Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Italy: Alberobello (and More)

Stacked limestone and a conical shape are the hallmarks of trulli architecture. Alberobello
has more than a thousand of these unique structures. Many are now used as souvenir shops
or tourist lodgings. Sometimes several are connected to form one larger building. The
effect, as I think this photo shows, is enchanting.
Trulli are beehive-shaped (or igloo-shaped, if you prefer) structures traditionally made of local limestone without mortar. They are found nowhere else in the world, just in Puglia, west of the coastal city of Bari. The center of the Trulli District (that seems to be a formal designation) is Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has more than 1,000 of these odd buildings. Alberobello, a long-time destination for international travelers as well as Italian holidaymakers, has good restaurants, hotels and other amenities for visitors, including loads of narrow, trulli-lined lanes.

The first trullo (that's the singular) was probably built in the 1400s or earlier. The often-repeated and unverifiable story is that they were built as a tax dodge. When residents heard that a tax collector was in the area, they could quickly disassemble their trulli and thus have nothing to pay taxes on. When the tax collector left, the trulli could be reassembled almost as quickly.

Alberobello is a great base for exploring nearby towns and the nearby Adriatic Coast. Possible day trips out of Alberobello include Castel del Monte (which we saw as a day trip out of Trani); the inland towns of Ostuni and Ceglie Messapica; and the coastal towns of Polignano a Mare and Monopoli. We visited all four towns during our four nights and three full days in Alberobello.
Many trulli are used as souvenir shops, though a significant number are still private homes.

Alberobello is a popular tourist destination, but it's all concentrated
in the area most dense with trulli. Much of the town seems
untouched by tourism.

Trulli can be quite complex, such as this restaurant with its multi-cone roof. 

At our inn, Palazzo Scotto, we spent one night in this
fantasy of a room, with the bed seeming to float
above lighted rocks. The rest of the room was
furnished with Venetian antiques. It seemed like
something from a Stanley Kubrick movie. The three
other nights were in a larger, more comfortable suite,
with the bedroom in a rehabbed trullo.

Trulli are visible across the alley behind Palazzo Scotto's garden.
Central Bar on Corso Vittorio Emanuele in Alberobello is
a great spot both for aperitivos  and for watching the
town's passeggiata, the pre-dinner stroll that's a ritual
in many Italian cities and towns.

A household wares vendor awaits shoppers at the Thursday market in Alberobello.
 The well-trimmed trees in the background shade a lovely little park.

Ostuni sits atop three hills overlooking
the Adriatic Coast. It's called the
White City -- most buildings are
painted white -- and is home to
a sizeable British and German
expat community.
Brooms must be a symbol of Ostuni ... they're featured
in magnets and postcards.
Ostuni's sunny, winding and narrow
lanes are empty in early afternoon.
The Municipal Palace dominates the center of Ostuni.

What I think is Jesus chasing money lenders out of the temple is on the ceiling
of Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta in Ostuni. 

East of Ostuni, the Adriatic beckons in the distance. Notice the people on rooftop terraces.
Ceglie Messapica is a sleepy hilltop town that
centuries ago was the military capital of the
region. Today it's known for its restaurants.
Unfortunately, we were there in the middle
of the afternoon and had trouble finding
a place open for a late lunch along its
deserted streets. As is common in southern
Italy, everything closes in the early afternoon,
with shops reopening around 5 and restaurants
around 6:30. 

This earlier version of today's popular Fiat 500 wends its way through the historic center
of Ceglie Messapica.

A medieval tower looms over a street decked out for a festival in Ceglie Messapica.

Street decorations such as these in Ceglie Messapica, illuminated at night, are
 part and parcel of various holiday celebrations in towns across southern Italy.

Polignano a Mare's beach, as seen from a busy city
street on the limestone cliffs that surround it.
Polignano a Mare's beach is rocky and has no facilities. Even though we had brought swimsuits,
without a place to change and without towels, we didn't put a toe in the water.
A bit south along the coast from Polignano a Mare is Monopoli, once
a stop on the Via Traiana, the Emperor Trajan's road link to Adriatic ports.
It's still a sea-oriented city with a fishing fleet supplying excellent restaurants
along its harbor and in its central district.
Medieval fortresses such as the one in Monopoli are found
in most southern Italy coastal towns.

Sabbiadoro is a lido, a more or less private beach where visitors pay to use umbrellas
and lounges, just south of Monopoli. It was recommended by our innkeeper in
Alberobello and it turned out to be just what we were looking for.

A lifeguard's boat sits ready for use at Sabbiadoro.
Soft sand, gentle waves, warm sun, and food and drink service made
for a very pleasant day.

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