Trulli and the Tax Inspector…..



In the Puglia region of Italy, you’ll be fascinated to see strange traditional stone built homes with conical roofs, painted white and resembling beehives. These are trullo (the plural is trulli), built with thick stone walls to keep them cool in summer and warm in winter.


The construction of a trullo is fairly unique in Europe as they were generally built from any random limestone lying around but without mortar. Every stone in the conical roof depends on the ‘key’ stone to prevent the roof from caving in. With all building materials freely available for nothing, we might assume that this clever form of construction was merely a clever way of producing a cheap home. Wrong!


During the Seventeenth century, the rapacious nobility, always on the lookout for another way of extracting the last cent from the poor peasant, came up with the bright idea of a property tax. A few hours before the tax inspector arrived for his pound of flesh, what did the crafty trullo owner do? He merely pulled out the keystone and the only evidence of his home was a pile of rubble. Presumably after numerous demolitions the owners became quite adept at rapid reconstruction. Many trulli have curious iron rings embedded in the roof, these were supposedly to facilitate the rapid demolition.


Most trulli have only one room, with additional space created from arched alcoves. Children would sleep in wall niches covered by a curtain. However there are many trulli with two, three or even more cones, representing the wealth of their respective owners.


With increasing social mobility during the last century and a gradual drift of country dwellers from rural to urban life, many trulli were abandoned and left to decay. Happily, in recent years, there has been a revival of interest in the trulli and many have now been carefully reconstructed as ‘luxury’ holiday homes for well-heeled Brits and Germans.

Trulli of Alberobello - Puglia - Italy. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.

One other curiosity about the trulli is that many have strange symbols or letters painted on their roofs in lime. Their meanings vary from magical symbols to ward off the ‘evil eye’ to religious good luck symbols, both Christian and pagan.



The best place to see trulli is the town of Alberobello has over 400 trulli and is now a major tourist destination.


Pasqua i la Pasquetta

While Easter eggs are becoming popular in Italy Easter bunnies and new-born, yellow spring chickens haven’t really made serious inroads.


Still a pretty deeply religious country, Easter is an important time in all the Italian regions. Serious and solemn with endless masses, processions (with many participants often dressed in traditional costume), religious statuary, incense etc. until Pasqua (Good Friday), it’s all pretty intense but sometimes deeply moving even to agnostics and atheists.


Easter Monday, la Pasquetta is also a holiday throughout Italy but is more of a joyous celebration, still with plenty masses but a family event with everyone from young to old celebrating in their own way.


Saying that Italy is a bit ‘solemn’ on the run up to Good Friday would sound a bit like an understatement to a Spaniard. Here, I live here, we still have flagellants, penitents and endless processions of people dressed up in a manner which would have given a dose of the ‘cold sweats’ to anybody with little more than a summer tan living in the ‘Deep South’ during the early part of the last century.


Apart from the world-famous events at the Vatican, let’s have a look at some of the more notable events:

Florence has its ‘Scoppio del Carro’ which means ‘explosion of the cart’. A spectacular sight for more than 300 years, a huge decorated wagon is dragged through Florence by a team of white oxen. The finale is where the Archbishop lights a rocket which ignites the cart setting off a spectacular display of fire and fireworks.

Chieti, in Abruzzo, has a procession with Selecchi’s Miserere played by 100 violins and is very moving. Trapani, Sicily, is a great place to view processions with several held during Holy Week. The dramatic Good Friday procession, Misteri di Trapani, lasts a full twenty-four hours.


Enna, also in Sicily, has a major procession every Good Friday, with more than 2,000 friars walking through the streets in a silent parade . This dates back to the Spanish domination of Sicily. In Umbria towns, Montefalco and Gualdo Tadino being the most famous, host live scenarios re-enacting the stations of the cross.


On Easter Monday many towns and villages hold dances, feasts and live music.concerts. There are some unusual games often involving food…… In Umbrian town Panicale, cheese is the star attraction. Ruzzolone is played by rolling large wheels of cheese around the village. The idea is to roll your cheese round the course using the fewest number of strokes.


In Tredozio, the Palio dell’Uovo is a competition where eggs are the stars, use your imagination!


Merano has the Corse Rusticane, horse races featuring a breed famous for its blonde mane with riders in local traditional costumes. Barano d’Ischia is famous for the ‘Ndrezzata‘ which takes place in Barano d’Ischia, a dance reviving the battles against the Saracens. The Madonna del Belvedere is celebrated in Carovigno, where the ‘Nzeghe’ is a competition to throw banners.

Wherever you visit, Italy and Sicily will have something at Easter to interest you, all (with reasonable luck) in lovely spring sunshine…..

Sorrento to Apulia and Basilicata

cave cityShort Tour from Sorrento to Castel del Monte Noci Lece Alberobello Matera 

2 nights 3 days

Departure Dates: May 7, 21, June 4, 18, July 2, 16, 30, Aug 13, 27, Sep 10, 24, Oct 8, 22 2014

Early morning departure for the region of Apulia, on the way, stop to visit Castel del Monte, imposing castle with eight octagonal towers at each side built in 1250 by the emperor Federico II, on a hill of 570 meters that dominates all the valley. Free time for lunch, then continue to Castellana Caves. Discovered in 1938, the entrance is represented by an enormous vertical tunnel 60 meters long.  ontinue to Nocie for dinner and overnight.

After breakfast we deart to the city of Lecce famouse for its white Baroque buildings form the end of the XVI century and the first half of the XVII century. We’ll visit the church of S.Oronzo, the Basilica of Santa Croce, the Celestini Palace. In the square of S.Oronzo we can admire the roman amphitheatre from the II century ac and the column of S.Oronzo, 29m high with a copper statue of the saint on the top. Departure to Ostuni, an architectural jewel commonly referred to as “the White Town” for its white walls and its typically white-painted architecture. Free time for lunch. In the afternoon, continue to Alberobello, the town of “trulli” and Unesco Heritage Site. “Trulli” are typical houses with a cone roof that were used as homes and to keep the farmer utensils. Return to the hotel in Noci. Dinner and overnight.

Buffet breakfast. Departure for Matera that has gained international fame for its “Sassi”. The Sassi originated from a prehistoric settlement, and are suspected to be some of the first settlements in Italy.  Ancient Byzantine monks from Byzantine Cappadocia in today’s Turkey were some of the first inhabitants of the sassi carving their cells, houses and little churches into soft Tufa.  Many of these cave “houses” are really only caverns, and the streets in some parts of the Sassi often are located on the rooftops of other houses. One of the peculiarity of this ancient city, is that there is a great similarity with the ancient sites in and around Jerusalem. This has caught the eye of film directors and movie studios. Principally due this reason the Sassi were the set of many film, as for example “The Gospel According to St Matthew” (Pasolini,1964), “King David” (Bruce Beresford,1985), “The Passion of the Christ” (Gibson, 2004) and “The Nativity Story” (Hardwicke, 2006). Matera is also a Unesco heritage. Time for a snack and return to Rome or Sorrento. End of the program.

Euro 382 per person based on 2 people per room
Euro 344 based on 3 people in the room
Euro 487 based on single room accommodation

Capri, the centre of the Roman Empire?

romanAlthough human presence on the island can be dated back to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, Capri eventually became an obscure Greek colony, the inhabitants being predominately wild goats, Capri began its history of attracting the rich, powerful and famous at an early age.

After an exchange for the neighboring island Ischia, Caesar Augustus visited the island in 29BC but the island became truly famous when his successor, Tiberius fell in love with the island’s beauty a few years later and ruled the Roman Empire (at that time most of the known world) from his villa there for the last ten years of his reign.

Although only three of the twelve villas built by Tiberius can be  accurately identified and visited nowadays, it is almost certainly”Villa Jovis” (Jupiter’s Villa) which, commanding a spectacular view of the entire Gulf of Naples from its location atop the Capo, that was his main residence. The island however is rich in Roman remains, most 

interesting of which are the Bagni di Tiberio, the Emperor’s Baths.

After Tiberius’s death the island fell into steep decline. Centuries of attack by barbarians and pirates, and 


repeated earthquakes wiped our most traces of the island’s famous and ancient heritage.

Lombards and Normans occupied and left followed in succession by Aragonese and Anjous and the Ottoman occupied for some years. In the 17th century, most of the island’s inhabitants died from the plague. After Napoleonic French occupation, Capri became a chess-piece between Britain (a “Second Gibraltar”), and France because of its strategic location.
The renaissance of Capri, coming from the tourist trade, developed on an almost industrial scale, from the late 19th century with the 

arrival of the ‘gliterrati’ (mostly writers, artists and philosophers, not Manchester United football players or rock stars) of their day who discovered its charm, climate and natural beauty.

If you plan to visit Capri with its intoxicating mix of flowers, na
rrow lanes and alleyways, this year, do try and travel with a specialist tour company such as Don’t miss the Caesar August Gardens with views over the 


Faraglioni rocks and Gracie Fields’s villa. In Anacapri, stroll through the beautiful gardens of Dr Munthe’s villa. It hardly needs to be said that the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) is a ‘must-see’ but sadly you will not be able to bathe in the azure waters favored by Augustus and Tiberius