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72km (45 miles) NW of Brindisi, 60km (37 miles) SE of Bari, 45km (28 miles) N of Taranto

The center of a triangle made up by Bari, Brindisi, and Taranto, the Valley of Itria has long been known for olive cultivation and the beehive-shaped houses dotting its landscape. These curious structures, called trulli, were built at least as early as the 13th century. Their whitewashed limestone walls and conical fieldstone roofs utilize the materials available in the area in such a way that mortar isn't needed to keep the pieces together. Theories abound as to why they aren't built with mortar, the most popular being that the trulli, considered substandard peasant dwellings, had to be easily dismantled in case of a royal visit.

The center of the Trulli District, and home to the greatest concentration of trulli, is Alberobello. Here the streets are lined with some 1,000 of the buildings. You might feel as if you've entered into a child's storybook as you walk amid the maze of cobbled streets curving through Italy's most fantastic village. The crowds of visitors will quickly relieve you of any such thoughts, however.

Many of the trulli have been converted into souvenir shops where you can buy everything from postcards to miniature models of the dwellings. Be careful, though: If you enter, you're expected to buy something -- and the shop owners let you know it.