Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Puglia's Prime

Thanks to Elizabeth for pointing out this article in the Washington Post: Puglia's Prime. I particularly liked the last paragraph in this extract. Bear in mind we are in the Valle D'Itria between Locorotondo and Cisternino.

Puglia's Prime. Culture, cooking, miles of coastline. . . No wonder this is Italy's newest 'next' place.

By Robert V. Camuto, Special to The Washington Post, Sunday, May 22, 2005

Trulli Different

The center of Puglia's fashionable tourism is in the Valle D'Itria, the land of trulli.

Trulli are centuries-old stone and masonry cottages built from cylindrical room-size chambers -- each enclosed by conical stone roofs. Alberobello is the trulli capital, a village of more than a thousand still inhabited trulli, laid out side by side and topped with geometric pinnacles.

Walking through a neighborhood of whitewashed trulli with beaded doorway curtains and satellite dishes, many of the roofs painted with ancient Christian or astrological symbols, the effect is otherworldly. Is it Dr. Seuss, or some corner of ancient Byzantium? The magic is broken only when you hit one of Alberobello's main tourist streets, where the trulli are filled with souvenir shops hawking olive oil and liqueurs in trullo-shaped bottles.

Just as I was wondering where the trulli came from, I found a rather studious book titled "The TRULLI -- Where did they come from?" It explains that the dwellings proliferated around the 15th century in a complex tax scam. Local counts -- then under an Aragonese king -- allowed farmers and shepherds to build houses on feudal lands without mortar. By allowing dry "temporary" dwellings, the counts were able to avoid the king's taxes on urban areas while pocketing what they collected from the local peasantry.

Outside Alberobello, on the roads to Locorotondo and Cisternino, the countryside is loaded with storybook images: small walled farms with old trulli homes and perfectly disintegrating trulli ruins. Alongside them are trulli hotels, trulli restaurants and big neo-trulli vacation homes.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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