It all started with a 1997 episode of Lonely Planet (or GlobeTrotter depending of who you ask) where Justine Shapiro made her way through Southern Italy, ending up in a small town known as Alberobello. The unique huts made of stone with cone-shaped roofs that scatter the town’s skyline left an impression on me and I knew that as we embarked on our Italian adventure for my 30th birthday, we just had to stay in one of these trulli amazing houses. (Note the puns here? ;))
After our Amalfi Coast scootering adventure, we made our way back to Naples (avoid if you can!) to pick up our rental car. After dealing with Naples and having an ambulance bump our bumper in a gridlocked round about, we were on our way to Alberobello. The drive takes you just over 3 1/2 hrs which is a much more efficient way to get there vs train or bus which takes you between 5 and 6 hrs depending on when you can get your tickets for. The drive is an easy highway drive and takes you right through the middle of the country, passing by Bari as you drive through the Puglia region. Without a GPS, we did get turned around a few times but managed to get back on track with a little luck and my iPhone’s compass.
When we arrived in Alberobello, we located our hotel’s main office to check in. Tipico Resort is made up of apartments in traditional Trulli, like ours, and others in apartments. After checking in, one of the staff members jumped into our car to take us to our Trulli. When we arrived, he helped show us the best place to park in Alberobello’s narrow streets, and getting us settled in, showing us our Trullo, the mini “balcony” and informing us about when our complementary breakfast would be served. From the moment we arrived in the town, I had a good feeling – much better than my initial feeling landing in Rome (see the Amalfi Coast post for details).
By this point, it was Perroni time so B and I head out in search for a beer and a snack. As we make our way into the centre of the town, we stumbled upon a gate with a sign that said “bar”. It looked innocent enough and we had had a long drive so we decided to take our chances. As we turned the corner, we saw a few tables with the most beautiful view of the town and an older gentleman resting by the door. As we head toward the entrance of the “bar”, he got up and lead us in… into what appeared to be his basement. Unfortunately, he didn’t have Peroni on hand but gave us other options, or so I assume. He only spoke Italian… and we only spoke English. In the end, we ordered a beer each and went outside where we brought out our beers, glasses, and a yummy crispy snack.
Alberobello’s Trulli core is easily walkable and heavily populated with restaurants, gift shops, and “look-offs for photos”. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it draws in lots of visitors each year, which is really starting to have an impact on the stairs and streets with which these little houses are accessible by. Since the streets are made of stone, the ample foot traffic that walk them are causing the traction to become treacherous. Tread carefully for risk ending up on your ass.
The little shops that line these streets are packed with nick nacks and lots of food items that are known to the Puglia and Apulia regions. From wine to olive oil, orecchiette pasta (ear-shaped) to taralli crackers (the yummy snack the old man at the “bar” served), Alberobello really does pull it’s weight in being an epicurean destination. The breakfast at our hotel was extensive and delicious, with a mix of breads, fruits, and yogurt. One of the breakfast elements that really stood out to me was focaccia barese – it was like eating pizza for breakfast! Focaccia is made across Italy, but has regional differences. Focaccia Barese is the regional version that comes from Puglia and I made it one of my staples during my stay, in addition to my afternoon beer at the old man’s “bar”. (On our second stop to the “bar”, the old man noticed my countless bug bites and offered a solution… a garlic clove and ointment. He instructed me to rub the bites with the garlic clove first, then apply the ointment… the itching went away and it didn’t bother me the remainder of the trip – who knew?!?)
20 years after Justine Shapiro visited Alberobello and peeking my interested in Southern Italy, I found too myself surrounded by beauty, amazing food, and some of Italy’s most kind and generous people. While not every aspect of my larger Italian adventure went as I had expected, Alberobello left a completely different impression on me. The uniquely shaped houses, the wine, and more may have just been impressionable enough to make me want to return for more.