Trulli are unique to Puglia and many date back hundreds of years. They can be seen throughout the area, but are especially common in and around the Itrea Valley where they pepper the countryside. Alberobello is especially notable for being home to the highest concentration of Trulli in Puglia.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the Trullo was home to the peasant families of Puglia. Whole families would share two or three cones and a large fireplace was normally the focal point of the living quarters, used for cooking and heating. Horses and livestock would occupy an adjacent Trullo and, as the family grew, another Trullo would be built adjacent to the existing structure.
Trulli are roughly circular in shape and in olden times were built from limestone rocks ‘a seco’, or ‘dry’, meaning that no mortar was used. Thick walls helped to keep the Trullo cool during the very hot summers and warm during the cool, damp winters. The roofs consist of steeply angled cones with a Pinaccolo, or Pinnacle, arching gracefully upwards to cap the cone. Curious symbols can often be seen painted on the roofs, adding to the mystique of these buildings.
No one quite knows how the Trullo came about, but everyone has a theory (this is Italy after all!):
Deforestation – Today, Puglia is a land of plains and huge cultivated areas of vineyards, olive trees and citrus groves. But - years ago - there is known to have been forests of Pine, Yew, Beech and other species of trees. These disappeared many centuries ago to make way for agriculture and grazing.
With the forests gone, and olive trees a valuable source of income, some speculate that there would have been a shortage of suitable wood to build homes and other buildings.
Abundance of limestone – Talk to a Geometra (a combination of surveyor and architect) and they will tell you that the really old Trulli are built from rocks that were literally collected from surrounding land. It’s only the more recent Trulli, built from the latter part of the 18th Century that use closely fitting blocks of limestone worked from the local quarries.
A Tax Dodge! One of the most common theories for the origin of the Trullo involves the tax laws of 17th Century Italy. It is known that the nobility of the time imposed heavy taxes on any permanent structure. Thus, the theory goes that the peasant families, not able to bear the burden of this tax, built their dwellings so that they could be literally demolished at a moments notice! Because a conical roof depends largely on the ‘topmost’ stone to prevent the roof from caving in, the peasant owner was able to literally demolish their house simply by pulling this stone out!
The Ancients built them – Puglia was colonised by the Greeks from as early as the 8th Century B.C., and there are many examples of domed dwellings across the Mediterranean, built using the same ‘dry’ masonry techniques as the Trulli. The Nuraghi of Sardinia and the Tholoi, or tombs, of Mycenae have both been linked to the origins of the Trullo and it is possible that the word Tholoi, the Greek name for the domed tombs of Mycenae, could conceivably have evolved into the modern word Trulli.
Whatever their origins, the Trullo is alive and well in modern Puglia and a thriving industry now revolves around the restoring and indeed the building of new Trulli.
This is a condensed version of the full Article on Trulli - how did they Come About? If you would like to read the full article, please click here.
©2005-8 TrulliPuglia.com all rights reserved