberobello a royal city. 

Pinnacoli (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Many trulli have decorative pinnacles (pinnacoli) on their rooftops. Varying in shape, their purpose may have been to help the builders (trullari) to identify their work. Some roofs also bear astrological, mythological or religious symbols, which were painted on using white ash. 

Six land parcels (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Covering an area of 11 hectares, the World Heritage site comprises two distinct neighbourhoods as well as a number of individual trulli:

Siamese Trulli (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Rione Monti is the largest district of Alberobello and has around 1,000 conical roofs, including those of the unique Siamese Trulli: two centrally fused cones that, according to legend, symbolize the story which told of the love and hatred that engulfed two brothers. 

Trullo Sovrano (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Located amongst the 590 trulli of the smaller Rione Aia Piccola district, the Trullo Sovrano is the town’s only two-storey trullo. Its walls measure a thickness of 2.7 metres and it still has its original furniture, which dates back to the early 20th century.

Museo del Territorio Casa Pezzolla (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

A complex of 15 interconnected cones, Casa Pezzolla houses the Museo del Territorio, a museum which narrates the history, traditions and folklore of the area. At the weekend, it becomes a living museum with actors, and there are workshops on lacemaking, music and folk dancing.

Casa d'Amore (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Casa D'Amore is a historic house which dates back to 1797 and was the first building to be erected after Alberobello was freed from all taxes by the King of Naples.

Belvedere Santa Lucia (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

Also part of the property is the Piazza del Mercato, a historic market square which links the two districts of Monti and Aia Piccola.

Just metres away, the Belvedere Santa Lucia is the perfect spot to take in the stunning view of both the town and the surrounding countryside.

An Historic Urban Landscape (1996) by The Trulli of AlberobelloUNESCO World Heritage

The property is an outstanding example of human settlement, which retains its original form to a remarkable extent, and, considering the fact that the trulli are still inhabited, it is an exceptional Historic Urban Landscape, well preserved and authentic in all aspects.

A stroll through the Rione Monti quarter

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This exhibit was created by Pugliapromozione, the Puglia Region Tourism Board: 
weareinpuglia.it

Credits: Story

More on The Trulli of Alberobello and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/787/

Photos: Pietro Crivelli, Franco Cappellari, Roberto Rocca, Carlos Solito, Holger Uwe Schmitt, Carlo Pelagalli, Palickap, Martial75, Raimondo Perrina, FrancescaRm74, Maurizio Moro5153

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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