These are Trulli and are houses in Alberobello in the South of Italy. There are many of these in the town, many given over to a brisk tourist trade and covered in gifts and souvenirs, but they have had the good sense to leave some of them to local inhabitants like these.
They are in some cases centuries old and came about as a result of local taxes. They were originally built without any sort of cement between the stones, so a bit like a dry stone wall sort of construction type of thing. They were built like this so that they could be dismantled by removing just a few stones leaving a pile of rubble. This is because houses were taxed at that time and to enable the truth to be told on ones parchment tax return, one had to specify the number of buildings one owned. The tax man would visit to make sure that what you claimed was correct. In those days they just knew when the taxman was approaching them. This enabled the trulli builders to demolish their taxable gain by removing the right stone. No tax was due on a pile of rubble.
When the taxman disappeared over the horizon they could quickly rebuild their houses. I wonder which stones were removed for the trulli to fall to bits? This was not really fully explained to us on the trip.
Incidentally one is required today, to pay a local tax in the area when staying in the local hotels. This is payable only in cash to the hotel, not much seems to change in Italy.
This was the beginning of a recent walking trip to the region. Turned out to be a great week with a group of random walkers and our enthusiastic guide: Fabrizio,who’s next task is to go and help in Africa teaching locals about first aid. I will try and put a link to his facebook page in the next posting.