Looking for things to do in Alberobello Puglia, where to stay, how to get there - or just trying to work out whether it's somewhere you'd like to visit on your Puglia road trip? Then this guide to Alberobello (and a brief history of its trulli) should have you covered
Speak to others of your plans to visit Puglia, and one of the first things they’re likely to mention are the trulli. These curious conical-roofed whitewashed structures, clustered in pockets of Puglia like wild fungi, are an icon of the region. In fact, this peaceful part of southern Italy is the only place they have ever existed.
It is to view Puglia's finest and largest concentration of trulli which brings people to Alberobello, a town of just over 10,000 people. As one of the ‘must do’ items on everyone’s itinerary, the town has inevitably become a little overcrowded with day trippers and tour groups, but it can still be enjoyed if you visit early and with your expectations managed.
Here’s our guide on how to get the most out of your time in Alberobello.
A Brief History of the Trulli
In the words of Unesco, which declared Alberobello a World Heritage site in 1996, the easily recognisable trulli (the singular form is trullo) 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.”
But, how did these unique buildings come to be in Puglia? Well, as with many pivotal moments in history, it’s all to do with tax and money.
In the 1500's, the Acquaviva family, the local rulers within the feudal system, wanted to avoid paying property taxes to the King. They ordered local peasants to build their houses and dwellings without mortar so that, in the event of a royal inspection, the structures could quickly and easily be taken down, and the tax bill would remain low. Using local limestone and some ingenious building techniques, the local population created the trulli, many of which remain standing today (a double achievement given their purpose was to be easy to dismantle!).
So far, so good - for the ruling family that is. You can imagine how Puglian peasants, who had to tear their house down whenever an inspection was on the horizon, were less happy with the situation. Fast forward to the 1700s and, after several petitions from discontented citizens about the ongoing treatment and rule by the Acquaviva family, the King granted their wish to become a ‘royal’ town, and therefore free from the whims (and tax-dodging preferences) of their feudal lords.
After this decree, unsurprisingly, there was less reason for trulli to be built. However, they stand today as a testament to the lengths the powerful will go to keep their wealth, and the perseverance and resourcefulness of the powerless to make the best of their situation.
Today, in the 21st century, the majority of Alberobello’s residents don’t reside in trulli. Instead, the the town's 1,500+ wonderfully preserved and restored trulli ihave evolved into souvenir shops, restaurants and, of course, accommodation for visitors looking for a unique experience.
Things to do In Alborobello
Undoubtedly, the sole reason most people come to Alberobello is to wander the trulli-lined streets; there is after all no other place like this in the world.
Once you arrive in the town’s centre, it’s immediately clear where to head - the Rione Monti quarter within the 'trulli zone'. Up a slight hill, it contains over 1,000 trulli and almost no other type of building style. It is touristy, with gift shops on every other door way, but it is also very very pretty. If, like us, you’re short, then walking amongst the trulli here will also make you feel like a giant! The best plan is to have no plan here, and simply meander and wander to your heart’s content, finding the odd quiet street or ridiculously photogenic nook off the main thoroughfare.
When in Rione Monti, shop-owners will sit or stand outside in the sunshine and try to tempt you inside for a look around - there’s obviously a hope that you may buy something, but there isn’t a hard sell, and it offers an opporunity to see how these buildings are structured inside. Tourism is clearly the lifeblood of the economy in Alberobello, so do try to contribute if you find something you like or want a souvenir.
For a more authentic sense of what it means to live amongst the trulli, head across to the Rione Aia Piccola district, which has 500 or so trulli and is less commercialised. It was here where we enjoyed our time most, catching a glimpse of locals who still call these gnome-sized buildings home and elderly groups of Italian men out for a stroll in the streets they've called home long before the tourists arrived. It also affords you the best views over the clustered trulli patches of Alberobello.
Other places of interest within Alberobello include:
Trullo Sovrano | the only trullo with two floors in the town, which is now a small museum. The museum is open 10 a.m. - 1.30 p.m. & 3.30 - 7 p.m. (closes at 6 p.m. November - March) and entry is €1.50.
Sant'Antonio Church | the town’s church which, you guessed it, is built in the inimitable style.
Casa d’amore | Built in 1797 by Francesco d’Amore, one of the those responsible for the local uprising against the Acquaviva family tyranny, it has come to signify the end of the feudal period in Alberobello and so is of historical importance.
There is also a street market on Thursday mornings.
Is Alberobello Worth a Visit?
We won’t lie to you, we were slightly underwhelmed by our time in Alberobello.
We knew that it would be one of the more tourist-dense towns in Puglia, and so our expectations were already suitably managed prior to arrival. However, within the first ten minutes, it was clear that this was a town where tourism is now at the core of much and, unfortunately, whenever and wherever this happens in the world it begins to change the character of a place.
We wandered for a couple of hours, we visited some shops, we took photographs, and then had a late breakfast at one of the cute pavement coffee shops. However, we were both content to hit the road again to visit some of the other beautifully named nearby towns - such as Locorotondo - particularly as we saw more and more buses of large escorted groups arrive after 10 a.m.
That is not to say you should not visit Alberobello; as we’ve said, this place is unique, contains a very important story and we have zero regrets about having visited. Perhaps it was because we arrived here after several days in Puglia’s lesser-known west and south on our own road trip that a couple of hours felt enough.
Our advice to you is to try and arrive here before 9 a.m. to have a glimpse of Alberobello before the crowds arrive, or in the later afternoon once the majority have departed.
Where to stay in Alberobello
If you’re staying here, then it has to be in a cute and cosy traditional trullo. Here are our favourites:
Budget | At £56 per night, the Trullieu Guesthouse offers one of the the most affordable opportunities to stay in a trullo. Clean and tastefully decorated, it's a great option for couples or families looking for a quiet location close to the tourist area. To check prices and availability, or find out more, click here.
Mid-range | Trulli Casa offers self-catering facilities and a garden for 2-4 people in a great location just outside the trulli zone. Prices for two guest start at £68 per night - check availability here.
The Grandi Trulli Bed & Breakfast however, if it's available, is one of the best options in the city for those looking for a place which serves as base for a few nights, alongside a unique trulli experience. A two-minute walk from the church, it is over two floors, with a gorgeous en-suite bedroom within its conical roof, a lovely outdoor terrace and breakfast included. Prices start at £80 per night for two people, but it can sleep up to four. Check latest prices and availability.
Luxury | If your budget extends to over £100 per night, then you have two beautiful options. The first, Astra, is a 16th century trullo set in a wonderfully peaceful and romantic location and run by Giuseppe & Anna-Maria. It's a perfect choice for couples or honeymooners, with prices starting at £117/night. Check availability, and see pictures, here.
With its rustic luxury vibe and excellent design features, Il Trullo dell' Agricoltore oozes authentic Italian charm and offers a uniquely beautiful trulli experience in Alberobello for £126 per night. Check prices and availability here.
Airbnb | There are a number of trullo available on Airbnb - if you haven’t rented with this service before, then read our beginner's guide to Airbnb or sign up here to receive £25 off your first booking.
How to get to Alberobello
You can take a train from Bari to Alberobello, as well as trains from Brindisi, Lecce or neighbouring Martina Franca, using the Ferrovie Sud Est (FSE). The GoEuro website & app is a great resource for showing you the exact route, cost and travel times for each option, whilst it also allows you to book tickets online. Alberobello’s train station is a 10+ minute walk from the areas discussed in this guide.
If you are renting a car and doing a road trip in Puglia, then you will find two paid parking lots near Rione Monti - just follow the signs once you enter Alberobello. Note that these were completely empty when we arrived just before 9 a.m., but full by 11 a.m. If there are no spaces, then there are plenty other parking options a few minutes' walk away.
If you're renting a car in Puglia, then we recommend searching and booking via Auto Europe.