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Gnome Houses of Alberobello

by Jack Guy

Sep 22, 2019

The entire town of Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Historic, conical white buildings called trulli cover the town’s hills. Visit the Rione Monti district to walk among hundreds of the distinctive structures. © Daniel M. Cisilino | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / Europe

The southern Italian town of Alberobello is far from the tourist trail, but those that do make it there are in for a treat.

Since 2006 the town has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracting a growing number of visitors. Alberobello is famed for its gnome-like houses known as trulli. There are around 1,500 of them in the town, making for a distinctive look.

Interestingly the dwellings started life as part of a tax avoidance scheme in the Middle Ages. Trulli are made from stacked limestone with no mortar in between, which allows them to be knocked down and rebuilt quickly. As a result, Alberobello wasn’t considered a permanent settlement, and its residents were not subject to taxes.

Today, the buildings are protected and they’re not knocked down, but it’s a fascinating backstory. You can wander around town to visit various trulli that have been turned into shops and workshops, and even stay in a trulli hotel to see what it’s like to live in one.

Alberobello is a must-see on a trip to Puglia and southern Italy. It’s around one hour from Bari and its international airport, and European Capital of Culture 2019 Matera, a town home to a number of spectacular cave dwellings. It’s also worth checking out Taranto and Lecce, too, if you’ve got a few weeks to play with.

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