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I was apprehensive about visiting Alberobello at first.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a place that was extremely high up on my Italian bucket list and I was desperate to get to see its unusual cone-roofed trulli. But other than these unique buildings I really didn’t know what else Alberobello would have in store.
From reading reviews and other blogs I’d heard a few people mention how Alberobello had been a bit of an anticlimax; a once lovely town that had been taken over completely by tourism.
And yes, maybe if you only spend a couple of hours wandering around the main streets of Alberobello then this is probably what you’ll see.
But what I discovered is that if you dig a little deeper into this fascinating little town, you’ll find so much more…
The history of Alberobello’s trulli
Trulli (singular: trullo) are examples of drywall (mortarless) construction, made with limestone boulders and featuring pyramidal, domed or conical roofs. The structures have become somewhat symbolic of Puglia’s Itria Valley, however, these unusual dwellings are not entirely unique to the region. In fact, constructions of a similar design can be seen dating back to ancient Greece.
Then how come there are so many trulli in Puglia?
Like most things in life, it comes down to money.
During the 16th century, the local rulers in the region wanted to avoid paying property taxes to the King, which were based on the number of rooftops, so they ordered local peasants to build their houses without mortar so that in the event of a royal inspection they could quickly be dismantled. Using local limestone and these clever building techniques, the residents created the trulli.
In 1996, Alberobello was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site due to it being the only town in the region still made up entirely of trulli – around 2,000 of them to be exact.
Visiting Alberobello’s trulli
Alberobello’s historic center is definitely on the small side and it’s quite literally impossible to miss the trulli. However, something not everyone knows is that the town is still split up into 3 main trulli districts, with the two primary ones being Rione Monti and Rione Aia Piccola.
Many people tend to stick to the more touristy area of Rione Monti, where you’ll find the majority of the tourist shops, restaurants and bars lining the main street of Via Monte Michele.
However, don’t forget to take a stroll around the picturesque Rione Aia Piccola district too, which is not only the oldest area of Alberobello but also much quieter and more residential than other parts of the town. Aia Piccola is the best place to experience the more authentic and local side of Alberobello, and snap some great photos too of course.
The people of Alberobello
Arriving in Alberobello I genuinely thought that seeing the trulli would be the highlight of my visit.
But I quickly realised that I was wrong.
It was the people; and no not the hoards of tourists, but the locals.
I once read that in Puglia, guests are considered ‘sacred’, and nowhere did this statement ring more true than in Alberobello, from the first waiter who gave us his card and offered to assist with anything we needed during our stay to the local family who invited us back to their trulli for lunch and pumped us full of delicious food and wine while their daughter played traditional music in the background.
Compared to the thousands of tourists who visit Alberobello each year, the local population is small, but the sense of local community hasn’t been lost.
By listening to the stories of the people we met, including the receptionist who checked us in and told us how he delayed his pilot training in London to come back and help renovate his grandmothers trulli, or the local masseuse who left her new life in Barcelona to return home and support her elderly parents, it was easy to see how much the locals still treasure their home and its history and traditions.
I think it’s safe to say that the people I met in Alberobello are some of the warmest and friendliest I’ve met anywhere in the world. Rather than resenting tourists for taking over their home, they welcome them with open arms. After 3 days in Alberobello and numerous offers of assistance, food and wine, I already felt like I’d been welcomed into their local community. And that’s what travel’s all about right?
Therefore my number one piece of advice for visiting Alberobello is… Talk to people!
Have a chat with your waiter. Step inside of the open trullis (when there’s a sign saying you can of course). Accept any offers of hospitality that you receive. I can guarantee you won’t regret it.
Things to do in Alberobello
So other than wandering the trulli-lined streets and talking to the locals, what else is there to do in Alberobello?
- Visit Trullo Sovrano, the only original trulli in Alberobello built with a second story which is now home to a heritage museum with original furnishings and artifacts. Entry is only €2.
- Head up to Belvedere Santa Lucia, the free viewpoint next to Santa Lucia Church which has some of the best panoramic views over the trulli’s of Alberobello.
- Snap a photo on the marble steps leading up from Piazza del Popolo (the main square) to Belvedere Santa Lucia which are sweetly decorated with red hearts and romantic phrases.
- Visit Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian, Alberobello’s impressive cathedral.
- Attend the weekly market every Thursday.
- See Alberobello in Miniatura, located in the back of one of the many shops in the Rione Monti district is a whole miniature version of Alberobello (you’ll see the sign outside – it’s free to visit!).
- Step inside Chiesa di Sant’Antonio, a historic church featuring the same trullo architecture.
- Visit the trullo at ‘Via Verdi 53’ in the Rione Aia Piccola district and have a glass of local wine with Angelo – trust me on this one!
Alberobello by night
While there are not quite as many things to do in Alberobello at night as during the day, with the last of the museums, churches and shops shutting their doors by 7/8pm, this is exactly what makes it the best time to visit Alberobello.
The small Puglian town is particularly popular with day-trippers and organised tours, meaning the best time to explore Alberobello’s narrow streets by yourself is when it finally gets quiet during the late evening or early morning.
My personal recommendation would be to stay overnight (see below) and experience them both, however, if staying overnight isn’t an option, it’s still worth sticking around in Alberobello until the evening. Grab dinner then take a stroll through the magical fairy-light lit streets without the crowds.
If you thought Alberobello was beautiful during the day, just wait until you see it at night!
Whether you’re searching for breakfast, lunch, dinner, aperativo or just a quick mid-afternoon snack, there are plenty of great places to eat in Alberobello.
What to eat in Alberobello?
- Orecchiette – a type of pasta typical of the Puglia region which gained its name through its shape; small ears. You’ll find this on the menu in most restaurants and also sold in the tourist shops.
- Pasqualino – Alberobello’s traditional sandwich made with rosetta or turtle bread and filled with tuna, capers, salami and cheese.
- Pasticciotto – custard-filled pastries from the Puglia region which are popular for breakfast or as a snack. Many places also serve them in flavors such as hazelnut, chocolate and pistachio.
Where to eat in Alberobello?
- La Cantina – a charming local spot close to the cathedral serving traditional Puglian cuisine. You can tell this place is more targeted towards locals than tourists as the English translations are adorably littered with mistakes. Get the ‘Appetizer La Cantina’ to share, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed! Our dinner here had to be one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in Italy.
- Trulli e Puglia Wine Bar – a great selection of local wines paired with delicious snacks including cheeses, meats, olives and focaccia.
- Martinucci Pasticceria – a drool-worthy offering of gelato, pastries and desserts right on Via Monte Michele. Their pasticciotto are a must-try!
- La Pagnottella – a popular local cafe known for its sandwiches, in particular, its pasqualino.
How many days do I need in Alberobello?
Well, at least an afternoon, evening, an overnight stay and the following morning.
In my opinion at least.
Let’s be honest, if you’re choosing to stay overnight in Alberobello it’s probably because you want to stay in an actual trulli. And why not? That’s exactly what I did!
These are a few of the best trulli hotels and rentals in Alberobello:
- Trulli e Puglia – located right in the heart of Rione Monti with spacious restored trulli, amazing private terraces and a connecting cafe and wine bar. I couldn’t rate our stay here any higher – great location and trulli, the owner was lovely, breakfast was delicious and we even got a free upgrade!
- Trulli Soave – charming self-contained trulli in the Rione Aia Piccola district.
- Romantic Trulli – a beautiful luxury trulli with their own private patio area.
Alberobello is a pretty easy town to explore your own, however, if you do prefer taking an organised tour and learning from a knowledgeable local guide, here are a few you could try:
- Guided 2 hour walking tour of Alberobello
- Walking tour of Alberobello with local olive oil tasting
- Alberobello tour by segway, rickshaw, e-bike or mini golf cart
- A private walking food tour of Alberobello
- Lunch/dinner and cooking demo at a local home in Alberobello
How to get to Alberobello
Travelling to Alberobello by train
Alberobello can be reached by train using the Ferrovie Sud Est (FSE) from the surrounding cities and towns of Bari, Brindisi, Lecce and Martina Franca. The train station is around a 10 minute walk from the historic center of Alberobello.
Travelling to Alberobello by car
If you’re driving to Alberobello yourself, there are two paid parking lots near Rione Monti, however these do fill up pretty early (spaces will be limited by around 10/11am). Alternatively, there are a few other parking options roughly a five minute walk away from the historic center.
So, is Alberobello worth visiting?
Yes, yes, 100% yes!
While I would definitely recommend visiting for an overnight stay to see this magical town at its best, even a day trip to Alberobello is a must if you’re traveling within the Puglia region.
Yes it can get a little touristy and crowded during the daytime, especially during the peak summer season, but there’s a good reason everyone wants to visit this beautiful and unique little spot.
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