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The Trulli of Alberobello

When I first saw the Italian town of Alberobello, I was convinced I was actually looking at the setting for a children’s TV programme. I imagined it to be inhabited by little white, fluffy things with adorably cute but artistically very simple faces (much like Moomins or something). But Alberobello is a real place, inhabited by real people (or so the internet would have me believe…)

The most striking thing about Alberobello, which is a small town in Puglia, Italy, is the pointy-roofed buildings, called trulli. Each trullo is roughly circular or square in shape with a large conical (pointy) roof. On top of each trullo is a handmade pinnacle made of sandstone (called a pinnacolo).

The pinnacolos come in a variety of different designs including balls, bowls, disks, cones, polyhedrons and combinations of all of those. Each one is supposed to be a signature of the stonemason who build the trullo.

Another common feature of your average trullo is a whitewashed symbol painted on the roof. They’re usually Christian symbols like crosses or hearts with arrows through them (representing Santa Maria Addolorata – Our Lady of Sorrows) but there are also plenty of radiating suns, trees, doves and crescents with crosses too.

Trulli were traditionally made from limestone rocks “a seco” (dry), meaning that no mortar or cement was used to hold them together. I don’t know about you but this would make me very cautious about having the telly up too loud. I’d be too scared the noise would shake the building apart!

One theory for the origin of trulli says that they came about as a 17th century tax dodge, believe it or not. At the time, the Italian nobility had imposed heavy taxes on all permanent structures, so the peasants built their houses to be easily collapsible; when the stone at the very top of the roof is removed, the whole thing caves in!