Every mile of Italy is a delight to explore, but for a truly unique experience a must see stop on your itinerary is the Valle d’Itria in the region of Puglia. Located in the heal of Italy half way between Bari and Brindisi, the Valle d’Itria (Itria Valley) is home to the Trulli houses. these distinctive white-washed buildings with limestone conical roofs offer a curious look at a life hundreds of years ago.
What is a Trullo?
The origin of the Trullo houses is not fully known but the locals will tell you a great story about medieval tax evasion. The story goes that the houses were built by the local Pugliesi during the Middle Ages. The peasants at the time were heavily taxed by the nobility so they devised a home that could easily be ‘collapsed” upon word that the tax man was coming. These conical shaped roofs were drystacked using local limestone and built with a “keystone” in the center that could be pulled out. This would cause the entire roof to fall. Without a completed structure to tax, the taxman would go away empty-handed and the roof would be reconstructed again in the same manner.
A delightful story……..but is it true? The other theory is that the Trullo houses were built by the Greeks as they colonized the Puglia area of Italy in the 8th Century B.C. and the word Trullo came from the Greek work Tholoi. The Tholoi built domed tombs using the same dry stacked technique as the Trulli. So were these domed houses built in the unique construction style of these ancient Greek people?
Whatever the origin, these mysterious domed houses are found all over the Valle d’Itria. The most concentrated area of Trullo houses can be found in the city of Alberobello where over 1500 conical homes still exist. There is even a Trullo church still standing – the Chiesa a Tullos. Today many of the limestone roofs have been reinforced with mortar but the original design still exists. On many of the houses one can even still see symbols that were painted on the outside of the cone. These symbols vary and include planetary symbols, the evil eye, and the cross. Who painted these symbols on the conical roofs is as much a mystery as the Trullo houses themselves.
If you go to see the Trullo houses take highway 113 southeast from Bari along the coast of the Adriatic Sea to Fasano, from there take S172 south into the heart of the Valle d’Itria. Other towns in the area that have Trulli structures still standing are Locorotondo, Fasano, Cisternino, Martina Franca and Ceglie Messapica.
While in the Valle stop by a local Italian real estate office – the Trullo houses are fast becoming a popular investment. If you buy one though…..be careful, there are strict rules in Italy regarding the remodeling and reconstruction of these unique pieces of history. Instead, you may want to just stay in one while you visit; there are many Trullo rentals in the area.