Home TravelsItaly Alberobello, Southern Italy – the town of the white trulli houses from the fairy tales

Alberobello, Southern Italy – the town of the white trulli houses from the fairy tales

22 minutes read

We first came to Alberobello during our honeymoon in April 2014. We returned exactly 10 years later (well, a few days apart) with our now elder daughter Anna, aged 9, and this story will be a mixture of older memories and more recent impressions, between which comparisons are inevitable.

Andrey and Maria in Alberobello
Andrey and Maria in Alberobello

This isn’t a “10 places you must visit in Alberobello” story (I find them very annoying). As usual in our stories, we tell what we have visited, seen and experienced.

Bona Giorgnata, Italy

Our first morning in Italy in the already distant 2014 took us to Alberobello. I don’t know if it was specifically because of that pleasant encounter or because of the dozens of visits in the years later, but Italy has become a very close destination to us. And then many times we greeted her with “Bona Giornata” (Good day), often for the simple reason that in these latitudes you can rarely find someone speaking another language. The language situation hasn’t changed much in 10 years, although in the more touristy places like Alberobello, English is now more common.

But in 2014, fresh off the ferry in Brindisi, we headed with our little blue family car to the town that looks like it was a painting.

The narrow road winds through fields dotted with some yellow flowers and red poppies. Here and there are seen the limestone roofs of houses, looking like small trees with white stems, or fairies with conic hats. Clouds are looming over us, wondering whether to pour down in a spring shower over this peaceful scene or wait for us to get out of the car. And all of this on the road to Alberobelo.

The sharp-pointed roofs of Alberobello, Puglia
The sharp-pointed roofs of Alberobello, Puglia
Spring over Alberobello, Puglia, Italy
Spring over Alberobello, Puglia, Italy

On the way we pass through several villages full of the little white houses for which the town of Alberobello is famous. However, we are not tempted to stop, but keep driving to reach the trulli capital. It’s spring and it’s a working day. Not many other tourists are around and even the rain is hesitating to start, letting the sun to break through the grey clouds. We hurried as much as we could.

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or just the weather in Alberobello at the end of April, but both times, 10 years apart, it was exactly the same.

Trulli in Alberobello, Puglia

Albero – wood, Bello – beautiful.

The old part of Alberobello is known for its small beautiful houses, called trull. The trulli are low limestone buildings, look a bit like a whitewashed tree with a black crown. The walls and the beautiful roofs, which were originally white but have been blackened by the sun, are made entirely of limestone blocks and slabs. Interestingly, these cottages were built entirely by dry construction method because this exempted their owners from taxes back in the 14th-16th centuries when the hamlet was first settled. Today there are about 1,500 trulli in existence. These trulli are now UNESCO World Heritage site and a big attraction.

The roofs of the houses in Alberobello
The roofs of the houses in Alberobello – 2014
Walk among the trulli in Alberobello - 2024
Walk among the trulli in Alberobello – 2024

The history of the trulli dates back to the mid-14th century, when scattered agricultural buildings existed in the area. They were constructed of stone using dry construction, as this gave them the status of temporary buildings that could be easily dismantled and were therefore exempt from taxes. They were usually used for storehouses, agricultural sheds and similar buildings, but some poorer farming families lived in them. A 15th-century decree of the Kingdom of Naples further encouraged this practice by requiring all officially registered settlements to pay a tax on a portion of their harvest. Thus Alberobello remained a settlement without official status and without officially existing permanent buildings until the end of the 18th century, when the feudal system fell. At that time Alberobello had 3500 inhabitants, but after this act the construction of trulli decreased.

What a trullo looks like – outside and inside

The trulli of Alberobello are not only attractive in appearance but also in terms of their construction. These are usually single-storey buildings with a rectangular or circular shape and a conical roof. The walls are double, of limestone blocks, with a filling of small stones. Some of them have niches, fireplaces and other gadgets. The roofs are also double – the inner part is domed and the outer part is conical.

Almost all of the trulli are one-storey, because at that time it was much easier to build several houses next to each other than floors. And the larger families lived in complexes of several trulli.

Trulli in the older part of Alberobello, not all are inhabited, but some still have people living in them
Trulli in the older part of Alberobello, not all are inhabited, but some still have people living in them
Along the main tourist street most of the trulli are shops and restaurants. But they are kitty - Alberobello
Along the main tourist street, Via Monti S. Michele, most of the trulli are shops and restaurants. But they are cozy

It is easy to see that the roofs of the trulli are trying to tell us something too. Many of them have magical symbols painted on them. Their role was to protect the dwelling from evil spirits and curses and to promote prosperity – especially the fertility of the land, as this was a farming area. Many of them are zodiac signs.

Every roof means something. Most often they are painted with magical symbols to protect them from evil forces and to stimulate fertility.
Every roof means something. Most often they are painted with magical symbols to protect them from evil forces and to stimulate fertility.
Some of the magical symbols you may see on the trulli in Alberobello
Some of the magical symbols you may see on the trulli in Alberobello

The tops of the roofs also speak – usually the shape showed who the craftsman was who made the roof.

Trulli also have an interesting water storage system. There are collectors at the base of the roofs that carry the water to an underground cistern. A series of flat steps lead to the roofs.

On the roof of the trulli in Alberobello

As you walk through the streets, you will be repeatedly invited to enter the trulli, explore them and even climb on their roofs. Usually these are trulli – shops and owners trying to get your attention. It’s important to clarify that they are generally not pushy, but very polite, they will tell you a story (or legend) about Alberobello, the magical symbols and whatever they decide. Rarely will they try to pressure you into buying something, but you can be sure that they will offer you everything on offer. Some of the trulli are museums and you will be invited to see them supposedly for free, but then you can expect a tip;

At the first opportunity we climbed to the roof of one of the houses and from there a wonderful grey-white view revealed. All the Italians were wonderfully friendly and constantly showed us where to go and where to hang out. Nobody looked at us with a frown for not buying anything from their shops. And even in this log we were offered tarali. This sea of trulli delighted my soul and we stood for a long time watching the houses from above.

Andrey and Maria in Alberobello
Andrei and Mimi on the roof of a trullo in Alberobello – 2014

Most roofs have their own white picture, a magical-religious symbol. I definitely don’t know what they mean, but they must be very important to their occupants, or at least the original ones who built them. The shopkeeper of the little shop in the log we had climbed was kind enough to direct us to the nearest panini. It hadn’t rained yet, but it was getting there.

Magic symbol on the roof
Magic symbol on the roof

The streets of Monti quarter, Alberobello

On that carefree morning in late April 2014, we treated ourselves to the most wonderful paninis we’d ever eaten in the main square. And it started to rain. Lovely spring rain, but only if you’re dry. But the streets between the houses quickly emptied and my kingdom began, to take pictures of empty streets, and the fact that I would get wet… Well, it’s not important. We pulled out the yellow umbrella we had forgotten in the car, but I came running. Well it stopped raining but the yellow umbrella is nice.

Trulli in the rain
Trulli in the rain
Alberobello in the rain - a bit gloomy, but calm and beautiful
Alberobello in the rain – a bit gloomy, but calm and beautiful

10 years later, our walk continues along Via Monti S. Michele and Via Monte Sabotino, the two most popular streets among tourists in the Monti district, which is also the generally livelier neighborhood in Alberobello. Both sides are full of shops selling souvenirs, jewellery, clothes, etc. It is also full of restaurants, cute cafes and countless places to stay.

There is never a shortage of tourists here, but even now, at the end of April, the season is not too busy and the walk is pleasant. We personally didn’t feel the place crowded, and after all, we’re the kind of tourists who do crowd, so we have no right to judge everyone else who came to admire Alberobello.

Alberobello, Puglia, Italy
Alberobello, Puglia, Italy

Church in the trullo and the symbol of poverty

If you continue up the street Monti S. Michele, you will reach the Parrocchia di Sant’Antonio da Padova – the church in the trullo. The building is relatively new, built in 1927. At that time, the Monti area in which we are located had already been declared a protected area and the construction of buildings other than trulli was forbidden there. But at the same time, it was a slum and quite run down. So the trulli became a symbol of poverty and a few decades later an entire neighborhood of trulli in Alberobello was destroyed.

The church itself is located on the border of the new quarter of Alberobello. But in order not to cause discomfort to the inhabitants of the trulli, it was also built as a trullo. Today the church is in operation and for this reason we were not able to visit it – we were still at the time when the service was being held there and no outside visitors were allowed before the end of the service.

Church of Parrocchia di Sant'Antonio da Padova - Alberobello
Church of Parrocchia di Sant’Antonio da Padova – Alberobello
Church of Parrocchia di Sant'Antonio da Padova - Alberobello
Church of Parrocchia di Sant’Antonio da Padova – Alberobello

Aia Piccola quarter

The central Largo Martellotta square is the heart of Alberobello where you will always see many passers-by, street musicians, locals, traders, cafes and restaurants. We had wonderful paninis here 10 years ago, though now we couldn’t identify which of the many cafes it was. But it may have disappeared.

The central square of Alberobello and the Monti district opposite
The central square of Alberobello and the Monti district opposite

On the other side of the square, right across from the Monti district where we were before, is the Aia Piccola area. In just a few steps you will discover the difference between the two areas. Aia Piccola is a smaller neighborhood, with quieter streets, residential trulli and more hotels and accommodation, rather than shops. If you really want to get an idea of how people lived in the town of the trulli, take a walk there. There are far fewer passers-by, and there’s always a chance to hide in one of the many crooked streets in the maze of trulli.

Aia Picola - the less touristy part of Alberobello
Aia Picola – the less touristy part of Alberobello
Anna and the trulli
Anna and the trulli

You will also see abandoned trulli, some uninhabitable. There are also some that are for sale. And ones where people washed their yards in the morning hours and spread out the laundry.

And at sunset this area becomes even quieter and more peaceful. If you really want to experience the atmosphere of Alberobello, get away from the tourists, stay overnight in the village or just come for dinner like we did. One of the notable places to eat here is the Evo restaurant, which we will have a separate article about.

At sunset in Alberobello
At sunset in Alberobello

Trulli, trulli, trulli

It’s very nice to return to a place that fascinated you and to feel the same emotions and even better. Alberobello is just such a place. That’s probably why we came back with countless new photos, which we just can’t upload all here. But hopefully these will convey at least a little of Alberobello’s charm.

The view towards Alberobello
The view of Alberobello – 2014
And many, many more trulli in Alberobello - 2024
And many, many more trulli in Alberobello – 2024
Alberobello and the clouds
Alberobello and the clouds
And it is priceless to go to such a nice place with a grown up child who is also very happy to be here - Mimi and Annie.
And it’s priceless to go to such a nice place with a grown up child who is also very happy to be here – Mimi and Annie in Alberobello

The new part of Alberobello

The more modern areas of Alberobello are also very lively, pleasant, though not as picturesque as those with the trulli. One of the biggest sights there is the Church of St. Cosmas and Damian. In this area, a little further up, is the wonderful Evo restaurant where we had dinner.

La Basilica Minore dei Santi Cosma e Damiano - Alberobello
La Basilica Minore dei Santi Cosma e Damiano – Alberobello
Alberobello at night
Alberobello at night

And our journey was just beginning..

Our first encounter with Italy grew into an ongoing relationship and a return at least once a year to some part of this wonderful country.

Our Italian trip started just after our wedding in Bulgaria in April 2014. We crossed Greece and took the ferry to South Italy. Alberobello was the first destination on our way and proved to us that we had chosen the right place for our trip. Then slowly and joyfully we passed by Matera, Naples, Pompeii , Tropea, before taking the ferry to Sicily Loaded with Italian emotions, we came back passing through more intriguing places – the Albanian village Frascinetto, where we met an altar maker, and the charming city of Lecce. We came home tired and happy after our 11-day tour and are already looking forward to our next trip to Italy.

In the following years we visited Puglia several times, particularly the beautiful region of Salento. We also went to Bologna, Bergamo, Tuscany, Piemonte, Rome. All about these trips you will find in the category ITALY in our blog.

More from Puglia - Polignano a Mare
More from Puglia – Polignano a Mare

Travel tips and ideas for Puglia, Southern Italy

  • To and from Puglia: 2024 we flew to Bari, the capital of Puglia. There we hired a car to drive around the region. In 2014. We reached South Italy with ferry from Greece to Brindisi, with our family car. The ferry was considerably more expensive and slower, but then there were no convenient flights.
  • Rent a car:We rented an electric car which proved very good choice. There are charging stations everywhere and it is very easy and convenient. The price was the same and even slightly lower than a standard gasoline car. All popular places have arranged parking, mostly paid.
  • Public transport: We haven’t tried it personally but generally it would help if you stick to the more popular destinations and do not insist to visit many towns in a single day. Check your timetables.
  • English will do you fine in the more touristy cities, but be prepared that not everyone speaks good English even there. You’d rather get along somehow. In the smaller villages or those frequented mainly by Italian tourists, you will rely on facial expressions and gestures.
  • In Puglia the roads are relatively good, we have not used any toll highways.
  • There is a paid parking area in Alberobello, we happened to be near the old part in an unpaid area. White markings are free, blue markings are paid, yellow markings usually have a more special status. If you have an electric car there are charging stations in some of the car parks, then you do not pay for the stay (information from April 2024). We paid via an app that you will see in the car parks, but you can also pay with coins at the machines.

What to eat in Alberobello?

Restaurant Evo is one of the best places in the town, recommended by Michelin Guide. We enjoyed a great tasting dinner there.

The cuisine of South Italy is incredible, you can try so many things. Recently we visited the southernmost parts of Puglia an enjoyed many of their culinary treats. So if you are a foodie, check this article.


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