Apulia (Puglia), the southeastern region of Italy, has been gaining popularity in recent years for its unique destinations like Alberobello. With its iconic trulli homes and picturesque groves of olive trees, Alberobello is characterized by natural beauty and unique history. This guide highlights everything you need to know to plan your visit including the history of Alberobello Italy and its trulli homes, things to do in the region, and where to stay.
The Itria Valley is the only place in the world where you can find an authentic trullo (or trulli plural). The largest concentration of these traditional dwellings is found in Alberobello, which was recognized as a National Monument in 1910 and later as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. While these homes have an interesting history, which you will read about below, they are not a thing of the past. Residents still live and work out of trulli which are integrated throughout the city between modern homes and storefronts.
Alberobello remains a bit of a secret compared to some of the more popular tourist attractions in the north like Rome, Venice, and Tuscany. Even so, tourists are more frequently adding Aberobello to their Puglia road trip itinerary. Visitors are intrigued by the white-washed homes and distinctive pointy conical roofs. Many are decorated with rustic pottery and vining greenery accented by vibrant colorful blooms. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world, but what is the story behind these fairy-tale-looking homes? How did they come to be and why do they look so unique?
History of Alberobello and its Trulli homes
There are two prevailing stories believed to explain the origin of the trulli.
In the 1500’s the land that is now Aberobello was owned by a feudal lord, Count Acquaviva. In order to avoid paying property taxes to the King, he ordered the inhabitants to build their dwellings in such a way that they could easily be disassembled during a royal inspection. They would build their homes without mortar, instead stacking limestone boulders collected from the neighboring fields. Each trullo, meaning “dome” in Greek, consists of one primary dome roof and room. Some homes may have additional rooms built on either side of this central living space. Whenever the tax collector came, the trulli houses would be dismantled, since, after all, you cannot pay property taxes without a house. In the late 1700s, the citizens of Alberobello petitioned the King and were granted permission to become a free town and keep their homes intact.
Although the story about evading taxes is the more commonly shared theory, there is a second story that might explain the origin of Alberobello’s trulli homes. The region was once a large forest. Those who were in charge of the land did not want their natural landscape to turn into a modernized town. Consequently, they instructed all of the residents to construct temporary dwellings.
Regardless of which origin story you believe, these are the same fanciful dwellings that you see throughout Alberobello today. The walls have now been reinforced with mortar, but the original details still remain like the decorative spires and the painted symbols found on many of the roofs. These symbols are typically representative of pagan, Christian, and Jewish beliefs.
How to get to Alberobello from Bari?
If you are planning an Alberobello day trip, there are four primary methods for getting there:
- Car – By far, the easiest way to visit Alberobello is by rental car. The closest hub is Bari which is plentiful in car rental companies. We used the company Airport Rentals to book our rental car. You can either drive directly to Alberobello (about a 50-minute drive from Bari), or you can take the coastal route adding additional stops like the picturesque Lama Monachile beach in Polignano a Mare.
- Train – To travel by train to Alberobello from Bari, you can purchase tickets on the Ferrovie Sud Est website. This route typically takes 2 hours and involves a change in Putignano. The cost is around 5 Euro. Many smaller neighboring towns have direct trains to Alberobello.
- Bus – Most bus tickets from Bari involve one change, however, there are some direct buses available through the Trenitalia website. A direct bus takes around 1 hour. The other routes take around 2 hours. Ticket prices typically range between 4 – 5 Euro.
- Shuttle – The last method of reaching Alberobello is by booking a private tour. This guided Alberobello Trip includes roundtrip transportation from Bari to Alberobello. This day tour provides transportation and guided tours of both Alberobello and nearby Matera. On a side note, we highly recommend visiting Matera. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably one of the most unique destinations in Italy.
Things to do in and near Alberobello
Explore the “Trulli Zone” – The main attraction for which Alberobello is famous is the collection of picturesque trulli homes. Although you can view authentic trulli interspersed throughout the city and larger Itria Valley, there are two areas in Alberobello where you can view the largest concentration of trulli. Rione Monti contains around 1,000 trulli and is the more “touristy” of the two. It is here where you’ll find bustling storefronts, picture-perfect restaurants, and enticing gelato shops along with all of the tourists of course. The narrow cobblestone streets meander uphill (“monti” means “mountains”), so take your time and don’t be afraid to wander through some of the sides streets which are likely to be less crowded.
Rione Aia Piccola is a much smaller and quieter area consisting of around 600 trulli. You will not find many touristy things to do in this area as Aia Piccola is primarily inhabited by local residents. Stroll these quiet streets to gain a better understanding of how these villages looked hundreds of years ago.
Visit a museum – Alberobello has a Museum of Olive Oil which is housed inside Casa Pezzolla, the Museum of Handicrafts, and perhaps the most enticing is the Museum of Wine.
See the largest trulli in Alberobello – Trulli Sovrano is the largest example of an authentic trulli, comprised of two floors and 12 domed roofs. The structure is open to the public, offering a glimpse into what life would have looked like inside a trullo in the 19th century. The two floors and gardens are decorated with original furnishings, artifacts, and historical pieces. At around 2 Euro, the modest entrance fee is well worth a visit.
Grab a panoramic shot of Alberobello’s trulli. – Have you seen those stunning photos of Alberobello where rows of trulli seem to rise out of the ground like a majestic mountain range? That photo was most likely taken from the Belevedere Santa Lucia. It is for this reason, many walking tours start at this meeting point. This means that the area becomes crowded very quickly, so plan to arrive early or just come with a lot of patience if you plan to get “the shot”.
Shop the open-air market – Alberobello’s market day is Thursday lasting from 7:30 am until 2:30 pm. Peruse the vendor stalls for locally grown produce, pickled vegetables, dried fruits, and nuts. You may also find vendors selling clothing, houseware, gifts, and even small animals.
Visit the Grotte di Castellana (11 miles from Alberobello) – Grotte di Castellana, or the Castellana Caves, are a popular attraction in Puglia. The underground caverns extend for 3.348 meters and reach a maximum depth of 122 m below the surface level.
Cliff dive at Polignano a Mare (17.9 miles from Alberobello) – This coastal town is often referred to as the “pearl of the Adriatic”. The main attraction is Lama Monachile. a pebble beach tucked into a cove surrounded on either side by rugged cliffs. The area is popular with beachgoers and adventurer-seekers brave enough to dive off the cliffs into the turquoise waters below.
See Italy’s “white town” Ostuni (22.6 miles from Alberobello) – The medieval walled city of Ostuni is one of Italy’s most picturesque destinations. Similar to the trulli of Alberobello, the buildings of Ostuni are white-washed and densely populated. Wandering through the maze of alleyways, you may encounter an unexpected overlook of the neighboring olive groves or a glimpse of the Adriatic Sea just a few miles away.
Explore the labyrinth of streets in Matera’s Sassi (42 miles from Alberobello) – Matera was once known as “the shame of Italy”. It was a slum with no electricity, sewage, or running water. Poverty and disease were prevalent. In the 1980s, investors agreed to restore the region, utilizing the existing caves systems to create boutique hotels and restaurants. Today it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and according to Traveller magazine, is the world’s third oldest inhabited city after Aleppo and Jericho.
Where to eat in Alberobello?
Casa Nova Il Ristorante is located inside a 1700s oil mill. The all-stone interior and tunnel-like arches create an incredible setting for enjoying a local meal. The menu at this Alberobello restaurant features traditional cuisine of the region including pureed fava beans with wild chicory and orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe. Casa Nova also offers vegan, vegetarian, and celiac menus.
With its prime location within the “Trulli Zone” Ristorante L’Aratro is one of the most popular restaurants among tourists. You will be seated inside an authentic trullo while dining on dishes like Capocollo Ham and housemade ricotta, local lamb grilled on olive tree wood, and Adriatic sea bass.
The aroma of baking bread will lure you off the streets to try La Lira Focacceria. This is a popular place to eat in Alberobello for those craving Italian street food or a quick bite to eat. The homemade focaccia bread is some of the best in the city. The Foccapizza and stuffed puccia are also worth adding to your list of foods to try while visiting Alberobello.
Beyond its excellent selection of pizza and regional fare, Ristorante Pizzeria Il Pinnacolo also offers guests who are dining in the terrace or rooftop garden a special treat. This dining area provides views of Alberobello from above. Enjoy a hearty pasta and glass of Puglia wine while surrounded by the fairy-tale-like roofs of surrounding trulli homes.
Experience authentic Alberobello cuisine at a local’s home with this workshop. The hose will provide a cooking demonstration with authentic recipes before serving a 4-course seasonal menu including a starter, pasta, main course, and dessert.
How much time do you need in Alberobello?
We found that 1 day is enough time to explore the main sites of Alberobello. On the other hand, if you are visiting with a significant other, spending the night in one of Alberobello’s romantic trulli is definitely worthwhile. If you have the time available, book a local bed and breakfast for a few nights and enjoy the intimate experience of staying in a trullo. We provide our Alberobello hotel recommendation below.
Where to stay in Alberobello?
If you are going to spend the night in Alberobello, you must stay in an authentic Trullo.
Trulli Del Nonno Michele is a charming bed and breakfast located just 3.5 miles from the historic center of Alberobello. The B&B is an original cluster of trulli built years ago by the owner’s grandfather. Each room has exposed stone arches, quaint alcoves, and high domed or vault ceilings which are characteristic of Alberobello’s trulli. Details like stunning purple geranium flowers, simple lace tablecloths, and rustic clay pottery accentuate the humble beauty and charm of this B&B. The 7 beautiful trulli houses, although connected, are all independent with private entrances and patios.
The property has a large swimming pool surrounded by lounge chairs for sunbathing and relaxing. An extensive grove of centenarian olive trees is accessible to all guests including children. In fact, there is a large play area tucked away between olive trees and hammocks for families with young children to enjoy. Cribs and high chairs are also available for those visiting with kids.
Owners Tommaso and Comasia, are generous hosts providing a delightful assortment of foods and beverages for an evening snack and self-serve breakfast. During our visit, we were provided with taralli (Italian crackers), freshly harvested tomatoes, and pressed olive oil made from the olive trees on the property. This was accompanied of course by a bottle of wine. In the morning, we were treated to a kitchen stocked with croissants, jams, yogurts, fruit, and juices. We opened our front door to enjoy our breakfast on the patio and were delightfully surprised to see a basket of freshly baked goods on our doorstep. The hospitality was above anything we had experienced during our two weeks in Italy.
Trulli Del Nonno Michele offers an idyllic experience of peaceful simplicity. Removed from the touristy bustle of the “Trulli Zone” guests are able to enjoy the simplicity of what it might have been like to live in these fanciful dwellings, except with the added modern amenities of course.
This post may contain affiliate links which means at no cost to you, I might earn a small commission. This was a gifted stay, but all opinions are my own. I do not accept and write about gifted stays unless I truly enjoy them.
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