Drive around the Itria Valley in southeastern Italy and you’ll discover houses straight out of a fairy tale. Of diminutive size and topped by conical roofs made of stacked limestone, trulli—the traditional structures of Puglia—look like beehives from another planet. Found on almost every country road in the valley, trulli are not idle curiosities; they are actively used as homes, farmsteads, guesthouses, and more.
They’re not hard to find. Several thousand trulli are visible in the Itria Valley, with more than 1,500 concentrated in Alberobello, a town located some 40 miles south of the port city Bari. (Click here for a fascinating portrait of this memorable Italian town by the sea.) Some trulli of Alberobello date to the 14th century; this architectural ensemble was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1996.
People began to settle in the region of Alberobello around a thousand years ago, and the construction of trulli in the area most likely began at that time. But the origin of their shape is much older; some sources say the idea arrived with the Greeks when they colonized southern Italy between the 8th and 5th century B.C. Tholos, the Greek funeral chambers, had similarly domed roofs; the ancient Greek word trullos (τρούλος) means cupola.
Built in the dry-stone tradition—a mortarless construction technique used in the Mediterranean basin for several thousand years—Puglia’s trulli have whitewashed walls and corbelled roofs….
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