The trulli are small stone houses with cone-shaped roofs, and their origins go back to the distant past. Children see them as upside down ice-cream cones, and northern Europeans may think of forest elves. Dry-stone buildings with more or less conical roofs are found all the way from Celtic Ireland down to Sardinia’s nuraghi and across to Puglia. Between legend and reality, one of the few documented facts is that feudal overlords made the peasants build houses without using mortar, so that when the tax collector made his rounds, their houses could be demolished into mounds of rubble.
Oral tradition ascribes the origin of these ancient houses to the feared power of the feudal landowners, against whom the peasants often tried to rebel – but in vain. The story is that the hook-like structure on the top of the cone was used when a tenant had not paid his taxes: the landlord attached a rope to the hook and pulled the entire house down!