Take a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Alberobello’s iconic trulli, Castel del Monte, and Matera’s ancient cave city.
Southern Italy is a treasure trove of cultural and historical wonders. From charming towns with colorful houses and winding streets to ancient cave cities and stunning castles, there’s no shortage of places to explore. Three of the most remarkable sites are Alberobello’s trulli, Castel del Monte, and Matera’s cave city, all of which have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their unique value to humanity. In this article, we’ll explore the history, tourism, recommendations, and unknown facts about these three incredible destinations, all located within a day trip from each other.
Alberobello’s iconic trulli Part of the reason Alberobello is so famous is its unique architectural style, the trulli. These round, conical-roofed houses are made entirely of local limestone, without any binding materials like concrete or cement. The result is a charming maze-like town with small streets and alleys, where thousands of these peculiar structures populate the area.
The Trulli of Alberobello were once lived in by locals, but gradually became abandoned, falling into disrepair. They were later restored by local officials in the 20th century and have now become a vital part of southern Italy’s cultural heritage.
Tourism and recommendations Alberobello has evolved to become a charming tourist destination, with visitors coming far and wide to take in its unique beauty. Walking through the streets of Alberobello is like stepping back in time, and it’s an experience that should be on any traveler’s bucket list. The town is home to several gift shops, restaurants, and cafes, offering visitors a taste of Apulian cuisine and culture.
One of the most recommended places to visit is the Trullo Sovrano, a three-story trullo-style house dating back to the 18th century. With its whitewashed walls and conical roofs, visitors are immediately transported back in time. Another fantastic place to see is the Church of Saint Anthony, built entirely in the trulli style.
Unknown facts Did you know that the reason behind the town’s unique style of homes is due to an ancient tax scheme set up by the local feudal lord back in the 17th century? He imposed a tax on local residents based on the size of their homes — but ordered that the houses had to be dismantleable at a moment’s notice. The result: the trulli houses, which could easily be taken apart whenever a tax inspector would visit the area.
Castel del Monte A short drive from Alberobello is Castel del Monte, a fortress where the unique architecture is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, and Islamic styles. Built in the 13th century, this castle was commissioned by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, the beloved Holy Roman Emperor. Composed of octagonal towers and domed roofs, it’s no surprise that Castel del Monte was also recognized as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Tourism and recommendations Castel del Monte is a castle that is sure to take your breath away. Its perfectly symmetrical structure is a marvel of medieval architecture. It has been open to the public since 1876, and visitors are free to explore the premises on their own or join one of the guided tours. During the summer months, the castle is particularly beautiful and offers a great opportunity for visitors to take stunning pictures. Don’t miss the view from the castle’s highest point, where you can see the surrounding countryside and even the Adriatic Sea in the distance.
Unknown facts The true purpose of Castel del Monte is debated among scholars. Some believe that it was a hunting lodge for the emperor, while others suggest that it was a place where he would conduct secret experiments.
Matera’s ancient cave city Located in the Basilicata region, Matera is known for its ancient cave city that is set into a rocky outcrop. The city has been inhabited by humans for over 7,000 years and is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited human settlements in the world. Matera’s residents are primarily farmers, and the caves they live in are often passed down through family generations.
Tourism and recommendations Matera is like stepping back in time. The city’s cave dwellings are reminiscent of ancient times, and it’s a surreal experience. The city itself is relatively small, so it’s easy to explore on foot. Visitors can explore the cave dwellings, historic churches, and ancient squares. Matera is an excellent place to try authentic southern Italian cuisine, and the recommended specialty is orecchiette pasta, made daily by local families.
Unknown facts Matera is home to several caves that were once inhabited by the ascetic monk communities, known as the “Sassi” communities. These ancient stone homes are an important testament to the dedication of a religious order to their beliefs.
Final thoughts Southern Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites represent the best of Italian culture, history, and architecture. A day trip to Alberobello, Castel del Monte, and Matera provides visitors with an opportunity to explore the ancient traditions of southern Italy’s rural life, the mysteries of medieval castles, and the surreal beauty of Matera’s ancient cave city. Which of these sites captures your curiosity the most?