Visit: 24th – 25th July 2015
On this, the final day of our summer holiday, Natalie and I drove coastward from the rupestrian town of Matera to a place called Alberobello.
This is a town inscribed on the list for its curious style of buildings. These are called trulli. They are typically small circular one-room buildings with a distinctive conical roof. The walls are constructed in a dry-stone fashion using limestone blocks, then whitewashed. The style flourished in the region because it was simple, cheap and well-insulated. You can see trulli scattered around the countryside for miles around, but the town of Alberobello is where you will find the mother lode.
It has 1,600 trulli, many of them still lived-in to this day. There are two large trulli districts in the town. One of them is more commercialised, in the sense that many of the trulli have been converted into shops and restaurants and it is to here that most daytrippers are brought. The other is where the trullo residents still live, although a fair portion of these are now holiday lets.
We took the opportunity to rent a trullo for the night. At €93 it was a very fair price, I thought.
I drove to the letting agency’s office and the rep got in the hire car with us and directed us to our trullo for the night.
Inside it was small and simple, but had mod-cons including a bathroom, cooker and even wi-fi.
Ours even had a retrofitted air con system, which I thought was going it a bit much.
We wandered around the quiet town – not crowded with tourists like us in the evening, pleasingly – and then went for a traditional Puglian meal (lots of cheese again and some simple but charming pasta dishes). It was here that I think we “maxed out” on Italian cheeses, to the extent that to this day (over a month later) we both still shudder at the thought of eating more Italian cheese. It is not that it wasn’t nice – far from it – just that we had enough mozzarella and ricotta out there to last us for many moons.
Like with many WHSs I visit, the UNESCO inscription specifies that only certain parts of the town are inscribed on the list. These include the two large trulli districts, but also this rather boring-looking house known as the Casa d’Amore, which is thought to have been the first trullo – a sort of proto-trullo.
The trulli museum is also specified. We watched a video from one of the few remaining trullo masters on how the buildings are constructed, and also received tickets to the nearby olive museum where I saw a mesmerising video on the olive-oil production process. Olives are plentiful around here – and they are about the only things that are. The soil in this part of Italy is so poor that nothing but olive trees can grow, so you see one in every back yard. There is a trullo church (not inscribed by UNESCO) and the town’s only two-story trullo (which is). Visiting this is a little like being inside inside a hobbit warren.
After our night in Alberobello we drove for the last time back to Bari for one final night there before heading home from Karol Wojtyła airport the following morning. On that final evening we returned to the simple neighbourhood trattoria (if it was even as upmarket as that!) where we had eaten pizza several days before.
This time I ordered a pasta dish that contained anchovies, olives, capers and tomatoes. It was the most wonderful thing I had eaten on that whole trip, and it cost about €8. This is one of the great pleasures of Italy, I think – that the food lends itself to simplicity, meaning you don’t have to go to an expensive restaurant to have a great meal.