Thursday, 27 July 2017

Beautiful conical-hat like houses of Alberobello

Old houses of Alberobello with black conical roofs that look like houses-with-hats, are an amazing spectacle. They represent an ancient tradition that has origins in pre-historical times. This post is about the magical Alberobello.

Trulli houses in Alberobello with signs painted on the roof - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

Reaching Alberobello

Alberobello (literally "Beautiful tree") is a tiny town in Apulia region of south Italy. Nearest national line train station is at Bari, 57 km away. From Bari, you can get a local train which takes you to Alberobello station in about 1.5 to 2 hours.

A 10-15 minutes walk from the railway station to Corso Trento e Trieste  and then towards Via Indipendenza-Largo Martellotta will take you to the old parts of the city characterized by the Trulli, the houses with black conical roofs.

A road sign on Via Indipendenza (image below) points to the stairs going up to a Belvedere terrace from where you can have an overview of the Trulli area.

Trulli houses in Alberobello - Belvedere - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

To see more Trulli houses, you can also visit the surrounding areas in the Itria valley such as Locorotondo and Cisternino. However, I think that the visual impact of these houses is seen best in Alberobello, where they are grouped together in one area. For example, the image below shows the Trulli houses in Cisterino.

Trulli houses in Cisternino, Itria Valley - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

Characteristics of Trulli houses

The Trulli are made of stones without using any mortar or binding cement in any part of the construction. This means that the builders need to select and cut the stones in a certain way and then fit them together so that they make a stable and water/wind-proof dwelling.

Trulli houses in Alberobello - Largo Martelotta road - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

This kind of house constructions were started during the Bronze age around 1500 BCE. For example in the island of Sardinia there are prehistoric buildings called Nauraghe, made just with stones without any mud or mortar to bind them. The houses in Alberobello are around 500 years old.

History of Alberobello

Alberobello city came up in 16th century along the banks of Cana river. People were ordered to build their houses only with dry stones and without using any mortar. This was done to avoid paying taxes to the kingdom of Naples which ruled this area, as dry stone-houses were treated as temporary buildings.

Since this area was rich in limestone and Karst-stone, people started building trulli houses. The image below shows a couple of pictures from 1920, showing this area when it was densely inhabited.

Trulli houses in Alberobello in 1920s - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

In the 20th century, when people had more money, they started demolishing the trulli houses to build modern cement-houses. About 200 trulli houses were thus demolished. Fortunately, during early 1990s, a new mayor of Alberobello stopped the demolitions and developed it as a tourist attraction.

Trulli of Alberobello

Roads going up and down the gentle hills around Viale Margherita in Alberobello are lined with trulli houses. In many of them there are souvenir shops for the tourists where they sell traditional crafts of Apulia.

Trulli houses in Alberobello - a sourvenir shop - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

Many houses have the sign of cross or the zodiac signs painted on their roofs.

Trulli houses in Alberobello with zodiac signs painted on the roof - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

There are different models of trulli including single one room buildings as well as, huge interconnected structures with different rooms and roofs.

Trulli houses in Alberobello - Different kind of roofs seen from Belvedere - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

The way the roofs are designed also show many variations.

Trulli houses in Alberobello - roof  designs - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

Many trulli houses are still inhabited. I met a person called Mr Sebastiano, who invited me inside his house to show it. He is retired and has grown up in the same house. As you can see in the image below, it is a simple but comfortable house from inside. It has a living room with a fireplace on one side and a tiny bedroom (separated by a curtain) a separate kitchen and a bathroom.

Trulli houses in Alberobello -Sebastiano house - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

Even the Sant Antonio (St. Anthony) church in this area has roofs built like Trulli, though it is not a real trulli building.

Trulli houses in Alberobello - St Anthony church - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

Art of Alberobello

There are many souvenir shops selling local art work in Alberobello. I loved the art work in one such shop run by a lady called Maria Caporaso. Two examples of her art are presented below.

Alberobello - Art at Maria Caporaso shop - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

Alberobello - Art at Maria Caporaso shop - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

Conclusions

The traditional trulli houses of Alberobello with their black conical roofs make the old town look like a globlin-land from a children's book. I adored this city and its atmosphere.

The countryside around it is famous for its olive trees and oil. The sea is not very far and has amazing colours. There are many small characteristic towns nearby including the incredible city-in-white Ostuni. If you are planning an Italian holiday which is outside the famous big tourist cities, this is a great area for it.

Alberobello - a street of old town with trulli houses - Photographs by Sunil Deepak

The last bit of information is for the Bollywood lovers - a part of the song "Khuda Jaane" from the Bollywood film "Bachna Ae Haseeno" with Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone was shot here in Alberobello.

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Monday, 10 July 2017

The angel queen of Venice called Maria

Carnival of Venice is famous for its beautiful masks and costumes. The carnival celebrations last for about ten days starting with the procession of 12 most beautiful girls of Venice. This procession is known as the Festival of the Marias.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

This post is about the Festival in which 12 beautiful Venetian girls  are dressed as princesses and one of them becomes the Queen of Venice and the angel in the "Flight of Angel" festival of the carnival.

A Brief History of the Festival of Marias
Around 9th century CE, the Republic of Venice had a tradition linked with the religious festival of “Purity of Maria” and was celebrated on 2nd February of each year. During this festival, 12 beautiful girls of Venice belonging to poor families were selected to be Marias. Each girl was provided beautiful clothes and jewellery by a rich Venetian family and helped to get married.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

However, over centuries, the rich families were not very happy to give away their money. Even some poor families, when their girls were not selected as Marias, were also unhappy with this festival.

Thus, instead of selecting the poor girls, they started carrying wooden Marias with clothes and jewellery of the rich families. After the procession, the clothes and jewellery was returned to the owners.

However, Venetians did not like the idea of wooden Marias and they started throwing rotten vegetables at them during the processions. Doge, the ruler of Venice, tried with a law prohibiting the throwing of rotten vegetables but it did not have much impact and slowly, the festival procession was stopped.

This festival was revived in 1999 as a part of the Carnival celebrations. Now, it is organised on the first day of the Carnival, around 10 days before the Mardi Gras celebrations.

The selection process starts a long time before the carnival. Girls resident in the Venice province can take part in this process.

Procession of the Marias

The procession starts in the afternoon around 2.30 PM from San Pietro di Castello in Venice and culminates in San Marco square where the 12 Marias are officially presented to the people of Venice.

There are two groups of Marias in the procession – those of the previous year and those selected for the present year. They are accompanied by different groups of persons dressed in medieval costumes coming from Venice and neighbouring towns.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

A big group of persons in the procession are those wearing medieval costumes of warriors and crusaders.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

Another group is that of drummers dressed in medieval costumes.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

Another big group is that of persons dressed as noble families of Venice with richly embroidered and colourful dresses.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

Then there are clowns, dancers, acrobats.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

The 12 Marias from the past year wear dark brown richly embroidered costumes. For part of the procession, they are carried on palanquins by a group of Venetian men.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

They are followed by the Marias selected for the current year wearing rich brocades.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

There are also the wooden Marias in the procession, though now they do not wear real costumes or jewellrey.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

It is a beautiful procession and if you plan to visit the carnival of Venice, make sure to be there for the Festival of Marias.

After the Festival of Marias

On Monday, a day before Mardi Gras (last day of the carnival), among the 12 Marias, one girl is selected to be Ms Carnival or the Queen Maria for the next 12 months, a kind of Miss Venice.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

One year later, the Queen Maria will become the Angel for the “Flight of Angel” festival of the Venice Carnival, during which a girl descends from the bell tower in the San Marco square.

Conclusions

Venice is a unique city, unlike any other city in the world. During carnival, Venice becomes magical. Most people think that carnival means colourful costumes and masks on the weekend leading to Mardi Gras. However, Festival of Marias is a wonderful inauguration of the carnival celebrations.

Festival of Marias during Carnival of Venice, Italy - © Images by Sunil Deepak

I love the Carnival Celebrations in Venice even if it is very crowded. The colurs, the joy and richness of costumes and masks, makes up for all the noise and confusion.

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