Le Case di terra

Earthen-wall dwellings

These were the ancient houses of agricultural workers

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The earthen-wall dwelling was a type of vernacular architecture that was widespread in the Valdichiana until about ten years ago. Found on the outskirts of large farms and smallholdings, the structure was typically built on a small plot of land, known as a “scapòzzolo”. It was from this plot that the land was extracted to build the walls of the dwelling. It was a form of quick and cheap shelter for many agricultural laborers.
The dwelling was made using common techniques borrowed from antique populations, like the Etruscans. The rectangular floor plan was composed of a central space for the kitchen, and one or more additional spaces for the family. It was usually a single level with a double sloping roof and wooden roof structure, generally covered with clay roof tiles. The exterior walls were about eighty centimeters thick and two meters tall at the eaves.

The construction progressed along the internal and external perimeter walls. A basic framework was built out of vertical columns hammered into the earth, which were called “ritti”. Wood planks, known as “casseforme”, were affixed laterally, one layer at a time. The cavity between the “casseforme” would be filled with compacted, moistened soil that was rich in clay, then beaten flat with a two-handled rudimentary wooden tool. Moving upward, another set of “casseforme” were affixed laterally to the “ritti” and filled with soil. The operation was repeated until reaching the desired height. Once dry, the framework was removed, the roof was completed and the doors and windows were opened along the wooden frame.