I recently spent five glorious days revisiting Puglia and one of the places I enjoyed most was Alberobello. That is the beauty of travelling in Italy: once is never enough!
This was my third visit to the UNESCO world heritage site, and I could focus less on the quaint and irresistible charm of the round tiled roofs set on the square-based structures, and more on their history.
The town is ensconsed in thick groves of olive and almond trees that thrive on the dry, bouldered soil of Puglia. In fact the soil is so rocky that new stones come to light every time the soil is tilled, thus creating an endless supply of light-weight stones that can be used as rooftiles.
The history of these unusual dwellings dates back to the second half of the 15th century when the territory was ruled by the Aquaviva family, who had introduced some forty families into the region to clear the terrain. Over time, the land was populated by these farmers who learned to cultivate the rough land, rendering it extremely fruitful.
However, during the same period, the Kingdom of Naples had enacted legislation requiring all new towns to pay a heavy tax. In response, the feudal lords ordered their tenants to build ‘dry’ dwellings without the use of mortar, so that they could easily be pulled down in the case of royal inspection, cunningly avoiding taxation!
In 1797 a group of brave citizens petitioned the Bourbon King Ferdinando IV who, by royal decree, in May of the same year set the village free.
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