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A fairytale atmosphere in trulli country They were declared as “World Heritage” by UNESCO – Cool in the summer and warm in the winter, trulli are a miracle of simple, ingenious architecture by Lino Patruno
Alberobello. The characteristic trulli.
Photo Archivio Fotogramma
And from out of nowhere in the valley of Itria, fairytale houses appear... “I wake up and see a dreamlike village, as if I was still sleeping”, wrote an enchanted Gabriele D’Annuzio as he was standing in front of the trulli of Alberobello. And the noted art historian Cesare Brandi likened the trulli to plump and pointed “female breasts” facing the sky. It is “a large, festive, limestone encampment that looks like a ‘ring-around-the-rosy’ children’s scene”. A landscape born “of a Mediterranean Christian Anderson” according to Apulian writer Giuseppe Cassieri, “with those bowling pins that passed themselves off as houses”, and they are “petrified tents” for another Apulian writer, Aldo Bello. “There they are, strewn about like doll houses amongst the gardens and vineyards” exclaimed the essayist Livio Guidotti. And then from journalist and writer Paolo Monelli “They look like demijohns, an enormous stockyard of demijohns for this wine of Apulia that is so fervid and generous”. While the gaze of the 1800’s French traveler Berteaux saw “bizarre kiosks built among the trees; spectral shards of a forgotten time”.
Never has chance had such a large part to play in the creation of a World Heritage site as in the case of the of the trulli, an asset defined as “unique and irreplaceable” by UNESCO in order to protect them. Everything started with a rogue, named Giangirolamo Acquaviva D’Aragona, the Count of Conversano, nicknamed Il Guercio (The Squinter). He wanted to outwit the court of Naples and go hunting independently of their taxes, so he imposed on his subjects the duty of building houses that could be quickly dismantled in the event of a tax collector visit. Dry stone was used, with no mortar, during the years 1400 to 1500.
It was an unintentional miracle. The trulli are an architectural spell, a cheap and ingenious solution made up of stone that was readily available and cost nothing. Laminate cantilevers placed one on top of the other, in ever narrowing circles until the end of the bottle neck construction was reached. A masterpiece of immobility, with air pockets formed in the spaces between one stone and another so that changes in temperature could be absorbed and regulated to maintain a constant temperature. This is why trulli are cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and the first example of natural insulation. The so called “passivity” of the structure is also capable of withstanding the most violent earthquake shocks. It has been said that windy gusts from a cyclone whirling around a trullo dissolve into a screaming rage.
Today nothing is more sought after in Apulian tourism than an ever increasing desire for simplicity and genuineness in nature. But nothing is more threatened by speculation, from the end of the trullari (trulli masons) to the disappearance of the limestone rocks, and by the non-culture of consumerism. The trulli represent an unreal world, as sweet as a caress, a symbol of spirituality in “slow time”, a time to preserve; so much innocent and moving perfection is a brush with transcendence.
A trullo was a self-sufficient place for the life and work of man and his animals, with an almost unredeemed pattern in the repartitions of the internal spaces, which has little to learn from modern interior decorators’ hard-sought solutions. And those mysterious symbols painted on their conical roofs are a chorus of praise to the Lord, a cry for protection from the Sun. The trulli of Alberobello and the Itria valley are a recess of silence and beauty, a “Venice made of stone” to the eternal glory of Apulia.
WHERE: Alberobello (Bari)