The Valle d'Itria

The land of trulli in the heart of Apulia

At first glance, the Valle d'Itria is your typical storybook Italian landscape of lush farmland divided into patchwork fields by low stone walls. But instead of standard-issue farmhouses, many of the buildings are the Itria's wonderfully weird trulli.

Trulli are tiny, cylindrical homes of whitewashed limestone with conical roofs made from stacking flat, dark gray stones in a diminishing spiral of concentric circles. Trulli are built without using any mortar, and if you want a two-room house, you just build a second trullo next to the first and knock out the connecting wall. The homes are often adorned with a large Paleochristian magical symbol painted on for luck, and roofs are capped by a stone point or ball.

Some say trulli were built that way so that, during the burdonsome reign of the Aragonese, shrewd peasants could pluck out a single key stone and cave in the whole roof whenever they saw King Ferdinand's men coming, for "unfinished" structures couldn’t be taxed. Many academics simply point out that this construction is the best way to put a stone roof over your head without mortar, and trace the trulli's origins across Egypt, Greece, Syria, and Turkey back to the archaic Mycenean civilization.

Whatever the origins, thousands of Itrians still live in the odd structures, especially in the town of Alberobello, where two neighborhoods consist almost entirely of trulli—400 of them in the largely residential district of Aia Piccola, another 1,000 or so in the commercial/tourist zone called Monti. There's even a unique, two-story building called the Trullo Sovrano that's been turned into a small museum devoted to traditional local life.

Many of the farms filling the broad Itria Valley are also small trulli complexes, very picturesque to explore, especially by car and with plenty of film. But you can also get good overviews of the valley by taking the train between the so-called "Balconies on the Valle D'Itria"—Locorotondo, Martina Franca, and Cisternino—high, whitewashed hill towns with panoramic vistas across this trulli landscape and some fantastic white and red wines.

Trulli stay cool during Apulia's baking summer and, with the help of a fireplace, cozy in the winter—assertions you can test for yourself by contacting Trullidea and renting a furnished trullo of your own. After picking up the keys to your pad in the heart of Alberobello, drag a cane-bottomed chair into your open doorway and while away an afternoon just sitting there, making all the passing tourists jealous. Your trullo comes complete with a kitchen and a good luck charm on the roof, all for less than a room at the local hotels.

Tips & links

Useful links & resources

Alberobello tourist office:
Via Monte Nero 3
tel. +39-080-432-4419

Locorotondo tourist office:
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele 27
tel. +39-080-431-3099

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Alberobello tourist office:
Via Monte Nero 3
tel. +39-080-432-4419

Locorotondo tourist office:
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele 27
tel. +39-080-431-3099



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