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Finding the Light in Alberobello

Leaving the Tourist Trail in Italy

By Nick Herron

For some, the typical backpacking blitz through Venice, Florence, and Rome is enough to satisfy a first time visit to Italy. But for those travellers who are itching to leave behind the well-worn tourist route connecting Italy’s well-known cultural and historical trio, there’s plenty of other places to choose from.

Amazing Alberobello

Roughly 420 meters above sea level and perched on two connecting mountaintops that are separated by a dry, ancient river bed, Alberobello is just such a place – not so much a modern-day town as a relic of the past. Way down in Puglia, the region that forms Italy’s heel, a trip is the perfect way to not only ditch the crowds in the north, but also find an Italy where time seems to have come to a standstill.

Although the town may not come across as a backpackers’ haven stuffed with cheap accommodation, few hostels in Italy can compare to spending the night in one of its eccentric lodgings. The houses and public buildings called trulli – some almost five centuries old – are made of white-washed limestone slabs, which hold up (originally without mortar) curiously stacked cone-shaped roofs of darker limestone.

Constructed on the lands of local padroni, the trulli were meant to be moveable houses that could be dismantled in case of an unwanted visit from the local property tax collector. Historically, the residents of Alberobello needed to build structures which, in a sort of medieval form of tax evasion, could be easily taken apart in order to evade the high taxes imposed on them.

What developed and sustained itself through the centuries though, was a unique style of architecture that is now recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage site – a thousand stone teepees largely unbothered by the hustle and bustle of sightseeing travellers.

For the incomparable experience of bunking down for a night in a trullo, Trulli Holiday Hotel, located on Piazza Curri, is a good bet. Made up of several separate dwellings, like all trulli, they’re cool in summer and warm in winter, and come at a reasonable price with a free breakfast.

Around Alberobello

The countryside that surrounds Alberobello might be just as beautiful as the town itself. Though deforestation of the selva or forest near the town has left some of the hills a bit bare, centuries of meticulous farming methods have made the arid land around Alberobello fertile, productive and covered in vineyards and orchards.

Easily accessible, the town of Locorotondo is just down the road from Alberobello and is a wonderful place to have lunch and admire the views of the Valle dei Trulli. Once you’ve finished that last glass of local white wine, you can also take a stroll through the row upon row of almond and olive trees that line the adjacent hills.

A Hop, Skip, and Jump Away…

Luckily this cultural gem is not too far off the backpacking trail to reach. Trains leave from Bari – the main city in Puglia – every hour Monday through Saturday and every two hours on Sunday. With a handful of euros you can catch the train from Bari and enjoy the two-hour train ride to the outskirts of Alberobello where a quick walk from the station affords a jaw-dropping view of the town’s architecture and position.

If you can make it to that point you’ll have done the hard part. With an open mind and a smile to share with its people, in Alberobello you’ll find a place that’s unlike any other.

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