An authentic induction into true Apulian culture in the Itria Valley includes a warm welcome from an entire Southern Italian family, a walk through Apulian fields, exquisite food from local recommended restaurants, and a stay in a Trullo in Puglia, Italy. Once you’ve made it through these indispensable initiation rituals at Trullo a ll’éra, you’ll leave feeling like you’re a part of the Apulian family.
We had to wait till 4PM to check in at Trullo a ll’éra so stopped by Ceglie Messapica for a quick afternoon caffè Leccesse in town. We parked in the village and got out of our rental car. An old lady standing outside started speaking to us in her Southern Italian dialect. My mother and I couldn’t understand the dialect, but we were able to make out the word “piccine” – which means little ones in an endearing tone. She was sweet. She reminded me of the nonne you would see in one of those old fashioned epic Italian movies. That was my first introduction to Ceglie Messapica. It was hot so we went in search of an open bar and ordered a caffè Leccesse. After some pleasant conversation and a refreshing drink, it was time to check in. We drove 10 minutes through the rolling Apulia countryside stretching out on either side of us to our stay in a Trullo in Puglia, Italy.
What you’ll find in this article:
- What is a Trullo?
- What is Trullo a ll’éra?
- The Kitchen and Common Space
- The Bedrooms
- The Property Details (Too Many To Count!)
- Why is it called Trullo a ll’éra?
- The Pool
- The Land
- Local Recommendations
- Apulian Breakfast
What is a trullo?
Trulli were houses once built by poor people to avoid tax men. When the tax men would visit, the inhabitants of the trullo would take out a brick and the whole structure would collapse. When the tax man would stop by, he would see there was no house and proceed about his business. Once he left, the inhabitants would rebuild the trullo. Today trulli have been turned into more stable abodes and stays. I got the rare opportunity to stay in a trullo in Ceglie Messapica, Puglia, called Trullo a ll’éra.
What are the symbols found on trulli?
Trulli are often adorned with symbols on the top or painted on the conical roof. The symbols usually have religious or astrological meaning and can range from the cross, to planetary signs, the malocchi or evil eye, hearts, stars, and a few others. Geometric patterns of circles, lines, and dots are from the pre-Roman era. Eventually some underwent a Christian reinterpretation, transforming the symbols into religious symbols. Pagan symbols are from the Ancient Roman era. Lastly, the more modern symbol is the ornament that best represents the owner of the trullo or his profession.
Most trulli just have one room, but when more space was needed a hole was simply knocked in the wall and an identical conical structure was built next door. They were both dwellings and storehouses, but now are holiday homes and accommodations. I was truly impressed by the restoration and preservation of these 14th century buildings that looked like enormous beehives.
What is Trullo a ll’éra?
In one word? A trulli incredible experience–pun intended. Trullo a ll’éra is a place where you can engage with local culture and learn about local heritage privately. What sets it apart? The family that owns Trullo a ll’éra. You don’t feel like you’re staying in a structured resort full of trulli made to entertain you like a sort of Disneyland. That experience feels almost too unreal and cliché. Trullo a ll’éra is an authentic, genuine property owned and inhabited by locals. It’s a representation of the real Apulian life. A life you can savor and actually experience first-hand in it’s most authentic form away from tourists. It’s the real Apulian Italia brought to you by locals.
We were greeted by the whole family (literally) in true Southern Italian style!–Donata and Gigi the owners, Francesca the sister and property manager, and her daughter Rebecca was there as well. The family of Trullo a ll’éra are actually locals who grew up in the neighboring town of Grottaglie. It’s quite custom in some parts of Italy to be greeted by the whole family while they take you through a walk through of their house. You are greeted as if you are a family member. At a young age Donata and Gigi left to explore the rest of Europe and learned how to speak multiple languages including English, so no language barrier issues for those who are worried!
The family shows us the trullo and took us through the orchard of fruit trees surrounding the property. Our meeting included a warm welcome, pleasant conversation, and quick introductions. On this rare occasion, Donata and Gigi would be staying in Trullo a ll’éra, although most of the time they leave it all to guests. I was thrilled to have them stay at Trullo a ll’éra with us and one I recommend for others as well if possible. It was a memorable experience getting to know Donata and Gigi, hearing their wonderful stories, and seeing their delight at the knowledge that their property would be shared with my audience.
The Kitchen and Common Space
It was cool inside the trullo on this hot September day. The tiled pavement was cool, the ceilings high, and the walls let room for air to breathe. The property was thought out to the last minute detail. Everything from the hangers to the fridge was carefully selected. A lot of the furniture and house fixtures you’ll see throughout the house are chosen with purpose. They’re usually either handmade or antique or refurbished furniture purchased at local markets and used in clever and whimsical ways that give Trullo a ll’éra true character.
The kitchen has everything you need. Breakfast ingredients, stove top, pots and pans, a wooden table with several different chairs from the market and a vintage bompani fridge. It was charmingly retro. The kitchen walls were white, but the brown, earthy floor tiles and mosaic blue, white and yellow backsplash colors brightened the room. The backsplash tiles were from Donata and Gigi’s hometown, the nearby town of Grottaglie, known as the hub spot of ceramic art in Southern Italy.
I could see the living room through from the kitchen. I walked in and looked around the small living room. You were in the heart of one of the trulli. The walls started off white, but quickly transformed into tiles that built into a conical shape till they combined with one another. There was a comfortable three-seat sofa and a wooden arm chair. No coffee table, but a small basket had a few magazines and cozy blankets to pass the time.
The property has 3 bedrooms, enough to sleep up to 6. The master bedroom is located right off the kitchen. The hangers in there are made of an old ladder used to collect olives from olive groves. Another exemplary instance of Donata and Gigi using every day items and turning them into characteristic touches at Trullo a ll’éra. The second bedroom has two twin beds each tucked away in a nook right off of the living room.
We stayed in the one of the master bedrooms with it’s own personal trullo. It was located a bit farther away from the living room and a bit separate from the rest of the house for more privacy. The trullo we stayed in was 300 years old. The inside has the same conical shape as the outside which has the original tiles and roof. You could enter this room from either the main kitchen entrance or your own personal entrance. The doors of the trullo were super small, almost like a Hobbit hole. The small shape and size of the door is intentional to keep the heat inside in the winter and cool inside in the summer.
There’s no A/C in the room, but you don’t need it. The trullo does all the work for you. There is a small fan just in case, but trust me, you’ll feel as a cool as a cucumber without it. Our room was no different than the rest of Trullo a ll’éra and was full of personal touches. For instance, the quilt, sheets, and pillows we slept in were made by Donata’s mother for her. And did you notice how my head board was an old refurbished door? There’s an infinite amount of discoveries that could be found at Trullo a ll’éra on any given day. Just point at something and ask Donata and Gigi to start telling you the story behind it and you’ll be glad you asked.
The Property Details (Too Many To Count!)
As mentioned, Donata and Gigi paid so much attention to detail there is one too many for me to even list out. Plus, where’s the fun in me giving it all away? It’s for you to go and explore for yourself! The outside is lined with pots and plants, the pergola is the perfect place to have breakfast, lunch, and sip an afternoon coffee while overlooking the fields, there are fruit trees and bushes throughout the property like the above pictured rosemary plant located at the entrance, and of course there are plenty of wicker chairs and lounge areas in the back for you to relax and enjoy.
Why Is It Called Trullo a ll’éra?
Upon arrival, you will immediately notice the stone round platform that extends out in front of the trullo, onto the pool, and overlooks the fields. This platform is called ll’era in Apulian dialect also know as l’aia. It’s the area of the land where the agriculturists used to sift through grain. It was selected because it was the windier area of the property. As the agriculturists would sift the grain and toss it in the air, the heavy grains would fall into the sifter, while the lighter grains would fly away all’aria – in the air. Hence the name of the property!
After a long day wandering around the Itria region, we were sticky from the hot summer sun. We peeled off our clothes and dived into the pool, relishing the cold shock on our skin as we overlooked Trullo a ll’éra’s fields. All you here is utter silence. You’re so distant from any cars, highways, or cities. It’s one of the most relaxing places I’ve been in Puglia to date. Here too you will find a personal touch. The lounge chair cushions on the sunbeds? Those were actually made by the owner Gigi. He made those among other things around the house, so impressive!
My mom and I lounged poolside on the sun-soaked patio of Trullo a ll’éra, sipping coffee and reading a book in utter silence. We would occasionally look up from our books to stare dreamily into the distance at the fruit trees, olive trees, and more as the sound of a bird or the rustle of olive leaves provided a soothing soundtrack.
The outdoor area of Trullo a ll’éra is equally as beautiful as the inside. Donata and Gigi own miles of land where they cultivate zucchini, plums, pomegranates, tomatoes, apples, garlic, rosemary plants…the list goes on. And yes, you can go pick the agriculture yourself if you’d like. Wandering through the fields and harvesting fruit is almost like a required induction ceremony that everyone needs to go through at one point or another at Trullo a ll’éra. It’s a meditative and restorative experience that introduces you to the true Trullo a ll’éra way of life. The gravel area in the backyard has trees sprouting out of it. Some still stand to shade you during the hot day, but 7 of them have been cut down to create a sort of campfire-like setting next to the outdoor grill. This is the perfect setting for you and your group of friends to huddle at night, sitting on tree stubs, and drinking and socializing over a great grigliata.
While there I even learned about new fruits and legumes. Well not, necessarily new, but the way they were grown was new to me.
Believe it or not…it’s a walnut! I had no idea walnuts looked like that. I cut one in half and exposed the shell. I then cracked the shell and inside were ta-da–walnuts. Just one of the many small mysteries that Trullo a ll’éra has to offer.
Being locals who were born and raised in the area, Donata and Gigi have plenty of trustworthy recommendations when it comes to dinner in the area. Among them was our unforgettable final meal in their local town of Grottaglie at Lacapasa Osteria. Since we were minutes from the town of Ceglie Messapica, they recommended we visit Osteria da Giuseppe the first night.
I decided to order local while there and eat something I had never had before…my dinner was hands down the best donkey I’ve ever eaten (and the first). My mom on the other hand ordered the orecchiette with pomodoro sauce. But what made our meal even better was the people and the atmosphere. It was a true reflection of Trullo a ll’éra’s persona.
I saved one of the sweetest moments of the day for last…breakfast. My favorite meal of the day. While there, my mother and I would join Donata and Gigi out on the pergola for breakfast. It’s not always that Donata and Gigi are on property, but when they are they can treat you to an AMAZING and locally genuine Pugliese breakfast. Mine included figs freshly picked from the fields, fresh ricotta from a nearby farm, fresh baked local bread and biscuits from the bakery in town, and handmade jam. This is where I learned how to eat ricotta for breakfast the real Apulian way. I was so annoyed that I only learned about how to eat Apulian during the last leg of our Puglia trip. I had known earlier how to pair ricotta amazingly for breakfast, I would’ve done it every day. What Donata and Gigi taught me is that ricotta is a replacement for butter down south. And the ricotta you get here, is not the salty ricotta we have in America. It’s the creamy yet light and sweet ricotta of Italy. You spread some fresh ricotta on toast and layer it with a thin layer of handmade jam and you’ve got a slice of heaven in your hands.
Trullo a ll’éra is also where I learned about the less exotic, yet very handy toast tongs, which I promptly ordered myself on Amazon. Breakfast also included these small tiny local biscuits or biscotti cegliesi made in Ceglie Messapica. My mother and I had enjoyed them for dessert the night prior at Osteria da Giuseppe, but they were even better the morning after. Biscotti Cegliesi are small chewy yet crumbly biscuits made with almonds (delicious!) for breakfast, dessert, or a mid-afternoon snack and a must try when in Ceglie Messapica.
When we weren’t sipping coffee by the pool, we would be off on day trips exploring towns and cities in the vicinity. We explored Ceglie Messapica, Ostuni, Locorotondo, Grottaglie, and Alberobello during our stay. The best town to stay in Puglia is CeglieMessapica. Each Itrian village is anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour drive from you. On average though I would say 20 – 30 minutes, which makes Trullo a ll’éra an extremely central location in the Istria region. You also have the choice to go North towards Polignano a Mare or South towards Lecce and distances are not too far. You’re in the center of Puglia! I should never admit these things as a writer…but I can’t help but be honets with you all. Out of all of my experiences in Puglia, I found that Trullo a ll’éra was the one that stuck with me the most. For it’s uniqueness, for Donata and Gigi, for it’s reclusive peacefulness, and for the Istria region’s beauty. If there is one place you can’t miss when visiting Puglia, it’s got to be Trullo a ll’éra.
Rooms start at $190 p/night.
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