Fantasy in Stone

P   U   G   L   I   A      (A   P   U   L   I   A)

The Italian region of Apulia (or also known as Puglia) lies to the South and makes up the high heel of the Italian boot. A greater part of its coastline lies on the Adriatic Sea to the east but technically the sea borders of the region washes into the Ionian Sea as well to the southeast. The place where the two seas meet between Italian Puglia and Albania is the Strait of òtranto while the instep of Italy’s boot is the Gulf of Taranto.

261 Fantasy in Stone 11Once upon a time there were large forests of pine, yew and beech mainly in Puglia but unfortunately, they disappeared lots of centuries ago. Despite the forests being gone, the land was re-used again and the cultivation of plants started. Thus the development of agriculture in the region began turning it into primarily an agricultural region. Nowadays Apulia is a huge producer of wheat, oats and vegetables. Apulia also cultivates wine grapes and it’s among the wine producers in Italy. And …and it produces olive oil.

261 Fantasy in Stone 10As a matter of fact, the production of the “liquid gold” in Puglia exceeds much more that of any other region in the country. Apart from this the region of Puglia really possesses a huge number of historic sites and tourist places. I myself can mention the Capital of Trulli which is a place taken from a fairy-tale. You might wonder now which this city might be….

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I trulli fiabeschi: I trulli (il trullo is the singular form) are a common view in and around the Itria Valley, peppering the countryside. There are about 1500 similar in an urban environment in the region of Puglia in Italy. They are spread out everywhere, even as sheds in olive groves. But there’s one particular town in Apulia that is famous for its trulli. It’s the 14th century town of Alberobello (Aiarubbédde in apulo-barese) that is known as the capital of trulli because it is home to the highest concentration of these“trulli fiabeschi” (fairy-tale trulli houses) in the region.

261 Fantasy in Stone 21The story begins …. The story of Alberobello began in the distant 1100 when Roberto Decerano turned the nearby Selva of Fasano (wood) into the Bishopof Monopoli. Some 400 years later (more precisely in 1481), Count Andrea Matta Acquaviva of Conversano obtained the Selva together with all of the trulli there from King Ferdinand of Aragon. After that ……

261 Fantasy in Stone 22A legend or truth? There is one very interesting fact (or maybe a legend) that dates back to the 17th-18th century and it goes like this. Heavy taxes were imposed on any permanent structure at that period of time. A local landlord (Count Giangirolamo Acquaviva, or nicknamed as the “Guercio (one-eyed man) of Apulia,”) brought his peasants to the town. The workers had to work in the nearby woodland and to cultivate crops. But that guy wanted to fiddle the authorities in terms of taxes and he didn’t want Alberobello to be classified as a town (to be registered as an uninhabited settlement was the best solution for him). That’s why he prohibited the construction of dwellings other than trulli (without mortar and easily and fast demolished and dismantled upon a royal inspection). Unfortunately, the place was classified as a “town” and the Guercio was imprisoned by Philip IV of Spain in 1649 (he was put to prison not because of his untraditional tax evasion but because of his rebellious attitude towards the viceroy from Spain who was ruling Puglia at that time).

261 Fantasy in Stone 23The other beginning: After a 300-year reign of the Acquaviva family, Ferdinand IV, King of Naples gave the freedom to the citizens in 1797. They named their settlement Alberobello (or Beautiful Tree) after one ancient oak tree that was a witness to a great number of legendary battles. After the King’s decree the first stone-and-mortar trullo was constructed, i.e la Casa d’Amore, which was later declared a national monument.

261 Fantasy in Stone 24What is un trullo, as a matter of fact? Here are a few things about i trulli themselves. They are smartly whitewashed square dwellings built of local limestone and boulders without any mortar. Their dry-stone walls are very thick which both strengthens the construction and controls the internal temperature. The roofs are conical domes with a spire on the top. (By the way, the name of these dwellings come from the Greek word τρούλος which means “dome”) There are often painted symbols on the roof-cones. These emblems and signs have a religious or superstitious significance. As to the spires, they show the social status of their owners.

261 Fantasy in Stone 25The symbols: In effects, there is nothing mystical in the symbols of the trulli. They were placed on the roofs of the fairy-tale houses upon the request of the local tourist info-point in the 1930s of last century. Benito Mussolini was expected to come to Alberobello and thus the locals aimed to make the town look more mystical. The roof symbols have been used by the locals for many centuries but they are not a typical decoration on the domes.

261 Fantasy in Stone 27A fairy-tale walk in Alberobello? The Monti Rione (Monti Dsitrict) is dotted by numerous trulli, nowadays housing lots of craftsman workshops, traditional trattorie and osterie and souvenir shops. For sure, you won’t miss the landmarks of the Beautiful Tree while wandering along the tiny and cobbled streets. There you will find out the trullo-church, i.e. Chiesa S. Antonio di Padova.

261 Fantasy in Stone 28Another site worth visiting is Il Trullo Siamese that hides one legend about two brothers who fell in love with one and the same local girl. One of them managed to win her heart and built and wall between his domain and that of his brother’s. The trullo obtained a second entrance as well in the back lane. Thus all of them separated but together at the same time. Their life was happy ever after like in fairy-tale. 😀

If you visit the other, less tourist District – Aia Piccola, you will surely have to visit the Basilica S.S. Cosma E Damiano and il Trullo Sovrano, the latter being the only two-storey trullo.


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