As the sun started to slip further down in the sky, threatening to disappear behind the expansive olive tree dotted hills of the Valle d’Itria, our little Fiat wove along the unpaved road, the low, sandstone walls on either side of us often seeming perilously close. Feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere and with our five-month-old son beginning to cry, my partner and I looked at each other and silently communicated our concern that we’d made a huge mistake.
We’d been told we were “brave” by some friends and “crazy” by others. Taking our baby on a month-long European holiday was both an adventure and a necessity as we each have family in the UK. A week in Puglia, located in Italy’s south, provided a respite from the jam-packed calendar of catch-ups we had committed to in London and we had opted to rent a traditional, yet luxurious trullo through Airbnb to experience living in one of the quirky, Unesco protected structures native to the region.
After a drive that felt as though it would never end, we arrived at our accommodation and it became clear we had made no mistake – Trullo Perla Greta was every bit the gem the name would suggest. “My husband and I have always wished to own a ‘trullo’ as property that could host tourists from all over the world and also could regroup our families and friends during our holidays,” says host Silvana, who bought Trullo Perla Greta in 2021. As she goes on to explain, “they are special ‘conical’ buildings made by stones stuck one by one, as in a perfect mosaic. Each trullo is like an artwork by an expert local artisan.”
Adding to the appeal of these unique dwellings are some of the theories surrounding their origins – the most intriguing being that due to the exorbitant taxes imposed in Alberobello in the 17th century, peasant families employed the design of the trulli so that they could dismantle their homes almost instantly come tax season and retreat further into the hills until it was “safe” to return and rebuild – a process which allegedly took six months.
Traditional trulli were fairly simple abodes – Silvana tells me that typically they would have only one habitable floor and some would feature wooden beams arranged transversely at the top to hang food or create a small mezzanine on which the children slept or food could be stored. However, today they are rented out as boutique accommodation across Puglia and Trullo Perla Greta is the perfect example of how old and new can seamlessly meet to create an unforgettable stay.
Silvana and her husband Davide, who reside in Milan but use the trullo, located just outside of Alberobello, for their own family vacations, have lent their impeccable taste to the interior of Trullo Perla Greta (named for the couple’s baby daughter), with the ever-so-chic sandstone interiors decorated with simple and rustic furniture and ornaments that don’t pull focus from the essence of the home, but rather complement it. Each little decorative touch feels considered and the soaring conical ceilings make the place feel light and airy desire the building’s “gnome-like” appearance.
Silvana explains to me that she and Davide were lucky enough to work with a brilliant architect named Gaia Miacola, who not only kept the project on track but educated the couple on mistakes to avoid when renovating a trullo. For example, capitalising on the external features of the structure to reflect the relationship between the home and the countryside. Suffice to say, this has been brilliantly achieved at Trullo Perla Greta with an undercover lounge area set at an elevated point of the outside space, so as to best enjoy the views of the property’s olive and fruit trees and the spectacular crimson sunsets of the Italian countryside.
A pool surrounded by dry stone walls and a second dining area provided us with plenty of relaxation after long days of exploring the nearby towns of Martina Franca, Monopoli, Ostuni, Locorotundo, Cisternino, the “insta-famous” Polignano a Mare and Alberobello itself where the trulli are most abundant.
It wasn’t long before my partner and I began dreaming of what it would be like to purchase our own trullo to rent out and have as our very own little Italian escape. However, Silvana assures me that, even if you are lucky enough to find one, the process of making it Airbnb-worthy is arduous.
“Renovating a trullo is not like renovating a house, it is a ‘specialisation’ that not all construction companies have,” she says. “It requires the experience of local (and hard to find) ‘Mastri Trullari’. They are local artisans who transfer their competence generation by generation.
“The environments must remain as faithful as possible to the original and the external walls must be made dry with the only help of props and wooden ribs as support. An inexperienced hand could cause both aesthetic and structural damage, even resulting in the entire home collapsing.”
Dreams of trullo ownership dashed, we happily settled for enjoying Perla Greta as our own for one blissful week and found it to be the perfect setting for our first-ever family vacation with our son even taking his first “swim” in the home’s pool and many a glass of wine enjoyed on the outdoor lounge after he was in bed.
For us, it was the ideal place to retreat as we experienced the thrill and exhaustion of travelling with an infant. Unable to enjoy the nightlife we would have once soaked up as younger, childless people, the secluded elegance of the trullo, its pointed roofs framed spectacularly against the rich blue night sky, more than made up for the lack of social activity after the sun went down. Trullo Perla Greta is not where you come if you are looking for a party, but rather a place to reconnect, relax and enjoy a unique experience in a one-of-a-kind property.
Families or groups of friends who are inspired to follow in our footsteps and stay at the trullo (I have never had so many DMs on Instagram asking for details on where I was) will benefit from further renovations that Silvana and Davide are now undertaking which will see the expansion of the pool and the addition of a fourth bedroom with its own private bathroom.
Silvana and Davide’s goal with the next renovation is to “make the location even more special and meet the needs of tourists who want to relax in a magical landscape.”
Says Silvana, “we are looking forward to seeing our dream become a reality.” As for us, we can’t wait to return when it does.
Trullo Perla Greta is available to rent through Airbnb.