Erratic engineeress

A personal blog fuelled by caffeine and curiosity.


If you want to see what a gnomish settlement would look like, go to Alberobello.

One of the things that was included with our conference in the south of Italy in June 2023 was a guided tour to Alberobello, a small town about an hour’s drive from Bari. Anyone who has ever been to a conference can tell you that the accompanying programme is usually the cool part and so it was in this case as well. Alberobello is home to about 10.000 people and more importantly, to about 1500 trulli, little conical fairytale houses.

A trullo is the name for a traditional drystone house built in a circular or square shape with the signature conical roof made of stacking limestone blocks on top of each other. It is constructed entirely without mortar or other binding masses following the prehistoric building practices. Trulli were often constructed on the spot from stone blocks excavated during the building of a well or taken directly from the surrounding fields. Although they can be found all around the south-central Puglia region, Alberobello has the largest number of them. Trulli were traditionally used as field shelters or for food storage and were not intended or officially classified as dwellings, which is precisely the reason Alberobello is full of them.


When the land around Alberobello came into the possession of one of the noble families in the 14th century, they decided to try and reduce their town rights taxes by claiming that the land was not permanently inhabited. Their serfs had to live in trulli, which were easily deconstructed if the tax collector came by for a visit, so Alberobello was not officially recognised as a town until the 18th century. The first properly constructed house in town, Casa d’Amore, was built in 1797, after which the construction of trulli understandably declined.

Today the trulli of Alberobello are recognised as UNESCO world heritage for their historical authenticity and some people actually still live in them. Walking through Alberobello feels like stepping into a fairytale, albeit one full of souvenir shops, and the traditional pagan symbols painted on some of the roofs further add to the magical feeling. If you look closely, you can spot symbols for the sun, the moon and the human eye and tradition says that they were both religious and astrological. To balance that, there is of course also a larger, more modern trullo Christian church, and both the church and the souvenir shops are a good opportunity to have a look inside a trullo and try to imagine what living in one of the conical cuties would be like.

Impressions of Alberobello


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4 responses to “Alberobello”

  1. Wow! What an interesting looking place.

    1. It was really, really cool! I just wish we’d had more time with the guided tour.

  2. Naya Lou

    I’m so interested in the pagan angle!

    1. You can see an explanation on one of the photos.

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