Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Italian walls

I've never paid that much attention to construction in the United States.  I have seen houses with wooden frames, and then it seems like there are walls and then it is finished.  I am sure all of the construction saavy people out there are chortling over this simplistic summary. But American houses to me seem as if there is a lot of wood and open spaces under the walls. The houses seem square, orderly with enough spaces to put things and a predictable, understandable order to them. 

In Italy things are not the same.  Here the walls are not made of wood and open spaces they are made of brick.  Here is an example of a wall before it has stucco on it.  Note the mortar between the bricks.  The bricks have horizontal stripes but they are stacked vertically.  I am sure there is a reason for this. This is new construction in our friend Joseph's apartment.

Our apartment, being four hundred years old, has a different type of brick.  Here is an example.
Manuele cut this hole into the wall to show me how they are made.  It is now a little niche where I have candles and a lovely Madonna, one of the sweet Greek Orthodox ones.

So you may be wondering, why am I rambling on about wall construction in Italy?  It's all about the closets.  You can not cut into the walls to put in a closet in Italy if they are made the old fashioned way.  I asked Manuele, quite innocently I might add, if he had ever heard of wall board.  First he scowled then he said "Beyh!" or something like that. Never a positive sound if you hear it coming from an Italian. He said of course he had hear of the flimsy material wall board, and he knew that Americans used this in their house, and he knew that we had wood framing and he knew that we had closets in the wall, pero (accent big time on the O) means but, and subtly you idiot, he also knew that Americans houses were blown away in tornadoes. He had seen such things on TV.  He was sure none of these houses would be blown away if they were made the old fashioned Italian way.  Look how our building had lasted 400 years, through wars, and earthquakes, and get the idea.

I answer with pero.....(accent on the O).  Look at my closet space, Manuele.
 Yes, Susan he says.  How bello, look at the form, look at the wood, look at the lovely little feet and the perfectly made doors.  It even has a separate key and lock for each side.  How perfect! Yes, I answer it is beautiful, pero (accent on the O) look what is inside.

This is of course my side of the armadio.  Hardly enough room for 4 blouses, for heavens sakes.  Then he opens the other door.  Guess whose side this is

Right, the Stoic One.  Look Manuele points out, how many clothes Gary has in there. It is a matter of "organizzare"  Right.

Then I show him my box for clothes, that I bought at the CoOp grocery store. A bit flimsy...
At this point he agrees.
Finally, he throws up his hands and says it's true, you need more space.

Ok, now in the new apartment, which is another story, I tell him that I want to change the entire "ingresso" or entrance into a "walk in" closet.  He stares at me and says nothing.  Finally, "What you mean a walk in closet"  I say, like an armadio, but it is a room and you can walk into it and it has a door, and you can close the door, and I will have room for my shoes, and coats and sweaters...basta! he says.  Ok.  You want your entrance way to be a closet?  Yes.

Stay tuned.

PS Oh by the way, where do you think the electrical wiring, the heating etc. go in such a system?  Any ideas out there?


  1. Susan, this is hilarious.

    My wife and I recently moved to Trentino Alto-Adige, and today tried to hang a magnetic knife rack on the wall in our kitchen.

    You can imagine how that went.

    Thank you for the elucidation on the source of our problems. Have you found any way to hang pictures and such in a more permanent fashion?

    1. Hi Thomas,
      Thank you for your comments. In old buildings I have noticed that people hang something in the ceiling, attach a metal chain and then hang the picture to the chain. You will see this technique often in restaurants. Good luck!