Today we spent a lot of time wandering around and through the extraordinary trulli of Alberobello. It is an extraordinary place – we only saw the big one rather than the smaller one which we’ll visit tomorrow – and a magnet for tourists. Mind you, not all tourists really knew what they were looking at. I overheard one old American woman ask her younger companion what it was they were looking at. Her young companion said without any hint of incredulity that they were trulli.
I should add here that the word ‘trulli’ is plural. The word for one of them is ‘trullo.’
Tourists were actually a big part of today. Not first thing but as we reached the top of the town it felt like a sudden invasion had taken place; an invasion that was made up of thousands of Americans with identity things around their necks.
My favourite was the old white male American who, upon entering a gelatoria suggested they go and find one that was bigger. They failed and had to return but that’s hardly the point. In fact, this particular American tourist was wearing a Walter White hat but I couldn’t imagine him actually making or selling meth. I’m assuming he doesn’t know the significance of his headgear, possibly bought for him by a cheeky child.
Anyway, tourists apart, the day was amazing. The trulli are fantastic even if their history is varied, to say the least. However, one thing that seems consistent is the reason why the builders didn’t use mortar. That reason was tax.
The landed gentry (arseholes to a man) were taxed for various things but a real standout was for the number of buildings they had on their lands. In order to not be taxed they would have the poor peasants merely dismantle their houses before the tax inspector turned up. They would then rebuild as soon as he had gone. Nowhere is it discussed where they stayed while their house was just a pile of rubble. Neither is it obvious how they had time to dismantle the houses if the tax inspector sneaked into town.
Some of the trulli have symbols painted on the roof. These symbols, too, seem to have many interpretations, a clue that no-one has one. Some are easy to decipher (sacred heart, crucifix, chi ro) but others look a bit more mystical. According to the guide book that Mirinda bought, there are three types of symbol: the Primitive, the Magic and the Christian. There’s also supposed to be a swastika (I’m thinking the Fascist rather than Hindu) but we didn’t find it.
I think it’s incredible that people still live in them particularly with visitors using their low slung roofs as repositories for old cigarette butts, crumbled up rubbish and used tissues. How can this be reasonable for any culture? If I lived in this town that would easily be enough to drive me out. I mean who wants to spend every night, after work, removing all the crap that inconsiderate tourists have pushed under your dry stone roof slats?
And then, of course, there’s the usual French families who encourage their children to climb all over the walls of the trulli because…well, I’m not sure why this is a thing but they do seem to do it everywhere.
Still, tourists aside, the place is amazing. The walk up via Monti S Michele was like a walk through a very white and paved Hobbiton. Along the way we popped into lots of shops in order to browse and buy as well as look at the interior of them. It’s a fascinating place.
Of course the whole place is on the UNESCO World Heritage list so that was very important to include on our blog list. And, given it was on Mirinda’s Bucket List, it was also ticked off that. Personally, I don’t have a Bucket List. I do have a Post Bucket List which is one that you don’t realise you have until you’ve been somewhere that feels like it should have been on one if you had one to start with. It saves a lot of angst and, of course, means your bucket is always full just in case you die. Dying without regret should be on the top of any list, if you ask me.
There’s a lovely trullo church at the top of the hill in the Monti district. It is dedicated to St Anthony and is not very old having been built in 1926. It is comprised of four trulli all meshed up together. It’s also very bright and airy. Well, it was when we first went in but the peace was very quickly shattered by a couple of tourist groups of sullen faced photo snappers who arrived for their rapid run around as part of their pit stop trullo tour.
I particularly liked the wall painting above. It’s not often one comes across something so ‘modern’ and it makes the guessing a lot harder. For instance, Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Adam and Eve are pretty easy. Then, with a bit of reading, you can pick out Saints Anthony of Padua and St Francis but who the rest are is anyone’s guess. It was painted by Adolfo Rollo, a Bari born artist known more for his bronze statues.
It’s hard to believe that the whole area was woodland or ‘selva’ up until 1635. It was then that Count Giangirolamo II built an inn and some other buildings, including a hunting lodge one assumes, and started the town. Mind you, the trulli were originally built back in 1481 when the Counts of Conversano D’Acquaviva D’Aragona decided that collapsible houses was a better option than giving the King of Spain a few quid in tax.
The first building constructed out of bricks and mortar, however, had to wait until 1797 when the feudal bonds were broken by common sense. The first building was the Casa d’Amore which belonged to Francesco d’Amore, the first mayor of Alberobello.
Having wandered over about half of Alberobella, we decided to call up the taxi to take us back to our own little trullo. The other half can wait until tomorrow.
By the way, we were still full of food following last night’s Feast of Antipasti so meals today were few and far between. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel hungry again.