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Italy’s Hidden Gems: Alberobello

Trulli in Alberobello
The country of the domes: trulli

The name derives from the late Greek τρούλος, or “dome” and indicates the ancient dry stone conical constructions of prehistoric origin. The stone used for the buildings was obtained from the limestone rocks of the Murge plateau.

The Trulli, present mainly in the Valle d’Itria, located between the provinces of Brindisi, Bari and Taranto, are still used today as dwellings and constitute a brilliant and long-lived example of spontaneous architecture.

Alberobello, a town in the Bari hinterland, undoubtedly represents the capital of the Trulli: the historic center is entirely made up of these particular pyramid-shaped buildings that make it unique in the world. It is one of the 53 Italian sites included by UNESCO in the World Heritage List.

The trulli are a unique example of ancient construction that survives and is still used today. Visiting the beautiful Alberobello is like taking a trip to a timeless country.

According to some studies the trulli of Alberobello date back to the mid-fourteenth century; at the time it was common to demolish and rebuild uneven buildings rather than repair them.

The dry construction, without mortar, seems to have been imposed on the peasants in the fifteenth century by the Counts of Conversano, to escape an edict of the Kingdom of Naples which imposed tribute to every new urban settlement. These buildings were therefore precarious buildings, easy to demolish and not taxable.

In truth, the trulli are anything but precarious: the internal structure, although lacking support and connection elements, in fact has an extraordinary static capacity.

The plan of the trullo is approximately circular; on the base of natural rock the heavy masonry is grafted. Generally the trulli are modular units: the interiors are distributed around the central space. The thickness of the walls and the scarce presence of windows ensure an optimal thermal balance: heat in winter and cool in summer. The roof is composed of a pseudo-dome of horizontal calcareous slabs positioned in ever smaller concentric series – the so-called “chianche” (inside) and the more subtle “chiancarelle” (outside). The keystone is very important, often decorated with esoteric, spiritual or propitiatory motifs. An ingenious presence of a cornice protruding from the roof used for collecting rainwater in special tanks.

St Cosmas and Damian, Alberobello Saint Patrons
The feast of the patrons Saints Cosmas & Damian of Alberobello

Saints Cosmas and Damian were two Arab physicians, reputedly twin brothers, and early Christian martyrs. They practiced their profession in the seaport of Aegeae, then in the Roman province of Syria.

Read about the physicians Cosmas and Damian

Read about the Feast of St Cosmas and Damian in Alberobello

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