Old Italian doors are often featured on calendars and postcards for they are icons of “picturesque Italy”.
There is more than meets the eye, for original, antique doors, many dating back 300 to 500 years, give us a glimpse into the past, a look at the lifestyle and hint at what was important to people in days gone by.
The linguist will find a whole new set of words used for describing doors, doorways, locks and keys .
|flowered plant overwhelms this tiny doorway|
The story of an old palazzo in my latest book tells how the crumbling wooden entrance way leading down into the cantina where local farmers once stored their products (oil, hazelnuts,etc.) had to be replaced in order to become a dignified entrance way.
|how my door used to look|
The new door was created by one of the local carpenters following our own design. It made a statement, telling all who passed by that the once abandoned building now had a new owner, one who had undertaken a huge, costly restoration project.
Since then many others (mostly foreign born), have followed suit, buying up and restoring other historic properties and bringing new life to the town.
Walk along the street and you will see all types of doors from ugly metal ones added in recent years to this gem recently restored to its original glory by falegname Pino after several generations of neglect.
|Pino restored this 16th century door|
Note the nailheads and the tiny door/window which allowed light in to the dark entrance stairway. The building dates from 1581 and Pino guesses that the wooden doorway also dates from about that time.
Cantina level doorways can be small and derelict . Most have a sliding bar and system of closure with a giant iron key and lock.
The holes allow for air circulation for the wine.
|cantina entrance near Madonna del Riscatto church|
Instead of doorbells, gorgeously detailed bronze batocchi decorate most doors in Italian towns.
|Palazzo Vinci 1595|
Besides the practical use of resounding a hearty knock , batocchi reflected contemporary fashion and family status.
The sphinx-like heads from this door in Viterbo’s center dates around the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt, 1798-1801.
|flowered doorway for a neighborhood chat|