Alberobello is the capital of the trulli houses, limestone dwellings common in the Puglia region in Southern Italy.
It is not crystal clear how old the trulli houses are and there is a couple of interesting theories regarding their potential origin:
- due to deforestation (forests were cut to make room for vineyards, olive trees and citrus groves) there was not enough wood to construct wooden structures, whereas limestone was abundant;
- they were built by the ancients, similar to the nuraghi towers in Sardinia and the tholoi tombs of Mycenae;
- they were built by the peasants as means of tax evasion, since only ‘permanent structures’ were taxed (whereas a trullo can be literally demolished in a couple of minutes: the stone can be pulled out of the roof because it is not connected with a cement or anything else);
- they were built by poor peasants because, again, ‘permanent structures’ were forbidden by landlords to whom the land in Puglia generally belonged until 19th century.
For me the last one is probably the most convincing.
It seems that until recently people of Puglia were ashamed of living in trulli houses and were trying to move out to more ‘permanent’ structures as soon as possible. It is only a couple of years ago that the trulli houses were rediscovered as a tourist attraction and appreciated by UNESCO by being listed as world heritage.
- Alberobello on the UNESCO world heritage list: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/787
- Guide to the trulli of Alberobello: http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/unesco-world-heritage-sites/alberobello-and-its-trulli.html
- In Polish: guide to Alberobello at Italia by Natalia, a Polish travel blog on Italy: http://italia-by-natalia.pl/alberobello-dziedzictwo-apulii/