Trulli houses of Italy: fun and interesting facts about Italy’s unique fairytale homes

Alberobello Italy old town

Fun and interesting facts about the trulli houses of Italy, peculiar drywall buildings now UNESCO world heritage. What they are, how to visit them, the history of trulli of Alberobello and the surrounding area.

Have you ever seen photos of villages in Italy with small hobbit-like houses, with white walls and pointy gray roofs?

Those are the trulli, a peculiar type of construction characteristic of the Itria Valley (Val d’Itria), in the South of Italy.

Trulli are one of the most peculiar dwellings in Italy and so unique, UNESCO added them to their World Heritage list in 1996 as remarkable mortarless constructions unique in their kind.

This is all you ever wanted to know about trulli houses!

Good to know: trullo is the singular word, while trulli is plural. In Italian, you wouls say ‘un trullo’ (1 trullo house), or ‘two trulli’ (two trullos)

What are trulli houses

Trulli are drywall huts with whitewashed walls and pointy grey roofs typical of the Italian region of Puglia and more precisely of the area called Val D’Itria. 

Trulli usually have a circular shape and roofs in the shape of a cone, made with grey tiles and often crowned by a pointy rooftop decoration.

Trulli houses with overlay text all you ever wanted to know about Italy's unique Trulli

Trulli are all different from one another, hoowever, they all tend to have some characteristics in common.

The most common shape for a trullo is a circular base and therefore curved walls.

A small door allows to enter into the main area of the trullo, where all family activities would have happened, and small windows let light and air in.

The shape of the trullo keeps its inhabitants warm in winter and cool in summer.

Val d’Itria can get incredibly hot and the shaded interior and pointy roof took care of the thermal balance, allowing for the perfect airflow.

Indeed, staying inside a trullo is remarkably cozy!

What is the history of trulli

The history of trulli is a long one.

The word ‘trullo’ itself comes from the Greek term ‘tholos’, originally indicating a burial chamber with vaulted ceiling, and over the course of the centuries developed to define these peculiar houses, built with similar techniques.

From a linguistic point of view, the Greek word seemed to have developed from tholos to trulos and then trullo.

However, this seems to be largely an educated word.

Inhabitants of trulli commonly referred to their houses as casedda (Apulian for casetta, small house).

Archaeologists tell us the first example of a trullo can be traced back to the 1000s however, the majority of those we know are from the XIV century (14th century).

At that time, king Roberto D’Angio’ gifted this land to the Counts Acquaviva of Conversano, who quickly moved here his people causing a need for new builds.

Unlike in other areas, where houses got built with a more traditional technique, the counts wanted the house to be built as temporary houses only an easy to be quickly dismantled.

Monti district in Alberobello

This allowed him to avoid paying the land tax that more permanent building would have required under the law of the King of Naples, ruling the area.

These demands were met by the workers with houses that made the most of the limestone boulders abundant in the area and by the use of dry stone walls and conical roofs according to ancient building techniques of the area.

Despite the original semi-permanent nature of these stone huts, the trulli resisted up until now and are still very much in use today.

The first conglomerations of trulli in Alberobello are said to have come up in 1610 and in 1797 the town was recognized as ‘regal town’ and give the name ‘silva arboris bellis’ aka Alberobello

Where can you see trulli

The most famous place to see trulli is the small town of Alberobello, in Puglia, in the south of Italy.

The town has the biggest concentration of trulli and visitors can see them in the two village neighborhood of Monti and Aja Piccola, adjacent to each other.

Trullo hosting doctor's surgery in Alberobello Italy
Trullo in use as doctor’s surgery in Alberobello
Trullo still in use with washing line outside, Alberobello
Trullo house

In Monti, most of the trulli are now shops, cafes and museums, while Aja Piccola, just in front, has trulli still in use as houses (usually perfectly restored).

Trulli of notice

Among the many Alberolbello Trulli, some are worth a special mentions

Trullo sovrano: this is the biggest trullo of all (sovrano means ‘sovereign’): it develops on more than one floor, has a back yard and is now an interesting museum of the land

Trullo sovrano with child in front
Trullo sovrano

Church of Alberobello (trullo church): at the top of the Monti area, this is a large trullo with the typical whitewashed external walls and several pointy roofs, used as a church.

As well as the peculiar outside it is worth visiting the unique inside, where you can admire ancient frescoes as well as the peculiar construction technique of this unique building.

Trulli gemelli: the ‘twin trulli’ are in the Monti area of Alberobello and a peculiar site. As the name suggests, they are attached to each other with the two pointy roofs fused at the base.

Italian trulli are a peculiar sight and one worth visiting for its historical uniqueness but also their beauty. Alberobello is one of the prettiest places in Italy!

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