On the way to Alberobello, somewhere in the hills between fields and stone dividing lines we stopped at a gas station. This is completely random but I find it the most strange and I will always remember it. Okay so. We approach the gas station and the first thing I see is a seriously huge, like 12 ft tall, statue of Jesus. He was standing right there on the edge of the parking lot at this gas station in the middle of nowhere. ???? So then we go inside the store of the gas station to get a coffee. I was a little taken back, but somehow not surprised when I realized there was a full bar in there. Just come on in for a drink while you’re gassing up to drive in your car. Oh, Italy. Anyway, scroll on for the real story and also a lot of pictures.
We were on a mission to see the trulli village in Alberobello. When we first arrived, it seemed to be a city like any other.
Just around the corner we found an entrance to the village and an immediate shift in atmosphere. It was like walking into a fairytale crossed with Lord of the Rings. They were drystone dwellings with conical roofs, some adorned with flora, popping with color against the white walls. It felt magical and other-worldly, like how could this place be real? Would a hairy-footed creature come out of one of these doors?
First of all, thinking about how old this place is really amazed me – this particular settlement dates back to the 14th century. The sheer volume of trulli maximize the oddity factor, it’s like being transported to another time.
The other factor I found most interesting about this place was that people actually live here. It’s not a land of gnomes and trolls. Mailboxes and entryway decorations, furniture and rugs outside of dwarf-like doors seemed almost staged, like a curious town-sized dollhouse. Perhaps now that’s more of what it serves as, a novelty. Some dwellings are offered up to tourists for a weekend stay, and noticing lots of telephone wires, I wondered if they had complimentary wifi.
On what I assume to be the main strip of the village, tourist shops with trullo-shaped limoncello bottles lined the streets between handmade crafts, art studios, historical sites, and homes. Originally, this style of construction was designed for easy tearing down and building back up again – to evade taxes of course. These strange buildings have been repurposed, renovated and still stand within a delightfully peculiar community.
The white painted symbols on the roofs represent a variety of Christian, magic, and primitive good luck charms. One of the craft stores was open, so I had to check out the inside which was far more spacious than I anticipated. What appeared to me as a little one room house actually had a few connecting corridors filled by hand painted trinkets with a small studio in the back. The objects seemed crafted by elves, but to my disappointment, no one hid behind the counter with a hat and pointy ears.
Annarita and Ivano, who shared the adventure are two of my boyfriend’s closest friends, so it was really great to spend some extra time with them. (and to have someone else help me make fun of Peppe). I promise I’m learning Italian so I can have actually good conversations with everyone. Thanks to these two for being so warm and accepting to me!
A pop-up shop sold various nuts and dried fruits as a handy snack for walking around the village. We had almonds and olives and a white nut that I impulsively shoved in my mouth without realizing there is a “right” way to eat them. “It’s too late,” Peppe laughed as soon as I popped it in still coated in its shell. A cloud of smoke filled my nose with the smell of roasting chestnuts. The sun was getting low and my eyes traced a silhouette of the village, like a cut-out on the canvas tent.
I can’t help but look at this and see a miniaturized, quirky storybook world. As a notably small person in a tall man’s world, I find myself with an affinity for anything quaint and “me sized”. This maybe the closest I’ll ever come to being in a fairytale.
On the walk back to the car we had a run-in with a one-eyed cat and her troupe of kittens. I persistently called, “micio!” to them in efforts to coerce them into coming nearer. She seemed like a warrior, a survivor. Her kittens were fresh, probably barely on their feet and she only had one-eye so I don’t blame her for being skeptical.