Sunday, July 13, 2014

Italy's Antique Doors

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. 
Sant'Egidio chapel

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.
new door created by Santucci falegnameria, Vetralla 

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

Baroque  doorway 

 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


  1. Lovely, Mary Jane! There's nothing more intriguing that the antique doors of Italy.

  2. wonderful..antique doors and windows are my favorite things to photograph...we have such a variety!

  3. I love doors too! Thank you for sharing the photos. They are beautiful!

  4. Interestin g post; lovely pictures. Thanks, Mary Jane.

  5. Interesting post; lovely pictures. Thanks, Mary Jane.

    1. I finally met up with Sari Gilbert, in Bolsena.Small world indeed !

  6. You might be interested also in Antique Divani - on my website

  7. I enjoy your articles and photos. I spend a good amount of time on the computer connecting to Italian websites to better learn about my heritage. My grandparents are from Carpinone, Ortona Dei Marsi, and Napoli. I have a cousin in Rome and am in hopes of contacting him, but I am not too sure about my Italian so as to conduct a understandable conversation. Donald Antonangeli

  8. We went through CrisRomanGuide and our guide is Marzia Coppari. Paul found several positive reviews.
    We have all been researching and one of the hardest things is to narrow down our choices to something manageable with the time allowed.

    We are very excited about the trip and sampling as much as possible.

    Your web site is great. So much information available. Thanks for the helpful hints.


  9. Thanks for the links to more information. I will explore. We are taking the train in to Rome and meeting our guide there. Florence we have planned for a bus in and meander. We will definitely look at your Livorno suggestions.

    1. Dear Elaine, you will find a bit of pre-trip research will make the days on land richer in all respects. Hope to meet you and your family on a future visit.