After a Sunday afternoon spent soaking in the grandeur and ingenuity exhibited in Venice’s Biennale of Architecture, I found myself thinking about the trullo—a simple hut with cylindrical walls and a conical, vaulted roof, typical to the Istria Valley in the Apulian region of Italy (the heel of the boot). It’s difficult to pinpoint the origin of this modest dwelling, mostly because its delicate drystone construction (no mortar or cement) is so easily demolished; just pull the keystone piece out and poof!: a pile of rocks. It is probably because of their engineerial emphemerality that trulli were popular in the 1600-1800s; in order to avoid paying the heavy property tax of the time (yes, Italian tax evasion was alive and well even several hundred years ago), feudal lords would have their field workers live in these huts, requiring them to be dismantled should an inspector arrive in the area.
In later years, with a little help from plaster, trulli became more permanent structures as can attest the Apulian town Alberobello, which consists of hundreds of trulli clustered together, climbing its hilly base. Perhaps more satisfying, however, is to see the loner dwellings sprinkled throughout the countryside in all their chaste and transient splendor. Henry David Thoreau would have given an assenting nod at such a sight. I’ll leave you with one of his reflections from his treatise on life in the woods, Walden:
The very simplicity and nakedness of man’s life in the primitive ages imply this advantage at least, that they left him still but a sojourner in nature…We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven.