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  • Dougie

Trulli ... everywhere you look you can see a Trullo (sorry, couldn't resist it)

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

Today we visited the Trulli town of Alberobello, about an hour's drive north of Francavilla Fontana. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of it's many, many Trulli.

The Trullo is a style of dwelling particular to the Itria Valley in Puglia. Traditionally they are constructed of dry stone walls (no mortar) with a conical roof which often has an ornamental (sometimes religious) pinnacle on the top. Originally, the pinnacle may have been the stone-mason's signature. Or maybe not. No one really knows.

Trulli started out as rural dwellings, shelter and storage places for agricultural labourers working the fields in 17th Century Puglia. They have very thick walls and (usually) no windows to keep the interior cool in the fiercely hot summer months. Generally Trulli have one room under each conical roof.

Out in the fields you see smaller, one or two coned Trulli. Sometimes there were larger rural Trulli with more cones (i.e. more rooms) for more affluent farming families.

The urban Trulli of Alberobello date mostly from the 18th and 19th Centuries. They are larger. Some of them can be very large -- six or more conical roofs plus adjacent buildings.

There is some conjecture about how the shape and form came to be. As buildings that don't use mortar to bind the stones together they may be quicker to construct. Mind you, there are tons of rock to shift around. There is also a theory that because there is no mortar used Trulli could be quickly de-constructed. Appearing to be ruined, abandoned or uninhabitable to inspectors -- whatever they were called in Italian -- the broken Trulli attracted no taxation or tribute which was levied on all buildings from 1481 (according to Professor Wiki).

Joe and Stephanie have a two cone Trullo in small olive grove. Most of their neighbours live in something similar. In Alberobello there is everything from a one cone Trullu to a Trullo church atop the highest hill in the town.

We left later than we planned so, naturally, the first stop in this historical wonder was a restaurant for lunch. Somebody ordered pizza ... again. And there was another Spritz.

And then we wandered through tight, steep streets on the side of the hill.

Spike entered a Trullo shop selling 9,000 different models of hand-crafted Terracotta Puglian whistle. Who knew? Caricatures of well known public figures are popular among shoppers, apparently. We resisted the temptation.

At the end of our wandering we made our way down the hill. Joe drove us home.

In the evening the neighbours came round for a light evening meal. No cooking this time. Everything was bought in shops in Francavilla Fontana. Except the homemade Lemoncello.

Giovanni and Memena, Mario and Titta. Throughout the evening the entire conversation was conducted in Italian. It is truly amazing how much communication is possible even when -- like me and Spike -- you do not speak the language.

I won Brownie points by greeting the guests with a hearty, "piacere." Thank you Babbel.

Spike fared better because she had focused on Italian before we departed. I concentrated on trying to reclaim my schooldays' French for our time in Paris. (I did ok.). But Spike impressed our guests -- Joe told us -- both by trying to converse in Italian and, in simple sentence conversations, succeeding on occasion.

When we were clearly struggling -- as we were throughout -- there would be a polite pause while Stephanie or Joe translated for us back and forth. And then Italian would erupt again washing over us like a rushing torrent of welcome to our country.

I have never before enjoyed saying next to nothing quite as much as I did tonight.

Giovanni was born eighty years ago in the Trullo which his father built from rocks he dug out of the ground. He and Memena live there in summer. Giovanni remembers helping his father carry wheat from the fields into town because in that period it was wheat -- not olives -- that was farmed for cash here.

I was surprised.

When we arrived last week I assumed I was looking at an ancient, timeless agricultural landscape: olive trees growing in southern Italy since Caesar was a boy. But not in these fields, apparently. Wheat was the cash crop until the Second World War or thereabouts.

Giovanni moved north a long time ago to work in an industrial bakery. While there he met Memena who worked on the Fiat car assembly lines in wealthy Torino. They've been married fifty-five years. They come south to their Trullo for summer every year after Republic Day: 2 June.

Mario and Titta live in Francavilla Fontana but they too move to their Trullo in the country after Republic Day. Mario put down the tiles on the veranda floor we were sitting on and he rendered the plaster on the Trullo extension.

At the end of the evening Titta removed the wrapper on the cakes she had brought from town.

Cassatella di sant'Agata -- a traditional pastry from Sicily. They're also known as minnuzzi di sant'Àjita (St. Agatha's breasts) or minni di virgini (virgins' breasts). Traditional cake with a 'naughty naughty' vibe. If we were in France, someone at the table might have called out "oh la la." The Italian double entendre is known as buca notte.

To be honest, I was glad in a way to posses no Italian. Some traditions can get lost in translation. I would not have known what to say.

But this true. It was an honour and joy to be in the company of these good people. They talked Italian long into the night. We sat silent and bathed in the warmth of their welcome.

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