787 The Trulli of Alberobello – 1996

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The Trulli of Alberobello

The trulli , limestone dwellings found in the southern region of Puglia, are remarkable examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighbouring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs.

Brief synthesis

The trulli, typical limestone dwellings of Alberobello in the southern Italian region of Puglia, are remarkable examples of corbelled dry-stone construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. These structures, dating from as early as the mid-14th century, characteristically feature pyramidal, domed, or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs. Although rural trulli can be found all along the Itria Valley, their highest concentration and best preserved examples of this architectural form are in the town of Alberobello, where there are over 1500 structures in the quarters of Rione Monti and Aja Piccola.

The property comprises six land parcels extending over an area of 11 hectares. The land parcels comprise two districts of the city (quarters or Rione Monti with 1,030 trulli; Rione Aia Piccola with 590 trulli) and four specific locations (Casa d'Amore; Piazza del Mercato; Museo Storico; Trullo Sovrano).

The extent and homogeneity of those areas, the persistence of traditional building techniques, together with the fact that trulli are still inhabited make this property an exceptional Historic Urban Landscape.

Trulli (singular, trullo) are traditional dry stone huts with a corbelled roof. Their style of construction is specific to the Itria Valley in the region of Puglia. Trulli were generally constructed as temporary field shelters and storehouses or as permanent dwellings by small-scale landowners or agricultural labourers.

Trulli were constructed from roughly worked limestone excavated on-site in the process of creating sub-floor cisterns and from boulders collected from nearby fields and rock outcrops. Characteristically, the buildings are rectangular forms with conical corbelled roofs. The whitewashed walls of the trulli are built directly onto limestone bedrock and constructed using a dry-stone wall technique (that is, without use of mortar or cement). The walls comprise a double skin with a rubble core. A doorway and small windows pierce the walls. An internal fireplace and alcoves are recessed into the thick walls. The roofs are also double-skinned, comprising a domed inner skin of wedge-shaped stone (used in building an arch or vault) capped by a closing stone; and a watertight outer cone built up of corbelled limestone slabs, known as chianche or chiancarelle. The roof structure sits directly on the walls using simple squinches (corner arches) allowing the transition from the rectangular wall structure to the circular or oval sections of the roofs. The roofs of buildings often bear mythological or religious markings in white ash and terminate in a decorative pinnacle whose purpose is to ward off evil influences or bad luck. Water is collected via projecting eaves at the base of the roof which divert water through a channelled slab into a cistern beneath the house. Flights of narrow stone steps give access to the roofs.

The trulli of Alberobello represent a dry-stone building tradition, several thousand years old, found across the Mediterranean region. Scattered rural settlements were present in the area of present day Alberobello around one thousand years ago (1,000 AD). The settlements gradually grew to form the villages of present-day Aia Piccola and Monti. In the mid-14th century the Alberobello area was granted to the first Count of Conversano by Robert d'Anjou, Prince of Taranto, in recognition of service during the Crusades. By the mid-16th century the Monti district was occupied by some forty trulli, but it was in 1620 that the settlement began to expand, when the Count of the period, Gian Girolamo Guercio, ordered the construction of a bakery, mill, and inn. By the end of the 18th century the community numbered over 3500 people. In 1797, feudal rule came to an end, the name of Alberobello was adopted, and Ferdinand IV, Bourbon King of Naples, awarded to Alberobello the status of royal town. After this time the construction of new trulli declined.

Between 1909 and 1936 parts of Alberobello were protected through designation as heritage monuments.

Criterion (iii):

The Trulli of Alberobello illustrate the long-term use of dry-stone building, a technique which has a history of many thousands of years in the Mediterranean region.

Criterion (iv):

The Trulli of Alberobello are an outstanding example of a vernacular architectural ensemble that survives within a Historic Urban Landscape context.

Criterion (v


The Trulli of Alberobello is an outstanding example of human settlement that retains its original form to a remarkable extent.


The 11 ha property, in six separate land parcels, encompasses all the elements necessary for an understanding of the form, layout and materials of the trulli that are the basis for Outstanding Universal Value. The property achieves this by including two quarters of the town dominated by trulli and examples of outstanding trullo-style structures (Trullo Savrano, a rare example of a two-storey building; Piazza del Mercato, a historic market area linking Monti and Aia Piccola District; the Casa d'Amore, converted to a tourist information building; and Museo Storico, a restored museum complex). The intactness of the property is evidenced in the state of preservation of many of the trulli and in the surviving original stonework that is characteristic of these built structures. The wholeness of trulli of Alberobello is visible in the number of surviving and largely original buildings (over 1,600); in the well-preserved layout of the two quarters in which the highest concentrations of trulli are found; and in the urban landscape setting of Alberobello surrounded by agricultural countryside.

The property has no defined buffer zone and its urban and rural setting is vulnerable to pressures from urban development.


By virtue of the simplicity in design and construction of the trulli it has been possible to preserve their authentic form and decoration intact. The provisions of the General Housing Plan for Alberobello operate to prevent inappropriate additions to or modifications of historic buildings. Only lime whitewash, the traditional material, is used for external decoration. While the overall urban fabric has survived to a remarkable degree, there has been a certain measure of loss of authenticity in individual buildings.

The Trulli of Alberobello as a historic urban architectural ensemble is well preserved and authentic in its form and design, materials, setting, and spirit and feeling. The materials of the trulli, along with their originality of form, simplicity of design, number, homogeneity and extent, make a clearly recognisable and distinctive group. The property includes outstanding examples of trullo (for example, Trullo Savrano) and over 1,600 buildings in the typical trulli style. The limestone from which the trulli are constructed, and the lime whitewash used to paint the walls, reflect the local geology and landscape setting. The two quarters of more than 1,600 trulli are authentic in relation to their urban hillside locations, street layouts and the distinctive skylines of conical stone corbelled roofs with decorative pinnacles and roof markings.

A 2007 State of Conservation report for the Trulli of Alberobello notes that authenticity is compromised with regard to building function. In 2007, 30% of the trulli were in commercial use (primarily as tourist accommodation), 40% were abandoned, and 30% were in residential use (concentrated in the Rione Aia Piccola). At that time it was anticipated that residential use would continue to decline. Potential threats to the authenticity of the property are the abandonment of trulli; costs associated with adaptive re-use of abandoned trulli; some disregard for building regulations (e.g., in regard to doors and windows); and tourism impacts (and in particular the numbers of tourists in the high season and consequent impact on visitor experience).

Despite threats to the property from urban development and increasing touristic activity, it retains a high-level of truthfulness and credibility with regard to its expression of Outstanding Universal Value.

Protection and management requirements

The protection and management of the Trulli of Alberobello has a history extending from the beginning of the 20th century. The Trullo Sovrano was declared a national monument in 1923 and the Rione Monti in 1928. To these were added the Rione Aia Piccola and Casa d'Amore in 1936. At present, protection and management require the cooperation of public institutions at different levels of government: National, Regional, Provincial and Municipal.

The property is protected under national cultural heritage legislation: the ‘Codice dei Beni Culturali e del Paesaggio' or ‘Code for Cultural Heritage and Landscape' (Legislative Decree 42/2004). Local offices of the ‘Ministero per i Beni e le Attività culturali' (Regional Management and Supervision) undertake monitoring to ensure compliance with national legislation.

At the Puglia regional level, Law 72/1979 (‘Preservation of the natural and cultural environment of the Puglia Region') establishes regulations with regard to the historical-cultural identity of locations, the surrounding landscape and of areas of natural importance. Law 72/1979 played an important role in providing finance to restore and preserve trulli, though such funding now derives from European Union sources.

The principal planning document used by the Town Council of Alberobello to protect the Trulli of Alberobello is the General Housing Plan (GHP) of the Town of Alberobello (1978 with subsequent revisions). It establishes regulations for town planning and restoration of trulli. Practical guidance is provided to trullo owners in the Handbook of Trulli Restoration (Storia e Destino dei Trulli di Alberobello: Prontuario per il Restauro) (published in 1997). A 2011 Management Plan developed for the Trulli of Alberobello provides a basis for drafting a new General Urban Plan for the town of Alberobello.

The way in which restoration and maintenance of the trulli are undertaken is prescribed in local legislation and it is illegal to demolish, reconstruct, add floors, or construct fake trulli.

The management and control of the property is entrusted to the ‘Ufficio Centro Storico' of Alberobello (Municipal Office for the Historical Centre).

At municipal level the in-force planning tool is the General Urban Plan approved in 1980, whose primary objective is the recovery of the trulli located in the historical center. The implementation of the General Plan in the neighborhoods of the historical center takes place through compulsory Recovery Plans: Recovery Plans for Conservative Restoration (related to actions aimed at the conservation of the physical characters of the settlement) and Recovery plans for Restoration and Renovation (defining combined actions for recovery and building renovation).

In 2011 the Management Plan for the property was adopted; it addresses future policies and actions to preserve its integrity, balance its conservation with local development and valorize its cultural meanings, including the landscape and the intangible components. The Management Plan outlines measures to ensure the long-term conservation of the property, and explores ways in which its attributes can help provide resources for the benefit of the residents.

The Management Plan identifies three key strategic areas: protection of the area by conserving and maintaining the integrity of the property and the visual qualities of the wider historic town and agricultural landscape setting; usability of the property in relation to public infrastructure in the areas of transport, presentation/interpretation/education, and tourism; and branding of the area to promote tourist use and connections between the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value and sustainable local products (for example, food, wine, handicrafts) and services (for example, accommodation).

Moreover, the Management Plan identifies a series of project priorities in relation to the three strategic areas. These include developing a new General Urban Plan for the town of Alberobello; undertaking a study of tourism flows; establishing of a master-training course in trulli building techniques and restoration; undertaking a study on the viability of the Rione Monti; developing proposals to revitalize the Piazza XXVII Maggio; creating an eco-museum for the Itria Valley; increasing the amount of tourist accommodation using existing buildings; undertaking a feasibility study to brand local products and services; developing an integrated multimedia product to communicate the Outstanding Universal Value of ‘The Trulli of Alberobello'; and improving signage related to tourism.

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