Withening is the ritual that is repeated at the beginning of each summer in order to return the whiteness to the outside walls of the trulli and casedd.
U lattator is the person with great experience who carries out this task, equipped with the few simple tools necessary: brushes, a bucket and mallets of various lengths that allow one to reach every corner of the walls to whiten even the highest points.
The paint used is lime milk which is obtained by simply diluting quicklime or slaked lime in water. In addition to restoring the pure white color to the typical buildings of the Valle d’Itria, the lime milk performs an effective disinfecting action against mold and bacteria while keeping the breathability of the natural stone nearly unchanged, essential towards avoiding deposits of moisture and condensation.
In the end, our ancestors were able to identify the best technique to paint the stone walls both in terms of practicality but also in terms of aesthetics and functionality, and this says a lot about the ability of our ancestors! A practical and economical whitening solution, in addition to the high aesthetic yield (the bright white that perfectly matches the gray shades of the limestone and the intense blue of the Puglian sky), preserves the walls of the trulli and casedd in the simplest and most natural way, guaranteeing transpiration and thanks to the alkaline action of the lime, preventing the proliferation of mold, fungus and harmful microorganisms.
But the whitening is also a true and proper ritual that derives from the propensity, quite widespread in the land of the trulli, to keep the inhabited environments healthy and clean, and this is transformed into the pride of showing them to others, white and fragrant. After the winter weather, the rains, and the persistent north wind, the arrival of the first spring warmth is an invitation to clean, reorganize, and restore beauty in order to prepare them for the summer, and the nursing is the ritual that sanctions its imminent arrival.
In the photo, by Donato Buonfrate, a lattator is in action, almost done with his work. After a few hours the wall will be completely dry and will have a pure white that will last for the whole summer.
This article has been translated by Sam Rossum, Economics and Policy Studies
Rice University Class of 2020, Houston, Texas