Italy Rural Dwellings Part I

By | February 22, 2022

According to Usaers, Italy has a great variety of rural dwellings, both for what concerns the differences in structure and for the architectural forms and materials used in the construction. The simplest and most primitive structures can be given by the house consisting of a single room, without windows or fireplace, with the fireplace in the middle, of which there are still some examples in certain villages of Sardinia (Orgosolo) or Calabria (Vallelonga) and in the straw huts still surviving for shepherds and for some peasant village in Lazio (see hut). But they are, fortunately, quite exceptional relics. Less rare in Italy is the rural house consisting of the ground floor only: this structure however prevails in some types that have undoubtedly archaic characteristics and are also distinguished by the construction materials. Apulian  trulli  and Istrian casite  . However, it is necessary to distinguish, in the trulli, two very different objects: there is the construction made entirely of dry stones, with a circular plan and in the shape of a truncated cone or with overlapping trunks, which is now only used for temporary shelter or for custody of tools. or provisions, undoubtedly ancient type and of primitive origins; and there is the masonry house with a quadrangular plan, in which each room is covered by a cone of overlaid stones.

This roofing, used in a district of Puglia for the common rural houses and also for entire villages (Alberobello), takes the place of the vòlta roofing (lamia ) common throughout Puglia and is in genetic relationships with them. Both tend to be replaced by small gabled roofs, but always one for each room, and the structure of the house, which very rarely involves an upper floor and consists of “rooms” built side by side (home, stable, warehouses, etc.), remains unchanged. Overall, it is a type with Aegean and North African affinities, determined by the extreme scarcity of timber: we can therefore say it  is Mediterranean type.. In Italy it has spread above all in the whole of Puglia, where however the pavilion vault was usually covered, in whole or in part, by a terrace closed all around with a low wall and used for the collection of rainwater to be poured to the cisterns. We then find it in the Aeolian Islands and in the coastal plain of the Gulf of Naples and Salerno and in the adjacent islands, where it has developed, sometimes even in height, in various and picturesque forms, with vaults of different shapes (barrel, cross ), the arcades, the terraces, the escarpment walls necessary to support the thrust of the vaulted roof, which constitute the Capri style (Capri, Amalfi, Positano).

Casoni are also to be placed in the category of single-storey  houses of the low Po Valley-Veneto: by which name we mean a building characterized by a high pyramidal straw roof, resting on clay brick walls dried in the sun. In the casoni, still used as a permanent residence in the Paduan and Venetian areas, a small portico cut into the façade serves to disengage the internal compartments: the kitchen is externally leaning against a large and high brick fireplace; a dormer window allows you to access the attic with the hand-operated ladder. The casoni, which are disappearing completely but must have been a very common form in the northern plains, also show us the use of two very primitive materials: straw for the roof and raw clay blocks for the walls. There are also residues of thatch covering throughout the eastern Alpine region and somewhere on the peninsula. The clay houses, mostly mixed with shredded straw, which in themselves tend to limit the buildings to the ground floor only, they are found with different names (pinciaia, brestara) even in various clayey districts of the peninsula (upper Liri valley, Teramo and Chieti hills, Central Lucania, Calabria) and the major islands (southern Sardinia): the roof is covered with tiles and roof tiles. In the plain of Ciociaria there are low single-storey buildings of bricks and raw clay or wooden boards, with a rough front or side loggia and a slightly inclined roof, which therefore does not even offer space for an attic, covered with tiles. . They were originally seasonal shelters, but in many cases they have become permanent homes due to the fixation of farmers in the plan. Houses with only the ground floor are also frequent in the agglomerated rural villages of Calabria and Sicily; on one floor is also the typical house of Barbagia (Sardinia), built with dry stone walls, with narrow windows and doors painted in multicolored stripes: in the small courtyard in front of it there is no other annex than the babizone , shed-woodshed, which also serves as a stable for the donkey. Not as persistence of primitive forms, but as local and very limited effects of pauperism, we must consider the houses partially excavated in the rock (Matera, Nicosia).

Italy Rural Dwellings 1