Everyone loves Alberobello. There’s nowhere remotely like it in Puglia, Italy or anywhere else.
Visitors arrive in their tens of thousands to see the Zona dei Trulli, a neighbourhood consisting entirely of the conically-roofed homes found only in this particular part of Puglia. Looking like they arrived directly from the pages of fairy tales, legend has it that Trulli were created to avoid a tax on property. On news that a taxman was approaching Trulli owners could move their furniture and family to a safe location, then pull out a few keystones at the top of the roof, sending the entire construction crashing inwards. By the time the taxman arrived, the home would be nothing but a pile of bricks.
As Puglia’s most popular destination for visitors, at times Alberobello can appear to be a town that’s surrendered to tourism. You might feel that the ‘authentic’ Alberobello has already disappeared. But don’t panic – it’s still there. You just need to know where to look. Here are some great places to start.
Where to Eat: Trullo dei Sapori
Photo courtesy of Trullo dei Sapori, https://www.facebook.com/trullo.deisapori
One downside to Alberobello’s increased popularity over the past decade is a proliferation of restaurants churning out uninspired plates masquerading as ‘traditional’ Pugliese cuisine. That’s not the case at Trullo dei Sapori, where the open kitchen is proudly serving dishes that combine freshness and creativity to both locals and visitors willing to make the five-minute journey out of the Zona dei Trulli to find it. You’ll have to walk past that open kitchen to get into the actual restaurant, and the smiles and greetings you’ll receive from the chefs are terrific indications of the good time awaiting you.
It goes without saying that the food is some of the tastiest you can find in Alberobello. We couldn’t recommend the house antipasto highly enough. From baked scamorza cheese with speck and walnuts to orzo salad with seasonal vegetables and succulent citrus marinated salmon, at times it appeared that the plates would never stop coming to our table and we’d have to eat our way to freedom. The service is friendly and unpretentious. The prices, hugely reasonable. And on top of all of that you have the option of eating either in its charming covered courtyard or indoors, in the actual Trullo that forms the heart of the restaurant.
Where to Stay: Le Alcove
Photo courtesy of Le Alcove, www.lealcove.it
Understandably, considering the uniqueness of the region, a lot of visitors want to treat themselves to a night or two in a Trullo. While Puglia isn’t short of Trulli converted into guesthouses, often they’re perched in the countryside, far beyond walking distance to the nearest café. If you’re anything like us, that’s unacceptable.
That’s not a problem you’ll experience at Le Alcove Luxury Resort, neatly tucked into the centre of Alberobello. Each of its nine gorgeous suites is a Trullo – the first hotel in the world able to make this claim. The rooms are chic and spacious, and all come with a unique selling point. Look upwards and you’ll have the same view Alberobello residents have been experiencing for centuries. Albeit with air conditioning, plasma screens and satellite TV.
Where to Drink: Miseriaenobilta'
Photo courtesy of Miseriaenobilta', http://www.miseriaenobiltaweb.it
Miseria e Nobilta', in English, translates as Poverty and Nobility. The nobility comes from the aristocratic home on the edge of the Zona dei Trulli that this café/restaurant now inhabits. The poverty comes from the run down state its owners found it in when they took over the space ten years ago. It’s also a fine summary of the culinary philosophy you’ll find there: traditional Pugliese cucina povera, elevated to elite heights by the attention to detail that goes into selecting the very finest produce and cooking it to perfection.
That level of care goes into their extensive drinks menu, which features expertly crafted coffee, creative cocktails and a great selection of local wines, which is served either al banco or at tables outside under a canopy in the town’s most beloved piazza (more on that below). Miseriaenobilta is the ideal place to blend in with locals if the tourist throng starts getting to you. It’s also home to the best Espressino in town.
Where to get Gelato: Arte Fredda
Photo courtesy of Arte Fredda, www.artefredda.com
At times it can seem like Largo Martellotta, the semi-pedestrianized main street that serves as most visitors’ entrance to Alberobello, has been overwhelmed entirely by tourism, its sidewalks lined with gift shops and tourist-focused restaurants churning out bland panini. One place on Largo Martellotta where they haven’t sacrificed quality for a quick Euro is the best gelateria in town, Arte Fredda. Their artisanal gelato isn’t frothed up in garish colours behind glass. Instead, it’s kept under wraps in metal cylinders – perfect for keeping it all at the exact right temperature. You’re welcome to try a sample (assaggino is the word), although if you want to appear to be a true gelato connoisseur you should at least ask to taste the house specialities of pistachio, fresh almond and fragoline di bosco, a wild local strawberry.
If you needed extra confirmation that Arte Fredda is a sacred place for the sweet-toothed, pay attention to its walls, which are lined with photos of celebrities who have turned up to see what the fuss was about. Most are Italian (another seal of quality) but English-speakers should recognise the High Priestess of Punk, Patti Smith. Refreshing proof that even when dismantling the patriarchal musical establishment, there’s still time for ice cream.
Where to get the Best View: Piazza del Popolo
It’s hard to take a bad photo in Alberobello. Streets lined with welcoming Trulli make it easy.
Still, as the majority of visitors arrive in Largo Martellotta and head straight into the nearest Trulli, many never make the short trip up the flight of steps to Piazza del Popolo. It’s a journey every visitor should take, as the viewing platform at the Piazza’s South end provides a panoramic view of the entire Zona dei Trulli, far better than any of the bellaviste promised elsewhere. A dream spot for photographers, it’s also a fascinating point of historical interest. It’s here you’ll find a plaque commemorating the brave men and women of Alberobello who helped hide Jews during Italy’s tragic fascist years.
Although Alberobello’s fame rests with its magical Trulli, there’s much to discover when you dig a little deeper. It’s a place that’s changed from a sleepy small town to a must-see stop on the Southern Italian travel circuit in the space of a little over a decade. Despite this surge in tourism, Alberobello’s soul is still intact. You can still meet wonderful, friendly locals and enjoy authentic Southern Italian experiences, just like everywhere else in Puglia. All it takes is a willingness to search for them.
There’s still one room left on Espressino Travel's Tour of Puglia (including Alberobello) this September. For more details visit our website or contact us. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.