National Geographic : 1930 Feb
THE STONE BEEHIVE HOMES OF THE ITALIAN HEEL In Trulli-Land the Native Builds His Dwelling and Makes His Field Arable in the Same Operation BY PAUL WILSTACH AUTHOR OF "HIOTIDAYS AMONG THE HILL TOWNS OF UMBRIA AND TUSCANY" AND "JEFFERSON'S LITTLE MOUNTAIN," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE With Illustrations from Photographs by Luigi Pellerano " AVE you ever seen the trulli?" ventured a small, shy man with little gold on his cuffs but sev eral ribbons on his left breast. "Trulli? Trulli? What is or what are trulli?" I inquired. The word suggested gastronomic rather than geographic explo ration. We, a group of Italian naval officers and an American engaged in snooping among the more interesting historical and unusual places of the "heel" of Italy, were seated at a table of an out-of-door cafe in Ta ranto, a pleasant seaside city which enjoys the distinction of ranking second in im portance among Italy's naval bases. My newly made friends had been en deavoring to aid me in finding a field fresh for my wandering feet. One had sug gested the Castle of Pulsano, with its huge stone at the top, so suspended that it could be dropped on any assailants approaching by the outside stairway running from the pavement to the highest battlements of the stronghold. Another had suggested Ma tera, sometimes called the Subterranean City, because a large proportion of its pop ulation lives inside the earth and two of its churches are grottoes in the rock. Still others had urged Manduria, with its so called Well of Pliny, and beautiful Lecce, the "Florence of Lower Italy." But with the mysterious word "trulli," all thought of other places of pilgrimage vanished. With cascades of words and eloquent gestures, I was informed but not enlight ened as to its meaning. I realized, how ever, that here was unhackneyed quarry for the hunt, and so I set out to seek the trulli. They were hidden away between the obscure towns of Francavilla and Albero bello, on the edge of the billowing hills of a limestone ridge, Le Murge, which paral lels the Adriatic, between two flat plains, the Tavoliere di Lecce to the south and the Tavoliere di Puglia to the north. Lit erally, tavoliere means checkerboard, and the small rectangular farms in these plains, contrasting with each other in the vary ing colors of the raw earth or the grain or grass or trees, sustain the figure. SETTING OUT FOR TRULLI-LAND Francavilla is 21 miles east of Taranto, on the railway'line to Brindisi, and here a leisurely second-rate branch line meanders northwestward 35 miles through rolling country to Alberobello, and thence in the same direction to Bari (see map, p. 233). Leaving Taranto, our train trailed east ward across green fields dripping with the blood-red of poppies; past orchards of peaches, plums, cherries, almonds, and young olives, or comparatively young olives, for the youth of any olive tree I've ever seen dates back by centuries; past grazing stretches mottled with yellow cows and black sheep; a level terrain, and rich, if the numerous well-built farm establishments signify. The cloudless sky was blue as an in verted sea. The sunny air had the crystal translucence that it has in near-by Greece, revealing distances microscopically and bringing them in detail to the naked eye. As far as the horizon, there were no buildings which were not white, whether detached in settings of green or massed in villages. Nowhere was a gable seen, for here the housetops are invariably flat.