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STONE ARCHITECTURE IN LESSINIA A w a l k t h r o u g h t h e a rc h i t e c t u r a l t r a d i t i o n o f t h e L e s s i n i a M o u n t a i n R a n g e n e a r Ve r o n a

STONE ARCHITECTURE IN LESSINIA A w a l k t h r o u g h t h e a rc h i t e c t u r a l t r a d i t i o n o f t h e L e s s i n i a M o u n t a i n R a n g e n e a r Ve r o n a



A journey back in time featuring stone, culture and human ingenuity

by Eugenio Turri, Vincenzo Pavan, Corrado Balistreri Trincanato

Stone and marble production in our province

2002 was a tough year for the entire world

goes back many centuries. Today, there are close to

economy, with a general slump reflected by a

500 companies working in the sector, more like

sluggish stone industry. But new markets are now

600 if solely local companies are included. 61% of

emerging and innovation and research must go

them are located in the Lessinia mountain range.

ahead as priorities. The new Video Museum for stone and marble will help by communicating

Of the 53 companies near Verona that quarry

ideas and demonstrating the quality of local

stone and marble, 33 are in the local authorities

products. The aim of the Verona Chamber of

of Grezzana, Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo, Fumane,

Commerce is to stimulate research, promotions

Negrar and Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella.

and development for the entire local stone industry, which plays such a vital role in our

Of course, quarrying and processing stone go

history and economy.

hand in hand. Lessinia and Verona, like the rest of the local territory, are wonderful examples of

I am sure that this volume dedicated to the

how stone and marble have been used for

stone architecture of the Lessinia mountain range

architecture and there are countless other

will show the way forward, by reassessing the

examples throughout Italy.

immense patrimony created in the past and safeguarded in the present.

Stone from Lessinia is now world famous. It is exported throughout the planet: about 80% of the stone processed in and around Verona is exported. The value of exports in 2002 was euro 494.8 million, a drop of 4.9% on the previous year. This reflects the recession in Germany, one of our biggest markets, worth around euro 170 million, but 16% down on 2001. The United States market is stable, whilst Canada and South Korea are growing (the latter with over euro 10

Fabio Bortolazzi

million of purchases has jumped 40%). Australia,

President of the Verona Chamber of

too, is interesting (euro 7.4 million, up 37.8%).

Commerce, Industry, Agriculture and Crafts

This publication is part of a series of works carried out by the Veneto Marble Consortium

proper renovation of the buildings in the area, as elsewhere locally.

dedicated to the origins of the stone patrimony of the Lessinia region, which has given rise to one of

An understanding of the techniques used in

the world’s most sophisticated industries for the

the past is the only way of preserving a patrimony

processing of stone and marble.

which has made Verona world famous and the leading centre for research and development in

Lessinia is an area where the quarrying of stone

stone and marble processing worldwide.

has always gone hand in hand with rural and city architecture.






architects such as Carlo Scarpa to create prestigious Due to its technical and aesthetic features, stone from Lessinia has been used extensively in

buildings, using a range of applications which only the preservation of a tradition can provide.

the architecture of Verona and is now used throughout the world for famous and prestigious buildings.

The book looks into the past in order to open a way to the future, to new applications and to the safeguarding of a culture that is still living and

The purpose of this book - the first of its kind is to record the patrimony of the Lessinia

prospering, based on the qualities of stone from the Lessinia mountain range.

mountain range and to prepare the way for the proper renovation and future safeguarding of these architectural and cultural resources. The history of the use of stone and marble in Lessinia is one of cultural values, craft skills and the livelihood of an entire region. It is a homage to quarrymen, stonemasons and craftsmen.

Aldino Quintarelli Chairman of the Lessinia Stone Consortium

A further aim is to foster co-operation between

Roberto Bianconi

the Consortium and local authorities for the

Chairman of Progetto Marmo

Publishing co-ordination: Roberto Bianconi Cover design: Photo by Nicola Rovetti Graphic design: ABC.Studi Acknowledgements: Carol Schultheiss, Luciano Bogoni, Giorgio Tessari, Eugenio Chicano, Franco Tommasi, Orazio Morandini, Silvia Lazzaretti

All rights reserved under international copyright conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writting from the publisher. Š 2003 NUMEROUNO DESIGN BOOK via dei Mutilati, 8 - 37122 Verona Italy tel. 045 8008288 - fax 045 8011138


Countryside of stone


by Eugenio Turri The architecture of Lessinia and global


by Vincenzo Pavan Lessinia and Utilitarian Architecture


by Corrado Balistreri Trincanato

Measurements and


Vulnerant omnes ultima necat


by Luciano Bogoni


Signs in stone


by Alberto Cafaro, Nicola Rovetti


by Eugenio Turri


tectonically without violence.


Not that Lessinia is all the same; it varies The countryside of the Lessinia mountain

according to altitude and the presence of

range has one evident feature: a lack of su-

man. But the true nature and essence of this

perfluity. Nothing is wasted, nothing is

pre-Alpine region can be seen where man

where it should not be. Everything in the

has stripped away the vegetation revealing a

countryside contributes to the beauty of the

series of north-south ridges which some

scenery and everything has a reason for

have compared to the fingers of an out-

being there. It as if the countryside itself sug-

stretched hand.

gested this form of pared down existence to

Such uncomplicated countryside could

its inhabitants. The geographical features are

not generate anything but similarly pared

not dramatic, with sheer cliff faces, or spec-

back, functional buildings, which nonethe-

tacular with breathtaking views across val-

less have a rather magical, almost metaphys-

leys; the scenery and how it has been altered

ical quality: solitary houses or mountain

by the presence of man makes no big claims

huts made with stone slabs, or small groups

of this kind. It is unexaggerated, non-dra-

of houses in the tiny villages, geometrical

matic, unforced, a natural habitat. There are

shapes with nothing superfluous. The archi-

very few woods, unusually for this altitude.

tecture of the region reflects its nature: sim-

As a micro region, Lessinia is rocky, with

ple, functional, uncomplex. The houses are

limestone, sedimentary and tabular rock for-

made of the same rock as the geological for-

mations, a naked kind of countryside created

mations and look like a continuation of na-



ture, camouflaged against the background,

manisation of space, something simple,

almost as if the presence of man needed to

functional and without design: it merely

be hidden. The houses have the same colour

uses basic geometrical forms – lines, the cube

of the rock and the geometry of the build-

– and simple raw materials made available by

ings reflects the geometry of the basic rock

nature. There is something humble and


humbling in its simplicity.





learned from nature. A characteristic type of

It is an example of one of the first uses of

building in the area makes this very evident;

stone. Over the centuries, as cities grew and

it is made with five slabs of limestone form-

the bourgeoisie rose to power, stone was used

ing a cube, a simple box shape, functioning

in increasingly complex ways. Buildings re-

as rudimentary shelter.

mained quite simple, but the decorative elements of facades and arches became more

It is an archetype, the first form of hu-

The inhabited countryside of Lessinia today



and more elaborate, for example with the

tacular. It was formed from a monoclinal

baroque framing of doorways. Naturally, the

block of Mesozoic stratification without

city required more sophisticated forms of ar-

much tectonic movement, inclined south,

chitecture than the nearby mountain region,

almost as if the forces involved were not

but there was some contamination, from the

strong enough to completely upset the orig-

eighteenth century onwards. By the twenti-

inal form of stratification. Lessinia has a sim-

eth century the original architecture of the

ilar formation to the high plateaus of the

Lessinia mountain range had become almost

pre-Alpine region of the Veneto (Sette Co-

unrecognizable, with traces here and there of

muni, Cansiglio) and has a characteristic

the original Cimbrian community (forest

morphology. Some even consider the region

dwellers) and other cultures down the ages.

a plateau, despite the change in altitude, climbing from south to the north, with the alluvial foothills rising from the banks of the


Adige River and the gradually higher moun-


tains north. The original stratification is more or less intact although in the south it is

Like everything else in the region, its geo-

characterised by a series of wedge-shaped

logical origins are quite simple and unspec-

fractures and faults creating the valley formation and the varied mountain countryside. The area is also characterised by endogenous formations associated with basalt intrusions and expansions, particularly to the east. Seen from above, for example in a satellite photo, the area looks compact and the shape of a trapezium, with longer southern edge with hills and alluvial Adige valley. To

Rocks in limestone strata



the north the upper edge borders on the

valleys open out, as they move north the val-

Trentino valleys overlooking the Adige River,

leys sharpen and become almost inaccessible

and to the east and west two deep valleys

canyons (called vaj) with woods and wild na-

(Val d’Illasi or Valle di Chiampo to the east,

ture. This geographical formation dictates

Val Lagarina to the west) form the other two

the ways the valleys are inhabited and the

sides of the trapeze. Orographically, the mor-

economic activity of the region.

phological unity of the area can be seen best

This compact geographical and geological

in the higher, northern portion, where the

formation, however, does not exclude other

steep valleys begin to run south finally meet-

features, such as the long escarpment from

ing low flat land. As they move south the

Mount Corno d’Aquilio to Corno Mozzo, a

Stratified rocks after erosion and levelling



giant fold in the terrain separating the

also widespread with its characteristic white

Lessinia of the valleys and vaj from the high-

rock known as “biancone”, a flaky and marly

er land, which looks like a huge balcony

rock found on the middle-range spurs and

overlooking the Alpine regions and the Po

the upper plateau, where erosion exposes the

Valley to the south.

rock almost like open wounds in the coun-

Within this orogenetic mass the compact

tryside. Splintered rock stratifications are also

form does not mean homogeneous features

Cretaceous and include Pietra di Prun (Prun

or geological composition. The sedimentary

stone), with its many thin layers (no more

rock formation involved a number of differ-

than 3-10 cm thick), which can easily be sep-

ent phases and areas, and exogenous action

arated since they have a clay intervening

eroded or destroyed much of the surface

layer. This is excellent building stone.

limestone over other layers of rock. This is

The upper, tertiary, Eocenic and to some

evident in the countryside, beginning with

extent Miocenic formations date back to the

the lower formations of the Giura (Dogger

time the area was under the sea: they con-

oolite limestone) which can be seen clearly

tain many important fossils, particularly in

where erosion in the vaj have brought them

Bolca, and fossil-like limestone in the hilly

to light in the deepest areas (for example at

areas. Higher up the limestone has mostly

the valley top in Valpantena, above Dorighi,

been eroded. The Veneto rock forming stacks

or the valley top of Fumane). Malm forma-

in the areas of Prun and Sant’Anna d’Alfae-

tions are found above these, the richest in

do, i.e. a very small area, is used for the most

ammonite, fossil cephalopods, the most com-

original and characteristic building materials

mon deep-sea species between 500 and 150

in Lessinia. Fragments of the material can be

million years ago. Lessinia owes its origins to

found eastwards and on the plateau charac-

the raising of the seabed. These strata (called

terised by red ammonitic slabs which are

“ammonite red”) can also be found higher

thicker, rougher and harder to quarry. Where

up, in the plateau, where the covering rock

oolite limestone can be seen, not in slabs,

has been removed. Cretaceous formations are

the countryside changes completely, because



the blocks of stone have been used to make

ments. At least twenty strata are used for

walls and houses: the architecture, style and

building purposes, each with a name of its

colours are all different, even just a few hun-

own linked to the traditional use of the stone.

dred meters away. The strata of Veneto rock have different thicknesses and compositions. This depends


on the different conditions of the sea in time


and space, since these rocks were formed at sea but close to the surface and hence were

The geological formation of Lessinia is

subject to climatic and morphological ele-

clearly reflected in the countryside. The rock formation is stratified and the entire area tilts towards the south. Exogenous activity has affected the layers of rock on the high plateau, cutting deeper and deeper crevices into the countryside south, whilst in the north a series of small valleys have been formed around the dome-shaped peaks (Mount Sparavieri, Malera, Tomba, Castelberto, Cornetto, etc. with heights of around 1600 and 1700 m. above sea level), above the fold that divides the plateau from the ridges of middle-range Lessinia. The valleys run down the slopes of the mountains, with round peaks and gentle inclines, a soft and gradually falling countryside created by the underlying rock formation, subject to erosion and heavily stratified, creating gentle slopes. Here and there parts of

Satellite photo of Lessinia



(for example Preta), and the morainic deposits in the shaded crevices, as in the valon in Malera and further to the north, towards the Trentino plateau. To the south, the karst phenomena are different. To begin with, the territory is characterised by vaj, a series of sharp valleys cut into the trapezium shape of the Lessinia mountain range, isolating the peaks which are generally rounded to the north but in the south become abrupt and sharply pointed due to the Jurassic origin. The classic morphology of the vaj can also be seen, for example, in the Jura region of France, with the same geological formation as Lessinia. The vaj are found mainly in the Vajo dell’Anguilla

south and are accompanied by lateral valleys cutting into the slopes of ridges, in a sort of

the old, overlaid Malm rock can be seen, cre-

grid, often terminating in formations above

ating a strange effect (the valley of the

the vaj themselves (such as waterfalls).

Sphinxes and the enchanted villages), with

The most evident of the vaj is Anguilla,

fields like asphalt where thermoclastic and

the upper section of the hydrographic basin

karst phenomena are both evident.

of the Valpantena, acting as a partition with

The morphology of this part of Lessinia

the upper Lessinia, as can be seen in the

has been influenced by Pleistocene glaciers

countryside and the changing use of the land

and snow as can be seen from the flattened

and architectural style (the area westward is

crevices between ridges, from doline shapes,

the one with the most common use of stone

niches formed by snow and certain chasms

slabs in building).



The vaj are generally uninhabited due to

change too much: the ridges remain, albeit

the difficult access, the narrow dry beds of

in a less regular pattern due to tectonic ac-

gravel and shingle. In Lessinia rainwater is

tivity, and the bottoms of the vaj are wider,

absorbed by the karst formations so perma-

leading to the alluvial valley bottom of the

nent water courses are rare: the progni, a

River Adige.

term which refers more to the shingle than

The mountains of Lessinia are often cov-

torrents themselves (progno appears on old

ered by woodlands of different varieties de-

maps as prugno, i.e. the area where wild trees

pending on the altitude. Chestnut trees grow

grow, such as plum tress), are dry except after

up to about 900 metres above sea level, to-

torrential or prolonged rain, for example dur-

gether with trees characteristic of tempera-

ing summer thunder storms.

ture climates such as oak trees, hornbeam

Surface forms of erosion are common in

walnut trees etc. Beech trees begin at about

this area, with the exception of dolines on

this altitude and reach as high as the

the ridges, the vaj are characterized by

pleateau, although many have been cleared

chasms and a rather different morphology.

in order to make way to grazing land. Inter-

There are some small waterfalls and rocks

estingly, the name Lessinia, although of ori-

with thick vegetation that are vaguely remi-

gins that are not entirely clear, probably

niscent of the Druids. A rare phenomenon is

means a mountain used for grazing cattle,

the so-called Ponte di Veja (Veja Bridge), the

called “lessiniva�, an adjective. Here (where

remains of a cave where the ceiling has col-

the beeches and pines mingled), a mountain

lapsed leaving a natural stone bridge. It is

meadowland was created despite the lack of

said that the painter Mantegna was inspired

moisture, assisted by the karst rock forma-

by this natural karst formation to paint fan-

tion, with a huge variety of mountain flow-

tastic landscapes. Similarly spectacular are

ers, and generally used for grazing cattle and

the waterfalls at Molina, the water deriving

sheep. The flowers are even more abundant

from a shingle bed in val di Fumane.

lower down the slopes on the edges of conifer woodlands and in the downs.

Further south the landscape does not




tioned above, the history of the area needs


to be seen separately in the west and east, although they have some phenomena in com-

The first inhabitants of Lessinia who have

mon, such as early nomadic “settlements� of

left their mark in terms of the architecture

a temporary nature with communities from

and configuration of the territory were Me-

the valley bottoms (of Roman origin) mov-

dieval, although it is known that the area

ing uphill in order to exploit the natural re-

was populated in prehistoric times. As men-

sources, woodlands and timber, grazing land,

A probably prehistoric shelter



fruit and herbs, which they took back to the

woodlands and in the Middle Ages was part

valley bottoms and flat lands. Flint was also

of the lands owned by noblemen until it was

quarried, and the area was used for hunting

purchased by the monasteries of Verona who

and for its resources of ice. Some of the no-

later donated it to the city. For Verona the

mads, particularly those involved in grazing

woodlands (Selva Frizzolana, or Selva Com-

cattle and sheep, made their homes in the

munis Veronae of the thirteenth century)

area, creating the first permanent settle-

were important for timber and game, and for

ments. F. Zorzi has studied the castles of

the dairy products from slightly higher up

Gaite, Sottosengia and Monte Loffa above

the slopes. In the twelfth and thirteenth cen-

Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo and has traced back the

turies the Bishops of Verona allowed Ger-

use of stone slabs in these buildings, all lo-

manic settlers in the western area to cut the

cated in the western part of Lessinia. An

woodlands (mainly beech trees) for timber

iron age settlement existed in the eastern

and fuel for the city. These populations were

portion as well, as shown by the archaeolog-

emigrating from the north and had already

ical digs in Purga di Velo, with iron age and

settled in the high plateau of Sette Comuni

Roman remains.

and the mountains above Vicenza. For a long

During the Middle Ages, the areas of

time they were considered foreigners and in-

medium height in the western zone contin-

vaders (“rabbe” as Corna da Sonicino called

ued to receive new settlements, including

them in the fifteenth century), and were not

populations from the Trentino (shepherds

looked upon well by the hunters from the

who had moved from the Adige valley), as

valleys who wanted to use the woods for

demonstrated by place names such as

their own activities (they were known as ari-

Morandini, Franciosi, Ledro, Meneghei, etc.,

manni, free men, without tax obligations).

all names which are common in the valleys

But the populations settled slowly and with-

of the Trentino.

out entering into open conflict with the valleys and city.

The population of the eastern zone had a

Similar migration patterns can be found

different origin. The area was covered by



elsewhere in Europe with families moving

spoke an unknown language was thought to

along the ridges (excluding the vaj which

descend from the ancient Cimbrians, defeat-

were inaccessible) and won the pathways

ed by Consul Mario in 101 B.C.) can be iden-

created by the arimanni, in search of new

tified by the place names, often family

land to settle. Generally the places with the

names, such as Erbisti, Spietner, Snel, Jegher

most natural resources were chosen, and

etc, in Velo, Valdiporro and Roverè Veronese.

woodlands were sought after, particularly if

In the western area the woodlands were

there were also opportunities to farm the

less widespread and the settlements less

land. These populations lived in the middle

common, but were similarly located under

range of hills with the grazing land above

the grazing land in the higher land and

owned by rich townspeople and the people

above the valley floors. Some villages, such

of the valleys and cities below. The areas that

as Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo, became quite large

were chosen most often for settlements were

whilst others - Fosse, Cerna, Vaggimal, Ron-

the small downs close to the vaj.

coni - grew only in certain conditions. Simi-

As these settlements grew they built

larly, further down the slopes, villages were

churches or chapels, which acted as meeting

located close to sources of water and where

places for the ethnically unified population

the conditions were favourable.

(Germans from Bavaria) and as a way of as-

The series of small villages from Sant’An-

serting their cultural identity. The two popu-

na d’Alfaedo towards Cerna is a marvellous

lations – German speaking in the hillsides

example of how the villages developed at dif-

and Italian speaking in the valleys and cities

ferent altitudes, almost in steps, according to

– soon mixed, and in the fifteenth century

the farming land and quarries with the stone

there was probably little left of a purely Ger-

needed for housing. These villages originat-

manic culture in the area.

ed not from the Germanic populations mov-

The settlements of the Germanic peoples

ing down the slopes but the Italian speaking

(still today called Cimbrians because in the

populations from the city and valleys mov-

nineteenth century this community which

ing up the slopes.



In the eastern portion there was a similar

the region can be seen through a virtually ar-

division between lowlands and woodlands at

chaeological reconstruction of remaining

a certain altitude with a few houses here and

fragments, with traces of old crops, fences,

there higher up the slopes and the villages

woodland, springs, and the continuing use

below the level of the woods. This fragmen-

of significant place names. In a study carried

tation was due to the role of the head of the

out by the author the inhabitants of the re-

family, the patriarch, who needed to look for

gion until about ten years ago used a number

the most favourable conditions for the fami-

of place names that reveal how the territory

ly, away from the wind and close to water

was used many years ago: the location of

and other natural resources for crop grow-

fields, meadows, woods, pasture and so on.

ing, rather difficult so high up.

Often the names have German origin. In other words the village was the nerve centre of the region, with its trading, manufacturing and stone processing. They were


generally organised as groups of extended The distribution of houses and the popu-

families, living in detached or what today

lation in Lessinia reflects the morphology of

would be called terraced houses, the children

the region, the altitude and environmental

and grandchildren close to the parents and

conditions. Similarly, the economic activities of the region are dictated by these features, suitable for grazing, timber, farming or mining. Generally the land in the upper areas is owned by large landowners and is used for grazing cattle, whilst lower down the land is divided up into smaller plots owned by farmers. The history of the economic activities of A village in upper Lessinia



grandparents. Sometimes children left home

stone slabs. The stone was not only used lo-

to start up a new village, much as the Slav

cally (for houses, walls, pathways, paving,

zadruga and Germanic Weiler did.

tanks and fountains), but also for city archi-

After the woodlands were cleared for tim-

tecture after storage in Sant’Ambrogio. An-

ber and shipbuilding the community turned

other form of activity was the production of

to grazing and breeding livestock, and to

ice during winter, stored until summer for

farming. The inhabitants also moved further

sale in the city (and as far away as Egypt, in

up the slopes (to 1200 - 1300 meters above

the second half of the nineteenth century).

sea level) used for stalls and barns, generally

This activity included the transport of ice

built in the centre of meadows and clearings

from the wells and production centres,

surrounded by woodlands (beech, some-

which have today virtually disappeared,

times many hundreds of years old). The land

with the exception of some museums with

higher up the slopes was generally the prop-

their characteristic architecture of circular,

erty of large landowners who rented it to

lined wells, stone, tanks and poplar trees (al-

cattle breeders.

bare) for shade.

Below 90 meters, the land was normally used for farming. Here, too, the housing is often isolated, with large farms at the centre


of the slopes often cut into terraces and sup-


ported by walls without cement. The type of crops depended on the soil (rather poor in

In all of these activities, not just in build-

quality, and often very thin) and altitude.

ing, stone slabs were the raw materials. The

Vines were not planted above 700 meters.

relationship with these limestone slabs be-

Similarly corn, barley, rye and potatoes were

came so deep over the years that a number of

grown further down.

applications were found and a number of

At the same time, mining and quarrying

craft industries grew up in relation to the

was carried out for flint (le folende) and

skills required to process the stone. Strange-



much of our ancient history. Yet no records exist of the intimate relationship of the men and women in the region with the stone that contributed so much to their lives, dwellings and well-being. Only the stone itself remains and the record of the skills acquired to cut, process and polish it. Certainly the term “stone age man” seems to fit the early inhabitants of Lessinia perfectly: in the villages of Prun and San’Anna A stone wall dividing properties

d’Alfaedo, between Fane and Giare, where the ridges look like a series of pages of a book

ly, no studies have ever been carried out to

written in an old language – the language of

investigate just what the original local popu-

geological formations, the passing of time,

lation knew about the geology of the stone

the effects of the weather - which only ex-

and how they understood its complex layer-

perts can decipher.

ing. How did the fossils, the bogonele, get

The western part of the territory is the

there? How was this somehow associated

area where stone slabs have been used most

with some biblical stories and with the mys-

often in a variety of applications down

teries of religion? Certainly they had very lit-

through the ages. The main application, of

tle understanding of geology (a product of

course, is housing. But stone has also been

bourgeois civilisation). A serious thinker

used to pave courtyards, to partition off or-

such as don Attilio Benedetti certainly medi-

chards, to create walls (the special local

tated on the meaning of the landscape and

type, without cement), to mark out the

its composition, and the entire community

boundaries between local authorities, to cre-

must have wondered about the fossils and

ate tanks for rain water, fountains, and so

the layering of the stone, which reveal so

on. Generally these constructions are sim-



ple, without ornamentation, the aesthetics

east of the region uses stone less frequently

being expressed almost unconsciously and

than the west. The dividing line seems to be

in close relation with the functional aspects

more or less the vajo dell’Anguilla (Eel val-

of the object.

ley), the central morphological feature of

In the eastern part of the territory stone is

Lessinia. Greater skills in the processing and

used a little differently and for different pur-

use of stone were developed in the west

poses. The origins of the people are Cimbric,

compared to the rather rudimentary use in

i.e. a Germanic people with a culture very

the east.

closely associated with the forest, with timber and wooden buildings and objects. Baragiola






dwellings and reconstructed their wooden houses with thatched roofs, some of which

In the western part of Lessinia mining is

survived until about fifty years ago in Velo

still intense and continues a thousand-year

and Roverè di Velo or Campofontana. As the

tradition. Today, however, a statutory frame-

woods were cut for ships for the Venetian Re-

work is required to regulate not only quarry-

public and for timber, the way of life had to

ing but farming, livestock breeding, building

change. Stone was used increasingly for

and renovation work.

housing, with Gothic roofs, and for paving

There is less mining in the eastern por-

and roads. The style of sculpture in the area

tion and consequently the countryside is

was heavily influenced by the previous

rather less influenced by economic activities,

wooden materials, and there are still may

but the abandoning of villages has left a

crosses and effigies of the Virgin in wood in

huge historical patrimony in precarious con-

the region (unlike in the west) which seem

ditions. Many villages are inhabited only

to be sculpted more from wood than stone.

during the summer by the old owners who

These stylistic elements are reminiscent

have moved to the city and return only for

of the Gothic the other side of the Alps. The

the holidays during the hottest periods.



Quarries in Prun

Other houses have been bought by city

is the special attention of the Lessinia nature

dwellers but only on the condition that they

reserve to the buildings, monuments and

can renovate and refurbish without too

houses of the area in order to preserve not

many restrictions. In other words, this work

only the countryside but the man-made

has often been carried out with no care for

civilisation of Lessinia which is so intimate-

the original design of the houses and with-

ly related to the craft skills of stonemasons

out local materials, tools and skills. However

and quarrymen.

it is not much better to let houses and villages slowly crumble away. The author has recently published a study of this phenomenon. What would be best for the area today




Various authors, Verona e il suo territorio, I vol.,

Gatti E. e Zuccolotto M., Paesaggio tra identità e

with texts by A. Pasa, S. Ruffo, M. F. Durante

tecnologia. La Valpolicella occidentale, tesi

Pasa, F. Zorzi, Istituto di Studi Storici, Verona,

di laurea, IUAV, Venezia, 1996-97. Sauro A., Le origini della popolazione dei Tredi-


ci Comuni Veronesi, Boscochiesanuova, 1988.

Various authors, Architettura nei Monti Lessini,

Sauro U., Il paesaggio degli Alti Lessini, Mem.

Ente Marmi Veronese, Verona, 1961. Various authors, Grezzana e la Valpantena, edit-

Del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Verona, Verona, 1973.

ed by E. Turri, Cierre, Verona, 1991.

Silvestri G., Edilizia e paesaggio della Lessinia,

Various authors, Gli alti pascoli dei Lessini Veronesi, edited by P. Berni, U. Sauro, G. M.

Accademia Agr. Sc. Lett., Verona, 1970.

Varanini, La Grafica, Lavagno di Verona, 1991.

Turri E., La Lessinia, Vita Veronese, Verona, 1968.

Various authors, L’architettura di pietra in

Turri E., Permanenze cimbriche nel paesaggio

Lessinia. Un patrimonio unico da valoriz-

lessinico, in Lessinia terra dei Cimbri, op. cit.

zare, Atti del Convegno di Erbezzo 1996,

Curatorium Cimbricum Veronense, edited by G. Volpato, Verona, 1987.

C.T.G., Verona, 1997.

Turri E., Un’attività scomparsa sui Lessini: la

Various authors, La Lessinia, terra dei Cimbri, X,

produzione e il commercio del ghiaccio,

19, 1998. Avesani B. and Zanini F., Quando il freddo era

Memorie dell’Accademia di Agr. Sc. Lett., XXIII,

una risorsa, Edizioni Scaligere, Verona, 1990.

1972. Turri E., Vérone: une ville à la conquete de la

Baragiola A., La casa villereccia delle colonie

montagne, Revue de Géographie alpine,

tedesche veneto-tridentine, Gergamo, 1908. Filippi E., La pietra di Prun, in “Marmi, graniti,

Grenoble, 4,8, 1999. Turri E., La Lessinia e la città: una rifunzionaliz-

pietre”, 45, 1968.

zazione territoriale continua, in La Lessinia,

Franzoni L., Scultura popolare dei Lessini, Vita

ieri, oggi, domani, 25, 2002.

Veronese, Verona, 1964.



by Vincenzo Pavan


of thin, regular stone interspersed with lay-

Within the great variety of Alpine land-

ers of clay making them easy to separate. In

scapes and cultures, Lessinia is unique.

a certain sense nature has provided pre-cut

This is partly because of its physical for-

stone ready to be used.

mation, partly due to climate, and partly because of its specific economic, produc-

The use of local stone over the centuries

tive and cultural history. However, mainly

has created what can best be called a “stone

it is due to the presence of stone and the

culture” comprising humble and anony-

fact that the stone is particularly suitable

mous stonemasons and craftsmen who

for building, with innovative construction

have shaped the territory, landscape and ar-

techniques. What makes the architecture of

chitecture of the mountain region.

the region so special is not so much the

The abundance of stone and its forma-

originality of the buildings – although

tion in layers (or slabs) has created a versa-

there is that – as the use of very particular

tile building material for a number of dif-

building materials such as sedimentary

ferent applications, many of which give the

limestone and a local stone known as

landscape an unmistakable appearance.

Scaglia Rossa Veneta from the Cretaceous

The global use of stone in buildings, walls,

and Rosso Ammonitico from the Jurassic


age. The particular geological formation of

beams) and its use outdoors in courtyards,

the area has made these types of stone very

farmyards, for took sheds and fencing, even

common in Lessinia.

for structural support in vineyards, has

The rock formation consists in overlays





made Lessinia a man-made stone landscape.



The first was such a common technique


that there is virtually no village without a


small quarry used to build the village itself. To understand the significance and

Open mining involved removing the sur-

value of the architecture of Lessinia, a few

face layers of soil over the stone until the

words must be spent on how the stone is

top layer of the stone itself was reached.

quarried and processed.

Each layer of stone was removed by drilling

The varieties of stone used and marketed

holes into the sides, then placing iron

most commonly - Scaglia Rossa Veneta

wedges into the holes to separate the top

a.k.a. Prun stone together with Rosso Am-

layer from the stone underneath. Each

monitico and other Jurassic limestones –

layer was separated from the next by clay

are often visible on the surface, or hidden

so the stone slabs could be removed quite

just beneath and going down deep into the

easily after separation.

ground. This means that two quarrying

Tunnelling was a system of mining used

techniques have been used: open mining

until the middle of the last century, mainly

and tunnelling.

in the lower areas of Lessinia: in Prun, in the Negrar valley, and in Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella, near San Giorgio and Monte Solane. The tunnelled mines, many of which remain in the Prun area, were used to quarry high quality materials often not used locally but sold for city architecture. The layers of quality stone, generally 6-7 meters thick – were so deep it was not economic to remove the unusable stone above. The stone was could often be seen on the valley sides and the mine was located in

Open mining of stone in the sixties: near Monte Loffa in the locality of Sant’Anna di Alfaedo



Excavation of Prun stone in the sixties

Stratification of the stone

the most suitable spot. The tunnels were

were left to support the roof. Often they



had irregular, even bizarre, shapes. Often

tools. The mine dug down from the top

large vertical cracks in the stone could be

layer of quality stone to the bottom. In the

used to cut into the stone horizontally.

upper Negrar valley the slabs were re-

The mines moved forward parallel with the

moved from 73 layers of stone of between

tunnels connected crosswise until they be-

4-15 cm thickness, each layer having a

came huge open spaces under the moun-

name indicating its physical and mechani-

tains, immense architectural constructions

cal features or use.

created by removing rather than accumu-



lating stone.

As the mine expanded pillars of stone




The mines became obsolete in the 50s





following the invention of mining equip-

through the ages. Until about fifty years

ment and machinery which made it


cheaper to remove the stone from the top.

processed in the quarry itself, and in mines,

Many of the mines were abandoned. In

it was processed in nearby laboratories or

Prun, the abandoned mines testify to the

areas in front of the entrance to the mine.

intelligence, ingenuity and workmanship

The manual techniques gave way to ma-

of the miners; they are themselves one of

chinery and the stone was processed far

the most important examples of stone ar-

from the mines by a new generation of

chitecture in Lessinia. As such, they re-

technological equipment.







Today, only open mining techniques are

quire safeguarding for their cultural and

used. Machinery has taken a lot of the

historical importance.

Inside a former quarry of Prun stone



sheer physical toil out of mining and ex-

stone for roofing, paving or for vertical

tended the mines to huge areas, requiring a

surfaces in tool sheds, small buildings or

regulatory framework to guarantee the in-

for fences.

tegrity of the landscape.

What is most striking about these building techniques is the play of sensory aspects: the buildings are without embellish-


ment, the surfaces are luminous and rough,


the buildings give off a sense of power and

Like all locally developed building techniques, Lessinia brought its own culture to the materials quarried for building purposes. These materials had certain features which were brought to light by a series of techniques comprising a sort of code of practice. Each type of stone had different physical and mechanical features and hence needed to be cut, assembled and used differently in buildings. The code of practice in Lessinia was applied with rigorous discipline, abolishing all superfluity or decorative intent, in favour of practicality. Two basic building techniques were used. One involved basically reproducing the original stratification of the rock as can be seen in walls and terraces. The other technique involved the use of large slabs of Vertical slabs used in a building in Vaona



value. The decorative elements are only those of the stone itself, somewhat akin to modern architectural taste which tends to bring out natural beauty rather than create complex forms. The culture of the region was also influenced by other construction materials, such as wood, which has a long tradition. Many buildings in the area are a mixture of techniques taken from stone and wood, the techniques often crossing over to the other material.

A building in Vaggimal demolished in the sixties, where the vertical slabs are clearly visible

These unique building techniques have given the stone of Lessinia a language of its own, as distinctive and unmistakable as

ic, local conditions and, like dialects,

any spoken language. And just as in any

needs to be studied within a historical

language there are local dialects and in-

context, which – in the case of the lan-

flections, accents and ways of speech that

guage of stone – includes the texture of the

make one area slightly different from the

materials, their appearance, and the build-

next. These differences are due to slight

ing techniques used to get the most out of

variations in the geology of the territory,

the physical and mechanical properties of

the vicinity of towns or villages and the

the stone.

availability of the stone. The local archi-

The various dialects of Lessinia are relat-

tecture has a relation to architecture as a

ed to the various types of stone found in

whole in the region which is similar to the

the area. A geological map of the area,

relationship between a local dialect (or di-

showing these different types of stone, is

alects) and a language; it indicates specif-

essentially split into three different areas.



The first region – west Lessinia, between Val d’Adige and Vaio dell’Anguilla – is characterised by Scaglia Rossa Veneta (a.k.a. Prun stone), with a very homogenous thickness and regular layers, both on the surface and at depth. This also means the physical and mechanical characteristics of the stone are quite uniform in this area, from the foothills of Valpolicella to the bottom of the northern uplands. The other large area is eastern Lessinia, between Vaio dell’Anguilla and Valle d’Illasi, characterised mainly by Rosso Ammonitico, but also by other limestones from different geological ages. Unlike in

A window frame in a farming depot in Vaona

the western region, the thickness of the limestone varies and the geographical distribution is also very varied. The stone is often present on the surface of the land and can be quarried easily, although its irregularity makes it a stone without commercial value and even in local building it is less usable than Prun stone. There is also a portion of land east of the Illasi Valley towards Vicenza with very similar characteristics. The third area is similar to the eastern The corner of a stone house in Cona



region but should be considered separately. This are is the pasture land to the north, a high plateau leading to the neighbouring Trentino region and mountains. These slopes have a fairly uniform culture in terms of building, based on the availability of Rosso Ammonitici and other limestones which can easily be separated into layers of stone, or slabs, and in relation to the fairly simple communications in the area. These are the three basic dialects of the language of stone in Lessinia. Of course, the areas are not so neatly separate or uniform in reality and each has a number of different types of stone due to the variety of the geological formations, but these are

A stone roof in western Lessinia

like special family uses of language, a sort of dialect within a dialect, of extremely local interest.

a) The western area This is the area where stone slabs are used most commonly in building and where the stone is used most creatively. The uniform strata and the skill of stonemasons, handed down over hundreds of years, have created a syntax and lexicon Stone paving in Vaona



that is quite different from the other “di-

with flaky fragments, giving the stone a

alects” of the region.

delicate, fragile appearance. The manual

Scaglia Rossa is a fine quality stone,

cut of the stone preserves al the original

used for outdoor surfaces, with a colour

features of the material, unlike the rather

that varies between luminous white and


pink, making the buildings stand out

smoothes and levels and polishes, making

against the slopes and hillsides. This is

tidy modern homes in the area, quite rec-

even more evident in the man-made ob-

ognizable by the different form of stone

jects of the countryside such as walls run-

processing used in their construction.





ning along the sides of orchards, or divid-

What characterises the poetry and beau-

ing fields, in the pig sties, fountains and

ty of the buildings in the region is the use

washing areas, all built with slabs of stone

of the original, virtually unprocessed stone,

simply pushed into the earth. The sun

in thick slabs or layers.

often catches the grain of the stone, show-

Layered stone is a technique used way

ing it to be rough and washed by rainwater,

back for stalls, barns, dairies and depots

The outside of an ice depot in Vaona

Another view of the depot in Vaona



generally thicker than the walls of the house),





perimeters separating one house from another. The corners of the perimeter walls were made with the utmost accuracy, interlocking the stone chippings for added strength. The same technique was used for the façade of the house, without any finish. In many cases the walls seemed identical to the original stratification of the stone before quarrying. This can be seen in some buildings where the edges are a kind of natural stone quarry. The oldest example of this technique is Inside an ice depot in Vaona

the Romanic church in San Giorgio di Valpolicella, but other examples of a very precise construction technique can be seen

used for storing ice. Generally the layers

in numerous villages close to the main

consisted of materials left behind as slabs

quarries: Prun, Gorgusello, Cona, Vaona,

were cut. These large “chippings” were

Giare and others with the most skilled

bound together with mortar, produced

stonemasons. This would not have been

from round fragments of stone collected in

possible if the stone had been of different

woods and mixed with a sandy soil from


the roadsides, acting as a natural conglom-

Vertical structures were made with layers

erate with the same colour and grain as the

of stone almost as in the quarries them-

stone itself.

selves, and horizontal structures – such as paving – were made of huge stone slabs.

The walls, of various thicknesses (but



The next floor up was supported by wooden beams. Courtyards and farmyards were extensions of the paving, with large slabs used to dry agricultural produce and to remove mud from boots. One example is Vaona, a village close to the open mines of Monte Loffa, near Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo, where the single stone floor is used for both outdoor areas and indoor areas and the walls of the houses join the stone floor with the stone roofing, making one huge construction of stone. The most characteristic feature of build-

Stone wall in herring bone formation near Prun

ing in Lessina is stone roofing. It comprises slabs laid on wooden beams which also support the sloping sides of the roof. The

gions in Lessinia. The same design can be

slabs are laid one on top of the other, like

found elsewhere in the Alpine region, per-

tiles, forming a slope to drain off the rain-


water. Joints between the slabs are sealed to


keep out the rain, and further protected by

where the uniform use of this type of roof-

grooves running along the stone. Cabin

ing is one of the elements that most

type roofs are very common in Lessinia, as

strongly characterises the architecture of

can be seen by the size of the stone slabs

the region.






roofing Lessinia,

used for roofing. These geometric struc-

Some of the mountain areas around

tures were extremely precise and function-

Verona have very particular examples of

al, with no decorations whatsoever.

this construction technique: ice stores.

This feature is common to all the re-

These were buildings made of stone, cylin-



drical in shape and were essentially large

stone in the wells is one of the finest ex-

wells or tanks buried in the ground to store

amples of building technique in the region,

natural ice collected during the winter

reminiscent of the apse of Romanic church-

from man-made wells and kept for sale in

es with circular outer roofing reminiscent

cities in summer. This was a small but sig-

of a folded leaf.

nificant business activity leaving behind a

The doorways and windows are also

few examples of stone depots, such as the

very particular in Lessinia. Apart from the

most famous in Vaona. The layered circular

obvious differences based on the type of building (house, stall, barn, dove cote or dairy), the doorways either imitated the sophisticated architecture of the cities and large villas, with porticoes, arches and pillars or were simple, functional and highly original. The buildings around courtyards, often comprising the centre of ancient villages in the mountain region around Verona, were of the first type; the best examples are in

Close-up of a pillar for a courtyard portico in Zivelongo

The courtyard in Zivelongo in the sixties



Zivelongo and Vallene. In both cases, the

In some rural buildings and “terraced”

protective character of the doorway and

housing the influence of city architecture is

windows, can be seen in the difference be-

less evident, with a trilithic type of door-

tween the doorways facing out and the

way, often a triangular load-bearing archi-

doorways inside the courtyard itself. The

trave structure also used for windows. This

outer walls have small, often splayed, win-

is a stylistic feature of the architecture in

dows whilst inside the courtyard the doors

western Lessinia and was adapted for the

have large archways and deep porticoes

new needs of farmhouses. It is simple and

with monolithic architraves connecting the

practical. In stalls and barns built between

inner parts of the building with the outside

the 30s and 50s, the wide doors led to sin-

world. Zivelongo in particular, is the oldest

gle or dual structures with gables or steps.

courtyard type village in western Lessinia.

Examples can be found in Sant’Anna d’Al-

Today it is largely a ruin, with some hints of the fifteenth and sixteenth century frescoes, and a good idea of the original layout. Built in Rosso Ammonitico, by assembly of stone blocks one on top of the other, according to an ancient but effective building technique, the porticoes are simple, practical and without decoration. The archway is quite a common feature in different types of building in Lessinia and at different altitudes, including the area of grazing land to the north, proof of how the stonemasons turned the “cultured” architecture of the cities to their own purposes in the mountain region. Close-up of porticoes in Biancari



faedo and Fosse, and in villages close to open mines where the stonemasons were particularly skilled and worked until the 60s on innovative architectural features. Clearly demonstrating a thorough understanding of the mechanical properties of the stone. Western Lessinia is the area with the most widespread use of dry walls (without cement or mortar), a technique that is frequently used in the hills around Verona, traditionally used to contain the erosion of terraces by the weather and to support road embankments. Thatched roofs in a village in Campofontana; the photo was taken in the thirties by B. Schweizer

In the areas of San Giorgio di Valpolicella and Prun, along the roadsides connecting small villages in the upper Negrar Valley, walls are in a “fishbone” form, a rather refined construction system with the diago-

b) The eastern area

nal wedging of stone splinters which are ex-

What is most striking about the archi-

tremely strong. Some other ground com-

tecture of the eastern region of Lessinia is

paction work comprises large stones pushed

the clear difference with the western re-

in a sloping form into the earth. Sometimes,

gion. Just past Erbezzo, starting at Vaio del-

properties are marked out by similar stones

l’Anguilla, the long “partition” that splits

and the same technique is used along road-

the upper plateau from the Pedemontana,

sides and paths. Similar features can be

the countryside and the architecture sud-

found in the pasture country north.

denly change.



The principal reason for this is the different geological formation of the land. The stone has a different texture, although it still consists in layers, albeit thicker, more strongly coloured (pinker) and visibly more compact, making it more difficult to process. The stone is called Rosso Ammonitico,





Verona Red. But another reason for the difference in buildings is the fact that the area had a previous culture of wooden buildings. A look at a geological map for the eastern region shows less a compact and continuous distribution of stone; the stone deposits are more fragmented, like a leopards spots, with uneven thicknesses and meA stone barn near Stander

chanical properties, making quality stone more scarce and the material less suitable for building. Quarries are not the source of the stone but where the stone breaks the

anced structure with rough and ready chip-

surface it is used locally close to the build-

pings along the main wall and precision

ing or village. The territory is also different

chippings at the corners, making the “re-

due to the lack of quarries.

stratification� of stone more evident and

The walls, made of stone chippings, are

requiring a binding mortar to strengthen

less strong because the chippings are less

the structure. Special methods were used

regular. This makes for a slightly unbal-

for the corners of buildings, with squared-



off blocks being inserted alternately from

flat stones were used at the corners of

the two sides forming the corner. The stone


was hand-finished to guarantee a perfect

Another interesting feature is the design

fit. This technique can be seen in numerous

of roofs, particularly for stalls and barns.

villages between Boscochiesanuova and

This is a characteristic feature of the east-

Velo Veronese, especially in the ancient vil-

ern region of Lessinia and is called a “goth-

lage of Bortoletti, where a single row of

ic stretched roof” due to the similarity with

houses built between the sixteenth and

Gothic architecture, with a more pointed

eighteenth centuries (now partially ruined)

top and steeply sloping sides compared to

are the clearest evidence of the use of the

the western region. The roof was inherited

technique. In other cases, particularly long

from local practice with wood, a tradition the Cimbrians in the eastern area continued even after the woods in the upper regions had been cleared. Originally their houses were probably all made of wood, but over the centuries the buildings began to be a mixture of wood and stone, giving rise to a new building technique. Logically, each material was given a specific function, the stone acting as vertical structure – walls and areas around the doors and windows – with wood used for the roof, often thatched, with reeds taken from the marshes. Clearly this material was not water-proof but was easy to install and replace. Hence the sloping roofs, to drain off the rainwater. In the 1930s a number of

Corner stones in a house in Garzon, a characteristic building technique



photographs of this building technique

thatched roof, to drain off rainwater, and

were taken and some examples can still be

the weight of the stone, which would have

seen in dairies at high altitude, with stone

been precarious at a tighter angle, and re-

walls and four steeply sloping structures for

quired a sophisticated system for anchoring

the roof, thatched with reeds from swamp-

the head.

lands known as canel, as for some houses in

There are examples of overhanging

the flatlands below. The reeds were proba-

stone roofs with just the tip made of wood

bly brought from the lower lying regions by

and thatched, perhaps after renovation or

livestock farmers who changed pasturing

because local materials made it easy to use

land regularly.

a stone and wooden structure in these proportions.

Eastern Lessinia is now a good example of stone architecture, the wooden buildings having fallen into ruin. The walls in splintered Rosso Ammonitici and other limestones of the same geological period, sometimes blended with volcanic rock, suggested a cabin-type roof. The two sloping parts of the roof were thatched with reeds and today have been replaced by zinc plate (often hidden under the thatching) or flat tiles. Stone slabs, relatively rare in the area, were used at the vulnerable perimeter of the walls to keep out the rain. This comprised the “gothic stretched roof� with two types of material, the wooden part with a sharper angle than the stone. This was due to the function of the

Buttresses for the inner archways of a dairy



The relatively scarce stone for building –

the largest region in Lessinia and also the

especially at low altitude - has given the

region where architectural styles and tech-

eastern region of Lessinia quite a different

niques could be copied most easily. The ab-

appearance from the western portion.

sence of woodlands and barriers provides a

There are virtually no stone walls marking

broad horizon, taking in almost the entire

off fields or for huts or shelters, no exam-

plateau and its rare villages and isolated

ples of stone simply pushed into the

houses in the fields and on the slopes. Even

ground as in the western region. Outdoor

the geology of the area seems to have en-

paving is rather small, with courtyards and

couraged communications, evenly distrib-

farmyards only lightly paved. The area has

uting the stone and the meadowland, used

thicker vegetation and more woodland. Ex-

for grazing.

amples of the influence of city architecture

The countryside is quite different from

are also rarer, although they exist in the

the other two regions but the deposits of

arches and pillars of Colletta and Biancari

stone, in layers, is similar to the eastern re-

near Boscochiesanuova, and in Gaspari di

gion and has influenced the architecture of


the plateau.

The eastern region has its own architec-

The stratified rock often emerges on the

tural identity which contributes to the va-

surface of the land and has little commer-

riety of the stone culture in the region as a

cial value, although it is simple to quarry


for local building needs and is more abundant than in the eastern region.

c) The northern uplands

The fact that the stone is evenly distrib-

Due to the uninterruptedly sloping, un-

uted has meant the plateau has developed

even formation of the land, without gorges,

one architectural style – or dialect – rather

chasms or steep valley sides, as in the other

than a series of idioms. In addition, dairies

two regions of the Lessinia described above,

were the only buildings with an economic

the northern plateau, used for grazing, is

function up to the middle of the last cen-



tury. Dairies in the area are called “malga�, consisting of casera (for milk) and baito where cheeses were aged, stalls for cattle and lodgings for the dairy producers. Often all four functions were in the same stone building, which also had a stone roof, often overhanging and supported by stone slabs for the milking area. In some cases, the functions were divide into separate but connected buildings built on the meadowland. The previous culture of buildings in wood has been entirely absorbed by the stone culture of the region, in a uniform Inner archways of a dairy

fashion. Some buildings in the eastern portion of the plateau have sloped roofs that suggest a previous wooden and thatched structure.

Instead of the four outer walls support-

The roofing is now similar to the west-

ing the beams which then supported the

ern region, with stone slabs, but the archi-

roof, strong arches were made to support

tectural style is quite different. It is of the

the roof quite independently of the outer

highest quality and of enormous interest.

walls. The arches supported the beams and

The problem was the weight of the roofing

no internal walls were needed. The arches

materials and the large structure to be cov-

were either rounded or pointed and al-

ered, without supporting walls, and with-

lowed huge rooms to be built, rather as in

out using a wooden trussed roof which

gothic or Romanic church, lending a cer-

would have been too expensive.

tain pathos to the structure. There is also a



certain surprise element because from the

ry, when the buildings were perhaps reno-

outside the arches and buttresses are invis-

vated with deliberate design aims in mind,

ible. The buttresses are thin slabs of stone

and not only with an eye to practicality.

discharging the load to the ground.

One such example is Malga Brancon. The

With no load-bearing function, the two

building is made of square stone blocks

long perimeter walls were therefore free to

with a series of pointed arches rather close

serve other purposes such as ventilation. A

together extending beyond the walls and

number of approaches were used, including

with pilasters along the length of the build-

the “two-nave” system of the malga in

ing, on both sides. The ventilation of the

Boldera, where the roof is supported by a

side walls comprises a series of horizontal

dual series of “gothic” arches supported

aligned grids, rather than windows, a high-

centrally by a row of stone pillars with base

ly rational approach to the problems of the

and dosseret on a rough stone floor.


Another important architectural ele-

Another feature of the architecture and

ment characterising the malga in Lessinia

countryside in the high plateau, especially

was the entrance archway. The size was dic-

in the east, is the vertical use of stone slabs,

tated by functional needs and the pointed

or in trilithic formation, as in western

arch was a valid alternative to the fragile


monolithic architrave which would have

Often buildings with a stratified stone

been unable to support the weight above

structure (shelters, dairies and stalls) can be

such a wide entrance.

found near buildings which use the monolithic properties of stone slabs to create tool

There are examples of renovation and these

sheds or pig sties. But the most evident use

dairies, which could be considered an up-

of stone in this fashion is for the walls di-

to-date example of the craft skills of the re-

viding properties and alongside the routes

gion which never entirely died out. By

taken by cattle when moving from one

“modern” here we mean eighteenth centu-

grazing area to another. In the highest re-







gions of the plateau, the vertical use of un-

This heritage is more or less intact, but is

processed, thin, monolithic stone, is anoth-

gradually being transformed by ad hoc ren-

er example of what we could call a fasci-

ovations and conversions which have

nating scenario of land-art throughout the

alarmed researchers and experts as well as

Lessinia region.

non specialists. The danger is simply that the stone houses, villages and buildings in the region will no longer be even close to their original forms.


An important agent for the preservation A number of studies, including this one,

of this patrimony is the Lessinia Regional

exhibitions and conferences dedicated to

Nature Reserve, although the vocation of

the popular architecture of the Lessinia

this body is more closely related to the na-

mountain range, have established its im-

ture of the region than to its man-made

portance as a cultural patrimony to be pre-

artefacts. Furthermore, the area is so large

served and safeguarded.

that effective protection is difficult to achieve. The area extends to the mid and upper plateau at an altitude of between 600 and 1,100 meters above sea level, and is fairly densely populated. Further powers and resources are now urgently needed for the Reserve to be effective in its efforts to preserve





Lessinia. Another important aspect of the problem is the lack of the required skills to carry out proper renovation. Many buildings are either left to collapse or are patched up eiA “nave� with Gothic arches in a stall in Camporetratto



ther by the inhabitants or by outside owners for the purposes of tourism. In the absence of a proper statutory or regulatory framework, these ad hoc renovations damage the architectural integrity and quality of the buildings, often unintentionally. The delicacy of the buildings requires proper regulatory instruments defining what can and cannot be done, as well as a greater sensitivity to the problem by the inhabitants and local authorities, if the architectural patrimony of the region is not to be entirely lost through artless alteration.




Pavan V., Monumenti dell’architettura di pietra,

Avesani B. e Zanini F., Quando il freddo era una risorsa, Edizioni Scaligere, Verona, 1990.

by various authors, Architettura scavata, Cierre

Brugnoli P. & Alii, Marmi e lapicidi di Sant’Am-

Edizioni, Verona, 2002.

brogio in Valpolicella, Comune di Sant’Am-

Pavan V., Strutture urbanistiche nei monti Lessi-

brogio in Valpolicella, Valpolicella Historical

ni, by various authors, Architettura nei Monti

Archives, Sant’Ambrogio, 1999.

Lessini, Neri Pozza, Vicenza, 1963.

Carbognin R., Gli edifici dell’alpeggio, una let-

Righetti P., L’architettura popolare nell’area dei

tura architettonica, by various authors, Gli

Cimbri, Taucias Garëida Edizioni, Verona,

alti pascoli dei Lessini Veronesi, Storia Natura

1989. Silvestri G., Edilizia e paesaggio della Lessinia,

Cultura, La Grafica Editrice, Verona, 1991. Magagnato L., Architettura nei Lessini, in Ar-

Accademia Agr. Sc. Lett., Verona, 1970. Turri E., La Lessinia, Edizioni di Vita Veronese,

chitetti Verona, no. 9, Verona, 1960. Pavan V., Cattedrali del lavoro; Le cave in galle-


ria di Pietra di Prun, in AA.VV., La montagna magica, USA Books, Cierre Edizioni, Verona, 2002.



by Corrado Balistreri Trincanato


Giuseppe Pagano1 has written:

between man and earth, the soil that gives him

“… Where the climatic conditions, lifestyles

nutrition. The earth provides the materials, the

and economic conditions have not undergone

sun dictates the layout of the house, and every-

significant change, the buildings created by a

thing on or in the soil contributes something:

utilitarian architecture do not change; where

climate, the winds, the mountains, sea, woods

building is seen as an instrument of work, and

and fields. The economy of society – society it-

consequence of the instinctive, primordial

self – is an expression of this organic, complex

wishes of humanity, these buildings have sur-

phenomenon: the home. If any of the elements

vived to the present day. This immense diction-

that go into making the home change, the

ary of the buildings of man, creator of abstract

building itself changes. …”.

forms, of plastic imaginings associated with a

This statement leads to the identification of

relationship to the earth, its economy and tech-

three types of “home” or housing: the high

nology, can best be read in rural districts. An ex-

style of urban dwellings or large villas and

amination of rural architecture, carried out

palaces, the lower style of mass housing (de-

with these criteria, would not only be useful; it

tached, semi-detached or apartment blocks), in

would be necessary to understand the process

the city (the urban continuum, as demonstrat-

of cause and effect that the study of architec-

ed so ably by Professor Egle Renata Trincanato2,

ture has made us forget. Rural architecture is

one of the founders of the discipline studying

the first victory of man in his battle for survival.

this phenomenon), and – lastly – rural housing,

A victory dictated by need but won with art. …

with isolated houses and farms or small villages

The rural home, whilst being a piece of hon-

(usually close to a lager town or city). It has

est architecture, is testimony to the close links

been stressed to the academic world, Faculties



of Architecture and Engineering, and to the

tect hay. Originally barns were cylindrical: hay

professionals within these faculties, that the

piled up against a pole. This gives rise to a cylin-

study of ordinary housing – with a functional,

drical form. When the barn acquired the func-

rather than design purpose – down through

tion of shelter it became domed, to run off the

the ages is of fundamental importance to their

rainwater. Perhaps some were used to shelter

disciplines. Pagano goes on to say: “The histo-

people too. Hence the excavation work that can

ry of architecture is one of the almost exclusive

still be seen in some barns in the Veneto, to put

study of style, i.e. artistic forms considered wor-

objects. Well, to put it briefly, cabins grew out

thy of attention because of their declared aes-

of barns. They had the same functions, as shel-

thetic intent and evident decorative contents.

ter against the rain, cold and winds. So it is not

The study of architecture is often the study of

surprising that cabins have the same shape as

taste, meaning the study of some important

barns with a central pole and sticks planted in

buildings: temples, churches, palaces. The tech-

the ground leaning against it …”. This idea of

niques used, the formal tradition on which

Pagano was shared by some of his contempo-

they are based, the functional aspects of the

raries (a small minority), including an engineer,

building and the economics at work in creating

Guido Sullam, University Professor from 1928

them are generally of little interest to scholars

in various disciplines at the Venice Royal Insti-

and artists. We’re often interested in ‘how’, not

tute of Architecture. In 1933-34, for the Course

so interested in ‘why’. …”.

in Elementary Construction (first year), he

For Pagano contemporary design should not

wrote: “Introduction: Buildings – function and

study “the Classical style” out of context, but

components. Principal criteria giving rise to

focus on the context and bring a number of dif-

building regulations – brief illustration of these

ferent disciplines to bear on the study of archi-

concepts in past and present buildings.

tecture: “… When mankind gave up solely fish-

Part I – Stone: natural and artificial; a) natu-

ing and hunting, and began to rear livestock,

ral stone: characteristics, quality and use in var-

he began to look for animal fodder in the win-

ious regions; quarrying – processing and meth-

ter months, when grazing was insufficient.

ods of application; cutting stone, etc.

Hence barns became necessary to store and pro-

Part II – Walls: characterists and functions;



a) natural stone; b) artificial stone, etc.”.

In 1938, following the Race Laws in Italy, Sul-

Sullam cited famous buildings but also drew

lam lost his job, which he resumed only in

attention to where the materials came from,

1945 after the liberation and fall of the Repub-

and explained the features of stone and marble

lic of Salò. As Professor of Architectural Tech-

from the Veneto region, and how they were

nique, Sullam encouraged his first-year stu-

used. This interest by Guido Sullam (Venice

dents to study construction techniques and ma-

1873 – 1949), a graduate of civil engineering

terials, and in Utilitarian Architecture he used

from Padova University in 1895 and student of

the examples of houses in the Veneto Region

the Venice Academy of Fine Arts, becoming a

(close to Venice and Padova), houses with jux-

Professor of Architectural Design in 1902, came

taposed elements and rural houses in the hill-

from the work he carried out restoring St Marks

sides using morainic cobblestones for the walls

Cathedral in Venice. During that period he be-

and wooden tabià (in Belluno), even cattle

came an export in bricks, mosaics, stone and

sheds and dairies, noting the use of red and

marble, materials that came from many differ-

white marble from quarries in Valpolicella and

ent places. He was self-employed between 1904

Valle di Chiampo and pointing out the use of

and 1919, after becoming acquainted with the

stone slabs in the architecture of Lessinia, for

architecture of Joseph Maria Olbrich (Troppau

paving, walls, steps, doorways, window frames,

1867, Düsseldorf 1908), becoming a strong ad-

water tanks, fireplaces, roofs and chimney pots.

vocate of Art Nouveau in the Veneto. From

During the period of 1920-40, in addition to

1919 to 1927 he was Professor of Applied Art in

the post-war reconstruction in Friuli, Trentino

various Professional Institutes, dealing with

and the Veneto (territories devastated by war

crafts, furniture and furnishings, with a special

with many houses ransacked for materials to

interest in materials. He was a contemporary of

build the trenches and arms depots), much of

Guido Cirilli (Ancona 1871, Rome 1954) and

the area was reclaimed from marshlands (giving

Giuseppe Torres (Venice 1872 – 1935), great

rise to malaria) giving rise to new architectural

artists (drawing and design) and experts in ar-

needs in rural areas under the twin slogans of

chitectural volume and in the materials used

“Utility, Technology, Form” and “Health, Pro-

for buildings (right down to the finest detail).

ductivity”. This led the most acute to study ex-



isting architecture in rural areas, work that be-

Before these changes occurred, researchers

came in-creasingly important after the Second

published the eighth volume of Rural Housing

World War and culminating in the publication

in Italy, dedicated to Lessinia, written by Elda

of Rural Housing in Italy by the National Re-

Padovan4, with a preface by Professor Biasutti

search Council (Committee for Geography, Ge-

who wrote: “This brief testimony by Professor

ology and Oceanography), the first volume of

Elda Padovan, …, is taken from a much larger

which was written by Renato Biasutti and dealt

work which awaited several years for publica-

with housing in Tuscany (Leo S. Olschki Edi-

tion. Financial hardship prevented publication

tore, Florence, 19383).

of the entire work but the author has given her

The work ranged from restoring the art treas-

permission to this synopsis, which can only

ures damaged in the two wars to new housing

hint at the detailed research she carried out

based on the research carried out but also re-

from one valley to the next, with a love for her

flecting the social and economic changes of the

homeland and for her research.”.

postwar period. It was immediately obvious

Chapter V of the twentieth volume - by

that the post-war period would be one in which

Luigi Candida and dedicated to the hillsides of

people left the countryside for industry, cities

the Veneto5 - deals specifically with the area of

and other occupations considered less physical-

Verona and was written by Vittorio Castagna.

ly strenuous and better paid. Similarly, large-

Its title includes references to the natural

scale migration from the south to the north

morainic amphitheatre of Garda, the Garda

would lead to a change in culture, with young

lake and Valdadige. At the same time that the

people less influenced by tradition and family

National Research Council was publishing

culture. A new working class was emerging,

these twenty volumes, the National Urban In-

with work in the factory but extra revenue from

stitute was studying housing to safeguard build-

farming, forcing people for several decades to

ings of historic and artistic interest or located in

make long journeys to and from work and to

particularly beautiful spots. The 6th Conference

reconcile the demands of agriculture (and its

entitled Defence of urban architecture and the

seasonal nature) with that of industry (with no

countryside, was held in Lucca between No-


vembre 9-11 1957, and in his introductory re-



marks, Professor Giuseppe Samonà wrote:

order to prevent the repetition of the disastrous

“… Our defence – the defence of men of cul-

example of the Gardesana road we, in our con-

ture – is against the emptiness we feel in moder-

sultative capacity, have decided to apply the

nity and the loss of a centuries-old patrimony,

law in full to this project. The inclusion of the

which we have not been able to replace with a

entire region is justified by the urgency of the

coherent culture representing new relations be-

matter. There are no other legal instruments,

tween us, yet to be discovered. These relations –

even in cases emergency such as this.”…

according to our culture – should not be based

These words attribute enormous value to the

on the behaviourism of sociological categories

patrimony of the area, and do not implicitly ex-

but give mankind a renewed sense of why – of

clude other areas in Lessinia untouched by the

all living creatures – he continues to live to-

project and able to preserve their historic iden-

gether with others in a society.” This is a plea

tities and countryside, including its utilitarian

against pulling down buildings and in favour of


a new architecture able to express human val-

The interest in Lessinia culminated in Sep-

ues coherently with the values of the past, con-

tember 1963 with the Exhibition Architecture

servative but forward-looking. At that confer-

in Lessinia, held in Palazzo Forti, Verona. The

ence, on behalf of the Veneto section of the Na-

Exhibition catalogne was published by the

tional Institute, Professor Trincanato examined

Veronese Marble Authority as Book 1, and in-

the eleven provinces in the Tre Venezie in rela-

cluded writings by Licisco Magagnato, Calogero

tion to Law 1497 of June 29 1939 safeguarding

Muscarà, Angelo Pasa, Vincenzo Pavan and

buildings of historical and artistic interest. In

Francesco Zorzi, accompanied by photographs,

the province of Verona she cited:

maps and the drawings and lay-outs of some

“… the example of 6 villages (S. Ambrogio,

buildings and courtyards. The booklet, of 90

S. Pietro, Fumane, Marano, S. Anna, Negrar) in

pages, with 143 tables and illustrations, intro-

Valpolicella, entirely protected by the law, but

duced the beauty of the architecture of western

significant for another reason. The Provincial

Lessinia to the general public. In his paper,

Authority is planning to build a road in the

Stone Villages of western Lessinia, Professor Li-

area, one of villas, parks and natural beauty; in

cisco Magagnato wrote:



“… When we started work on the architec-

Professor Samonà quoted the phrase of

ture of Lessinia three years ago, we had no idea

1957: “… to give mankind a renewed sense of

that the brief – including research, conserva-

why – of all living creatures – he continues to

tion and restoration – would have such an im-

live together with others in a society. …”, so

mediate response.

communities are formed by their forms of ex-

The pages that follow – which illustrate the

pression, the words people speak, the way their

material on show in the Exhibition – provide an

bodies move, the colours of the their clothes

opportunity to investigate the territory and ma-

and the architecture they choose to create or

terials – the soil, subsoil, foundations and walls

preserve; we are, after all, “modern tribes”, an-

of these stone houses - more thoroughly. …”.

thropic receivers from one generation and

Since 1963 the interest in the architecture of

donors to the next.

Lessinia has varied in intensity, with a large vol-

We have come a long way since 1781 when

ume of photographs by Professor Giorgia Scat-

Francesco Milizia described in his Principals of

tolin (Venice University Institute of Drawing

Modern Architecture how rural houses and ice

and Land Surveying), now lost, and confer-

depots should be made, with a little more at-

ences and exhibitions of rural architecture in

tention than before on utilitarian architecture.

the Veneto6, to the campaigns launched by Ter-

However, the risk of jettisoning – or simply

ritorial Measurements in Lessinia during 1991-

abandoning – the past is still with us, if the

92 and 1995-96, with the motto “Surveying

housing we come across does not seem to fit

and Poetry”, based on a concept expressed very

into some momentary or fashionable idea of

clearly by Professor Giuseppe Samonà:

profit. And, to mention another contemporary

“Manual land surveying is an optical task,

phenomenon, some say the news should be

whilst the other tasks require instruments and

read in dialect, as if the history, values, cus-

machinery, and hence are more reliable but say

toms, architecture and way of life of a commu-

very little about what we really want to know,

nity could be preserved by a few words spoken

which we have to see with our own eyes. Man-

on television and not by keeping the memory

ual surveying is the method chosen for this rea-

of those communities alive in all spheres, by a

son. Of course, it requires skill and training.”

false culture imitating a real one.




1) Giuseppe Pagano, Guarniero Daniel, Architet-

so (Rural housing in the Veneto. Cultural, so-

tura Rurale Italiana (Rural Architecture in

cial and economic values and the preservation

Italy), Quaderni della triennale, Ulrico Hoepli

of patrimony. Catalogue and papers of the Tre-

Editore, Milan, 1936.

viso Exhibition/Conference) 6 – 22 April 1979,

2) Egle Renata Trincanato, Venezia Minore (Lesser

Edizioni Multigraf, Spinea (Venice), 1983; the Conference, staged under the auspices of the

Venice) Edizioni del Milione, Milan, 1948. 3) Followed by volumes on rural housing in Venezia

Trento Autonomous Regional Authority, Maria

Giulia by B. Nice (1940), in Lucania by L. Fran-

Carla Giuliani (editor), Architettura delle

ciosa (1942) and in Friuli by E. Scarin (1943).

Alpi. Tradizione e innovazione. Atti del Con-

4) Elda Padovan, La casa rurale nelle Valli dei

vegno (Architecture of the Alps. Tradition and

Lessini. Illustrato da 19 figure e 4 tavole, con

Innovation. Conference papers), Trento 6 Oc-

una prefazione di Renato Biasutti (Rural hous-

tober 2000, Trento Autonomous Regional Authority Trento, 2001.

ing in Lessinia with 19 illustrations and 4 draw-

For the subject of two interesting talks concerning

ings; preface by Renato Biasutti) Centro di studi

one village in Lessinia, see:

per la geografia etnologica (Centre for Ethno-

Pierpaolo Brugnoli (editor), Fumane e le sue co-

logical Studies), Florence, 1950. 5) Luigi Candida, La casa rurale nella pianura e

munità. Volume I, Fumane, Cavallo, Mazzure-

nella collina veneta (Rural housing in the flat-

ga (Fumane and its communities. Volume I, Fu-

lands and hills of the Veneto) with papers by:

mane, Cavallo, Mazzurega) Fumane Local Au-

E. Bevilacqua, V. Castagna, C. Cavalca, P. Da-

thority, Historical Archive Centre for Valpoli-

gradi, G. Mansoldo, Leo S. Olschki Editore, Flo-

cella, Arbizzano (Verona), 1990; Giovanni Viviani (editor), Fumane e le sue comu-

rence, 1959, with 76 illustrations and XXXVI drawings.

nità. Volume II, Breonio, Molina (Fumane and

6) For example:

its communities. Volume II, Breonio, Molina)

the Exhibition/Conference organised by the Vene-

Fumane Local Authority, Pro Loco of Breonio,

to Regional Authority, published by various au-

Pro Loco of Molina, Historical Archive Centre

thors: La casa rurale nel Veneto. Valori cul-

for Valpolicella, Novastampa, Verona, 1999.

turali sociali ed economici dell’ambiente ru-

Smaller volumes are also available in various local

rale e recupero del suo patrimonio edilizio.

authority archives and in National Libraries

Catalogo e atti della mostra-convegno di Trevi-

such as La Marciana in Venice.



by Luciano Bogoni


everybody was asked to stick to a certain

“Vulnerant omnes ultima necat”

number of rules for the graphics, so the We certainly weren’t expecting such a

drawings look as if they were all made by

huge number of drawings when we started

one person. In reality each team can be

our work on the Lessinia mountain range a

recognised for special skills, sensitivity and

year ago.

passion by a discerning eye.

The architect and University Professor

None of the teams making the measure-

Corrado Balistreri was pleased to include

ments in Lessinia had any previous experi-

Lessinia among the study areas put forward

ence of the kind of building materials used

to students because Lessinia is a little closer

in the area with their special forms, colours,

to Verona than Treviso, Venice and Vicenza.

grain and building techniques developed by

Students were followed by the architect

local craftsmen using generally very poor

Demetrio Viviani, by myself and soon also

local materials.

by Corrado Balistreri and co-ordinators for

They discovered that trusses could not be

the other areas (architects Daniele Molinaro,

used to support the “laste” (slabs of stone)

Paolo Pizzati and Dario Zanverdiani) fasci-

and used horizontal beams the length of

nated by the stone scenery. They convinced

which determined the size of the room. The

us to continue our work, mapping out as

trunks were tapered and laid in an alternat-

many buildings in the area as we could.

ing pattern to support the slabs.

The commitment of the students, young

They discovered “quintane” and the use

men and women, and their work in Lessinia

of grooves underneath; they discovered

have produced a huge quantity of drawings;

methods for building walls without cement,



how to lay paving, how to make chimney

Uno studio dei materiali, degli strumenti e dei

pots, fences, wash basins, fountains and

metodi del costruire tradizionale – Stone archi-

wells, by assembling stone and hoisting it

tecture of the Cimbrian population of

with a variety of systems.

Lessinia - Materials, instruments and meth-

The text most commonly consulted was

ods of traditional building.

by Paolo Righetti; students could often be

The work surveying the buildings taught

seen with instruments and photocopies of

the students to observe them in depth. At

the book in hand.

home they jotted down any small architec-

Many students came back over the fol-

tural detail they could remember, and they

lowing years to help the new students, fasci-

learnt how architecture often uses very sim-

nated by the place and the architecture,

ple materials without compromising the

many of them finished their degrees with

overall beauty of the building.

athesis on the architecture of Lessinia,

We told them about the conference or-

helped by Prof. Balistreri and publications

ganized by the Veronese Marble Authority

by the following architects: Daniele Moli-

and how Leon Krier (the so-called Prince’s



architect) listened patiently to the previous

Demetrio Viviani: Architettura montana della

speaker (Bohigas), who was explaining how

Lessinia; la contrada Pagani a Campofontana –

he had designed a pavilion with thin pillars

Mountain architecture in Lessinia (Volumes

in Veronese marble supporting a double roof

I and II) Lessinia Occidentale e Centrale –

with lunettes as attic windows.




Western and Central Lessinia (Volume III)

The pavilion was used to exhibit stage

Lessinia Orientale – Eastern Lessinia (Volume

scenery which required artificial lighting so

IV); and Silvia Lazzeretti and Filippo Zuc-

all the lunettes were closet with large black

chetti: Corte Zivelongo in Lessinia Occidentale


– Corte Zivelongo in Western Lessinia; plus

Leon Krier rose to speak. Clearly he had

another work, by Nicola Gambin and Fabi-

been anxiously awaiting the moment. He

ano Schiarante: L’architettura di pietra nella

complimented the previous speaker on his

cultura delle popolazioni cimbre della Lessinia -

work, adding that he did not quite see the



point of “making things simple, and diffi-

holiday homes.

cult at the same time, largely by making

Some people object tot he quarries, in

them totally purposeless”.

whatever form, irrespective of the employ-

Many years before Adolf Loos had criti-

ment or wealth they create, and forgetting

cised those who used artificial materials,

that proper renovation work requires the

“beautifying” natural wood; today he would

original materials which can only be found

probably be scathing about square glasses

in the quarries.

which may have an original shape but are

Since before Roman times these quarries

quite useful for enjoying fine wines.

have been providing the stone and marble

Between 1991 and 1996 we surveyed and

for the cities of Verona, Vicenza, Venice and

drew a large number of buildings (the book

many more. No-one stops top think about

only includes a small portion); some of them

rural architecture, less “beautiful” perhaps,

were in good condition (for economic rea-

more utilitarian, but nonetheless part of our

sons the stalls and dairies were made to last),

cultural heritage, without which these cities

others were almost in a state of ruin.

could not exist.

Due to this work we were invited to many

Many of us, in conferences and else-

conferences on the safeguarding of architec-

where, continue to invoke an “ad hoc” regu-

ture in Lessinia, and generally received not

latory framework to safeguard these build-

much more than the papers contributed to

ings without wrapping them up in red tape

the conference. Bureaucracy continues to

designed to meet the needs of the contem-

work against this project and against the

porary building industry, without reference

buildings in Lessinia.

to the cultural heritage they represent.

Every now and then there is a hue and

The University thesis mentioned above

cry in the press because a building, next to a

by Nicola Gambin and Fabiano Schiarante,

quarry, is about to fall.

now architects, included a section on build-

Many are about to fall.

ing regulations in seven local authorities in

Or are saved by renovation work that

Lessinia. Local and national legislation (ar-

completely ruins them, and turns them into

chitectural barriers, health and safety) have



led to seven different changes in historic

architecture in Lessinia, preservation and

buildings, making the original structure un-

renovation: the case of Gorgusello” held in


Fumane Town Hall on October 19 2002.

Trento Autonomous Regional Authority

Now, as simple citizens, researchers and

has pioneered local legislation introduced by

professionals, powerless, we await the col-

the Regional Councillor for urban develop-


ment, Maria Carlas Giuliani, an architect. A

Gorgusello which will destroy the building

lot of red tape has been removed, allowing


the old buildings to be used as temporary







So far our words – like those of Adolf Loos


– have gone unheeded.

Lessinia is unlikely to be blessed with similar legislation because the houses are located far from the city. But who says no-one wants to live in them?

“Vulnerant omnes ultima necat”, these words are sculpted near the clock of a recently renovated bell-tower: all the hours (the passing of time) lead to the final fatal hour. After all the conferences and meetings the village of Bortoletti has reached the final fatal hour; the thatched roofing and most of the shelter above Pagani towards Monte Lobbia, and many other buildings, are in a state of ruin. Ironically, Bortoletti collapsed on the very day of the Conference entitled “Stone



HOUSE, STALL AND BARN IN CRECI Boscochiesanuova - 1042 m. a.s.l. An axonometric projection of a house showing all its functions. The stall is at the centre, below the barn; the kitchen is to the right, under the bedrooms; there is another stall with barn on the left.



HOUSE, STALL AND BARN IN CRECI Boscochiesanuova - 1042 m. a.s.l. The south facade (above) has a number of stone features such as door and window frames; the corner stones or “bocaroi” were used for small windows to ventilate the barn; the roof was made of slabs and smaller slabs called “quintane” (1/5 the size of normal slabs). The north facade (below) has an underground floor. The barn doors were therefore at ground level.



HOUSE, STALL AND BARN IN CRECI Boscochiesanuova - 1042 m. a.s.l. The east and west facades have triangular corner stones, or “bocaroi”. The natural slope was used to provide access to both levels. The roof, shown here with tiles and sheeting, was originally thatched, a technique known as “canel” (swamp reeds).



HOUSE, STALL AND BARN IN CRECI Boscochiesanuova - 1042 m. a.s.l. The large woden beams which can be seen in the cross-section were used to support the heavy slabs and the lighter warp supported the thatched roof (“canel”). The wall between the kitchen and rear was made of wood. The barn doors are clearly shown above ground.



HOUSE, STALL AND BARN IN CRECI Boscochiesanuova 1042 m. a.s.l. From top to bottom the floors of the building with the warp of the roof. The ground floor had a stone paving with drains and a place for each cow. The hole in the floor (or ceiling) was used to move straw into the stalls below. The design of the roof with primary and secondary features gives a good idea of the weights supported.



MALGA BRANCON Boscochiesanuova - 1564 m. a.s.l. Axonometric projection from below showing the building technique with solid buttresses for the lateral thrust of the Gothic arches. The entrance was at the centre, to the right of the fireplace (“logo del fogo�) and the left of the milk room (where butter and cheese were made).



MALGA BRANCON Boscochiesanuova - 1564 m. a.s.l. The drawings show the relationship between the buttresses and inner arches supporting the roofing stone (“laste” and “quintane”). The windows were like slits at various heights in the milk room in order to provide differential ventilation. Cheese is stored at a certain temperature which was obtained by opening or closing the slits for more or less fresh air.



MALGA BRANCON Boscochiesanuova - 1564 m. a.s.l. The longitudinal cross-section shows the buttresses supporting the Gothic arches for the roof even more clearly. The entrance is at the centre, where the milk was processed into butter; the fireplace was on the left and on the right, with the ventilation slits, was the milk room. The bedrooms were upstairs. The cross-sections are of the milk room (left) and fireplace (right). The staircase connecting the milk room with the floor above was made of stone.



MALGA BRANCON Boscochiesanuova 1564 m. a.s.l. From top to bottom the lay-outs of the ground floor with the milk room on the right and the fireplace on the left. Note the very thick buttresses. The side walls were mere fillers without any load. The other lay-outs show the wooden floor above the stone staircase and the roof in slabs and “quintane”.





MALGA BROL Boscochiesanuova - 1470 m. a.s.l. Here, too, the axonometric projection shows the functions of the building which, in this example, has cattle stalls and pig sties. On the ground floor a lowered arch of stone supports the upper paving and a pointed Gothic arch on the first floor supports the roof.



MALGA BROL Boscochiesanuova - 1470 m. a.s.l. The south facade (above) had a large vaulted entrance. Above the uprights, the arch shutter comprised two long stones running the entire length of the facade. This was more clearly visible when the facade was plastered. Another opening under the entrance ventilated the depot and cheese storage room.



MALGA BROL Boscochiesanuova - 1470 m. a.s.l. The steeply sloping roof suggests that the building was located in the upper grazing land where the snowfall was heavier. The door and windows of the north facade under the stone roof (above), are opposite the large ventilation window on the south facade. Here, too, the natural slope of the land was used to provide access to all levels of the building.



MALGA BROL Boscochiesanuova - 1470 m. a.s.l. The cross-section shows how the slope of the land is used to provide access and to give a rational lay-out to the building.



MALGA BROL Boscochiesanuova - 1470 m. a.s.l. The lay-out of the ground floor, paved with stone slabs, includes the tool room, cattle stall and pig sty.



MALGA BROL Boscochiesanuova - 1470 m. a.s.l.



MALGA BROL Boscochiesanuova - 1470 m. a.s.l. The ground floor includes the stall, fireplace and milk room, with the original ventilation system from north to south.



MALGA BROL Boscochiesanuova - 1470 m. a.s.l.



VAGGIMAL SHELTER Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo 750 m. a.s.l. A building in stone slabs used as a bus shelter in Vaggimal. It was built in 1950 and demolished in 1963. The stratified dry-stone walls are load-bearing above and below whilst the monolithic stones placed vertically are fillers to support the roof. The stones in the ground are stabilized by iron fastenings. The corner pillar is part of the entrance.



VAGGIMAL SHELTER Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo 750 m. a.s.l. The two longitudinal and traverse sections show how the stone materials were assembled and stratified, in relation to the sloping ground and the roof, of stone slabs.



VAGGIMAL SHELTER Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo 750 m. a.s.l. Lay-outs o fhjte roofing in stone, the walls and wooden beams. The construction drawing shows how the beams were supported generally by vertically placed monolithic stones and at two points by walls and a pillar.



VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 972 m. a.s.l. Lay-out of the ground level of buildings in the village of Vaona. On a slightly rounded hummock, close to the stone quarry of Monte Loffa, Vaona is similar to many other villages in Lessinia, with a simple original courtyard, to which other buildings have been added down th ages. The village is a series of inter-connected courtyards with uninterrupted stone paving (Prun). The eastern boundary has a wall of stone placed vertically in the ground. The housing complex is characteristically designed with the buildings in the centre for families and the outlying buildings for stalls, barns, depots, pig sties and tool sheds.



VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 972 m. a.s.l. Vaona is the housing complex with the best example of uninterrupted paving in the entire Lessinia mountain range. The lay-out of the ground floor shows part of this outdoor paving.



VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 972 m. a.s.l. The lay-out of the first floor, as before, clearly shows recent changes.



VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 972 m. a.s.l. Here, too, some of the “quintane” have disappeared, and have ben replaced by rows of curved tiles. Above some windows and doors there are stone and wooden structures, placed either horizontally or diagonally, to take the load of the wall above. This protected the frames from damage due to excess loads.



VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 972 m. a.s.l. The most interesting buildings is the small shed built entirely of vertically placed stone slabs joined together to take the weight of the roof slabs and quintane.



VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 972 s.l.m. The cross-sections show recent changes, particularly in the living area.



VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo 972 m. a.s.l. The axonometric projection similar to others - shows all the functions of the building and its materials.



GHIACCIAIA DI VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 972 m. a.s.l. Lay-out of the area where the ice depot of Vaona is located. The circular building has a nearby well, built to store ice formed naturally in the winter.



GHIACCIAIA DI VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo 972 m. a.s.l. The circular lay-out of the building was designed as a large tank for storing ice. This was the most suitable form for the loads the building needed to withstand. The construction is Prun stone with mortar, largely underground in order to maintain a constant temperature. There are two openings, one towards the well to move the slabs of ice and the other on the opposite side, to receive the ice. This part is covered. The lower lay-outs show the design of the roof beams and the stone roof.



GHIACCIAIA DI VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 972 m. a.s.l. Two side views of the ice depot.



GHIACCIAIA DI VAONA Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo 972 m. a.s.l. Two cross-sections of the ice depot: one of the cylindrical tank for storage and the other of the covered portion where the ice was moved into storage. Here there are two levels of paving,with an upper section at the height of the carts used for unloading the ice.



ZIVELONGO Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 722 m. a.s.l. Lay-out of the village of Zivelongo. There are two independent courtyard complexes. The older, to the south, is one of the most important architectural complexes in Lessinia, both in terms of historical interest (part of the buildings date back to the 15th century) and building technique. A fountain is placed between the two courtayrds and the church is in a dominant position.



ZIVELONGO Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 722 m. a.s.l. The lay-out at ground level of the southern courtyard. The complex has been abandoned for decades. It consists in houses built at different times, and a central paved area. To the north, the buildings are like terraced houses but include stalls, barns and probably a place of worship. The various changes carried out over the centuries make it difficult to reconstruct the original complex. The ground floor rooms opened out onto the courtyard, with porticoes. The buildings to the south were for animals and tools. There is a 15th century tower with dovecot. In the western portion, there is a stone arch between two buildings, with cornerstones indicating how the courtyard was once closed off.



ZIVELONGO Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 722 m. a.s.l. View of the southern portion with the 15th century dovecot on the left.



ZIVELONGO Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 722 m. a.s.l. The southern courtyard at the second floor level.



ZIVELONGO Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 722 m. a.s.l. The southern courtyard, at the third floor level, showing the stone roofing and central portion in brick, covering the dovecot. To the north most of the roofing has collapsed.



ZIVELONGO Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 722 m. a.s.l. Above, the main “terraced” houses. The wall without access shows how the buildings faced inwards. In the centre, the southern view of the same row of houses, with a number of doorways. Two archways in red Ammonitic stone show the portico section on the ground floor. Below, the southern view of the buildings to the south, with the 15th century courtayd on the left.



ZIVELONGO Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 722 m. a.s.l. Longitudinal sections of the main “terraced” houses from inside the courtyard (above) and from outside (below). Barrel vaults were used to cover parts of the ground floor.



ZIVELONGO Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo - 722 m. a.s.l. Cross-sections of the courtyard at two different points. Above, to the left, the dovecot. Below, the dovecot and archway accessing the courtyard.



CASA DEI MASCHERONI Cerna - 731 m. a.s.l. Ground floor lay-out and surroundings. The buildings were separate, with a kitchen on the ground floor (to the left) and stalls on the right with small storage rooms under the staircase.



CASA DEI MASCHERONI Cerna 731 m. a.s.l. Lay-out of the first and second floors where the separation of the buildings can be seen more clearly.



CASA DEI MASCHERONI Cerna 731 m. a.s.l. Very interesting is the first floor paving in stone supported by wooden beams. Unusual for the region is the outdoor staircase, as shown here.



CASA DEI MASCHERONI Cerna 731 m. a.s.l. The state of abandon and lack of economically viable use have altered and patched up the buildings, without properly renovating them. This work is generally carried out with extraneous materials (sheeting, tiles), altering the original feel of the architecture.



CASA DEI MASCHERONI Cerna 731 m. a.s.l. The state of collapse is evident on the first floor with dangerous cracks at the first and second level.



Alberto Cafaro, Nicola Rovetti

I disegni ed i rilievi relativi alle pagine 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 86, 87 ,88, 89, 90, 91, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108 sono stati realizzati dagli studenti della facoltĂ di Architettura di Venezia. The drawings and mearurements on pages 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 86, 87 ,88, 89, 90, 91, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108 were carried out by the students of the Faculty of Architecture, Venice University.

I disegni ed i rilievi relativi alle pagine 82, 83, 84 ,85, 92 ,93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98 ,99, 100, 101, 102, 103 sono di Tullio Pasotto e Vincenzo Pavan The drawings and mearurements on pages 82, 83, 84 ,85, 92 ,93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98 ,99, 100, 101, 102, 103 were carried out by Tullio Pasotto and Vincenzo Pavan




STONE ARCHITECTURE IN LESSINIA A w a l k t h r o u g h t h e a rc h i t e c t u r a l t r a d i t i o n o f t h e L e s s i n i a M o u n t a i n R a n g e n e a r Ve r o n a


A walk through the architectural tradition of the Lessinia Mountain Range near Verona