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Alberobello and its trulli houses: discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site

Situated on the coast of Apulia, the small town of Alberobello is famous for its unique collection of trulli houses - an architectural heritage that has earned it UNESCO World heritage site status.

Trulli are traditional peasant dwellings, with thick limestone walls and distinctive conical rooves topped with spires and, in many cases, obscure mystical symbols. Because of their tiny size and unusual shape, they look to modern eyes like the fairy tale homes of hobbits and gnomes. Although you often see them scattered across the olive groves of southern Italy, nowhere else can you find so many of these picturesque rustic homesteads in one place.

The trulli in Alberobello are mostly concentrated into two areas, the largest being the Rione Monti on the town's south-western slopes. Over 1000 trulli are packed into these narrow, winding lanes. Many have been converted into bars and shops selling wine, trinkets and souvenirs, but you can still get a good sense of the original layout of the interiors as you browse. Look out for the Trulli Siamese, an unusual twin-trulli structure on the Via Monte Nero. To see the Rione Monti in a more peaceful light, come back for an evening stroll after the shops have closed.

Located east of the Rione Monti, the Rione Aia Piccolo is, by contrast, still a relatively quiet residential district. The 400 trulli in this zone retain more of an authentic rural feeling, with many operating as everyday homes for the locals. While you are in the neighborhood, you shouldn't miss the Museo del Territorio. Tastefully constructed from a group of ten trulli houses, the town's main museum is full of fascinating insights into the region's history.

Another museum well worth visiting is the Trullo Sovrano in the Piazza Sacramento. Thought to have been built by a priest in the 1700s, this large, two-storey dwelling has been kept in its original state and furnished in period style.

For a bird's eye view of Alberobello's trulli, head to the terrace just off the main town square, known as the Piazza del Popolo. And if simply seeing these fascinating, ancient houses isn't enough to satisfy your curiosity, you can always arrange a stay in a self-catered trullo apartment to immerse yourself in the Apulian lifestyle.