Did you know that there is a compendium called “Rules to erect buildings in the mountains” which dates back to 1913? Written by the architect Adolf Loos, it is compelling in that it explains how peasants used to build their houses. Quite clearly, when laying the foundations of a house, you need to take physical aspects into account, and much more so in a mountainous place, because of eventual slides, snow avalanches, trees falling and other aspects which may put houses at risk, if built in the proximity of a wood or on a steep slope side.
It is also interesting to see that, in many folk stories, birds are portrayed as showing humans where was the best place to erect a building, since they were failing on all fronts. Be as it may, it is true that, as a rule of thumb, fertile lands were avoided, as these were used for crops, and it was best to choose a place where wind would not have blown too hard, ideally there would have been a viewpoint, and a symbiosis between humans and nature was aspired to. Choosing a place where the sun was shining was also vital – as it is the case today.
Quite clearly, peasants did not have an architect at hand, and so they focused their attention on the functions of their houses. These were also used as workshops and laboratories, granting the social and economic lives of their owners. We can also admire a certain harmony in these houses, which pleases the eyes and seems to fit perfectly well with nature; though this harmony may not be intentional, these buildings appear to us this way because of their exceptional way of fitting into the surrounding area.
The materials used were also local, for instance bricks and mortar were employed in the lower Atesina and Oltradige, , with earthenware tiles and stone plates to cover the roofs, while in the woodier parts of the Val Senales and Valle Aurina, wood was mainly used.
If we shift our attention to Bozen, we can then see cultures mingling. The Dominican monastery, for instance, is linked to the Boccia family, stemming from Florence, while the cathedral bell tower speaks a clear Germanic style.
Different cultures unite in this marvellous region, and it’s all yours to discover.
Take a look at what’s around you: the various masi perched high up on a hillside may hide interesting aspects, as will the small cities you’ll pass through, such as Bozen and Merano. Go out and unearth new treasures. It will please your eyes. It will please your soul.