Do What You Love in Italy Tuscany Villa Rentals
   
 
 
visa and mastercard accepted
 
   

Our Villas About The Area Add-On Activities public figures and Celebrities About Us Testimonials Contact Us image
   

"March 19, 1883 ... Gave one sack of rye for the lambs"

Anatomy

of a farmhouse

in Tuscany, Italy

I've just spent the weekend taking new photos of one of the farmhouses in my portfolio -- this one in a beautiful part of southern Tuscany, in the main wine growing region.  It's history is really interesting.  I found some old records, and I photographed them, and I'll show you ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THANKS FOR FORWARDING THIS WEBPAGE, OR BETTER YET, THE EMAIL YOU RECEIVED, TO FRIENDS THAT MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN THE LATEST NEWS FROM TUSCANY.  We don't send any junkmail or share our mailing list with anyone!  James

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHECK OUT OUR VILLAS AND PROGRAMS... THE LINK IS AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what the farmhouse looks like now . . .

 

It is over 300 years old.

 

The house is in southern Tuscany, in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable.  This is the nearby town of San Casciano dei Bagni, visible from the house.  The scenery is so gorgeous that ....

.... I couldn't stop pulling my car over to take photos.  I took all these photos with my iPhone... really!  This is the heart of the wine growing area in Tuscany, near Montepulciano and Montalcino and Siena and Orvietto. 

 

The house was originally just the two-story rectangle in the center of the photo.  Everybody lived here together, animals and people alike. 

 

The animals were kept on the ground floor -- cows and donkeys in this big room.

 

Next is a room where hay was kept.  Do you see that little vertical window near the floor in the center of the photo?  There are two of these 'slots' in this room.  They are wider on the inside of the room....

 

 

.....but narrow on the outside.  Imagine the room inside bursting with hay.  The sheep and other animals couldn't stick their heads in the room and eat too much hay, but some hay would always stick out this slot, so the sheep could pull out small amounts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This little room was the 'pollaio', a room for chickens or ducks.  These holes, for nests, are original to the house.  High enough to provide protection from the local fox, and easy access for the farmer collecting the eggs, too.

 

 

The people lived upstairs.  Here's one of the rooms up there now, but it wasn't so fancy then. 

 

 

There was no heating.  The animals living downstairs helped to keep the upstairs warm. 

And there were fireplaces.  The original here is the big one - the smaller insert was added sometime later.  Originally, these fireplaces did little to heat the house.  For a bit of warmth you actually pulled your chair into the fireplace and sat next to the fire. 

 

 

Over the past 300 years, the house was expanded on all sides.  Now it rambles all over.  Here's one side of it.  Now it has 7 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms -- before all these rooms were used for other purposes -- wine cantina, farm equipment.

 

 

I'LL TELL YOU A BIT ABOUT HOW THESE FARMHOUSES WERE BUILT....

Of course they are made of stone.  A foundation hole was dug, and plain stone and cement was used for the walls.  In the corners, they used stones which had been chisseled to be square, so that the corners were stronger with less cement.   This farmhouse was plastered at some point in its history.  Do you see the beautiful variation in the color of the plaster?  When they make plaster in Italy, they add ground dried clay (Terre di Siena here I think) to the mix.  So the plaster is applied with the color already in it, leaving all these variations, which make it beautiful.  And the colors change when wet, too, so they vary from day to day.  Here, they have painted a design in the corners to recall the original squared stones underneath.

 

 

As the walls reach the first floor height, huge beams were laid across the ceiling, and then smaller cross beams, all at the width of one brick.  All the beams are made of chestnut, because it is a very strong wood, and also oily, so that it does not rot. When I restored my villa years ago, I found an old chestnut beam lying half-buried in the dirt, where it had been for years.  I simply scrapped of the outside centimeter, and it was as hard as iron inside. 

 

 

Special bricks are then laid across the cross-beams.  These bricks are called 'mezzane' which means half-brick - they are larger, to cover more space, but half-height so they are lighter.  Once the bricks are laid, wet cement is spread over them, and once that dries, the floor tiles are pressed on top of that.  So the chestnut beams carry a lot of weight.  (That rainbow colored building is a little children's playhouse now, and there are horses behind that fence in the distance).

 

 

In many old farmhouses, the same type of bricks (mezzane) are used as floor tiles, and they are beautiful because they are handmade and every brick is different. 

 

 

The chestnut beams are also used outside, to shore up walls, or support roofs. 

 

 

The roof is similar to the floors.  Beams, then cross beams, then mezzane half-bricks, then a layer of cement.  Then another layer of roof tiles set on top. 

 

 

This roof is a little unusual, because a single type of roof tile is used.. all curved pieces, laid as shown over most of the roof.

 

 

Another section of the farmhouse uses a more typical type of roof tiling.  Here there are two types -- the curved pieces set over a large flat roof tile.  Here you can also see the half-bricks (below the gutter), over which there is a layer of cement, and then the roof tiles set on top.  The roof tiles are not cemented in (except at the edges, as shown here).  The reason is, that the tiles sometimes break and you need to walk carefully acroos the roof, slide out the broken tile, and slide in a new one.

 

 

 

Inside the houses, sinks were made of a single piece of carved stone.  When these cracked, they were carried outside.  I found many buried outside my villa, and there are many old ones in the gardens here too.

 

 

 

All the metalwork would be done by the local blacksmith.

 

 

PATRIZIA  ALSO MENTIONED THAT SHE HAD AN OLD ACCOUNTING BOOK FROM THE FARM! SO I TOOK A FEW PHOTOS AND I'VE BEEN LOOKING AT THEM...

 

 

Here are some pages from the accounting records of 1883. "Adminsitration of the Bologna family, from 1883 to 189__".  Most of the farms at the time were owned by wealthy landowners, and the farmers were tenants who lived in the house, did all the work, and paid a percentage of the crop/livestock to the owner. So below you see a list of the 6 farms owned by the Bologna family.

 

 

Here's a close-up.  The first farm was ours and the tenant farmer was Girolamo Gigliotti. 

 

 

Here's a list of some of the expenses/debts for the year, totaling 325 lire (about 20cents!)

 

 

A closeup shows that these debts/expenses are for "Girolamo and his worker family".

 

 

Another closeup shows that these debts included contributions from the Bologna family of "olive oil", and payment of "cash", and "vetriolo" -- I'm not sure what vetriolo is (I think it is a kind of acid and I wonder whether this was used as fertilzer, hopefully someone reading this will give me their ideas).

 

 

Here's a list of the income from the farm...

 

 

A close up shows the line items... at the top a count of...

Vaccino - cows

Da Soma - donkeys

Pecorino - sheep

Caprino - goats

Porcino - pigs

and beneath that, the number sold. and the price.

 

 

I found other papers, too, this set from 1911-1913. The property was still owned by the Bologna family, now by Miss Clari Bologna.  This was just before WWI and I wonder whether the men had been called away as soldiers?

 

 

This is part of her list of the "Spese Bestiami" which means the expenses for the animals.  In February, she "Gave 3 sacks of grain for the animals'.  In March, she "Gave one sack of rye for the lambs".  In April, she paid an expense to the veterinarian, and in June, she paid for "medicine for a cow."

 

 

Clari seems to know what she was doing with the animals.  Here, she shows a count of the animals.  At the top we see the count of living animals... 2 cows, 1 donkey, 45 sheep, 7 goats and 2 pigs.  Down below, we see some good news -- that explains in part the veterinarian's April visit!   In Giugno, 7 piglets, a donkey, 34 lambs and 6 goats were born!!!!  Bringing the total at the bottom of the page, for the farm in 1913, to.... 6 cows, 2 donkeys, 79 sheep, 13 goats and 9 pigs!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for reading! 

 

 

 

CLICK HERE TO SEE OTHER NEWSLETTERS

IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN THESE NEWLETTERS, PLEASE FORWARD MY EMAIL TO THEM.  THEN THEY CAN CHOOSE TO SUBSCRIBE!!!  THANKS. PLEASE COME VISIT.  JAMES

 

The heart and soul of tuscany, tailor made for you
Our Exclusive Villa Rentals in Tuscany, Italy Add-On activities in Tuscany Villa Rentals
          © DWL TRAVEL LTD       •      james@dwltravel.com       •     708.759.8115