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Truli Worth It

“Take that, tax collector!”

Was this the call that created an architecture unique in all the world? Something very important must have motivated the people of Alberobello, Italy, in the 1600s to build their homes this way, and with big, pagan symbols displayed in a thoroughly Catholic land.

No mortar holds the stones of these conical dwellings, called Truli Houses, together. They are shaped a bit like the Tholos tombs of ancient Mycenaeans in Greece 3,500 years ago, but built differently. They can also be disassembled, moved and reassembled in a few days – to avoid 17th century taxes, some say. And there are no others like them on the planet, which is why the Truli part of town has been named a World Heritage site.

My bride and I were there to see for ourselves a few years ago. As we walked down the lanes, it reminded us in a way of Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbiton in Middle Earth’s Shire. But, whereas Bag End was only a plausible fantasy, this town is very real. At the same time, after an hour or two exploring, we could almost have been convinced that aliens had plunked down one of their own small towns in the heel of Italy’s boot, just for fun.

One of the conical dwellings is now a real estate office. In it’s window, we learned that we could buy a ‘fixer-upper’ two-bedroom Truli House for only 62,000 euros. We passed on that offer. For one thing, my guess was that it would take another 300,000 to make it livable.

Alberobello, which means ‘Arbor of War’ in the old local dialect, is a pretty place. And, its even more intriguing than it is pretty. My guess is that the Arbor of War thing had to do with the fact that it used to be a great forest, so perhaps the wood was used to build warships? I understand that the local Count was always in one tussle or another with the King of Naples and Sicily. In any case, the old forest is long gone, mostly replaced by vinyards, orchards and farms that spread over the rolling land.

As you might imagine, there is a big Bed and Breakfast trade there for people who want to say they stayed in a place like no other. Kind of like Santorini.

After a few very pleasant hours and a fine Italian lunch, we drove on to Bari and the ruins of ancient Egnazia, not yet aware that we were about to meet the Tomb Serpents of Mesapica.

But that’s another story.

  1. July 16, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Have read several of your posts … love the pictures and commentary !! Thanks !!
    Ed

  2. July 17, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Glad you enjoy them, Ed.

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