Ancient Brick ‘n Mortar

Civita Bagnoregio original wall | ©Tom Palladio ImagesAilsa of Where’s My Backpack? fame — no, she STILL hasn’t found it — wants us to take on her latest travel-themed photo challenge brick-by-brick via WALLS.

Let me get my plumb bob, chalk line and hand trowel out of the toolbox and we’ll get this virtual job order underway.

As the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day,” and neither was the Bel Paese, where the Eternal City resides.

Long before the Romans, though, there were the Etruscans. These “under the Tuscan sun” tribes relied on volcanic tuff to build their hill-top homes, workplaces and walls — walls to keep the unwanted out, and the residents well protected. Today, their handiwork is still on display — over two-and-a-half millennia later — but it’s slowly and sadly crumbling away. You can read more about the demise of Etruscan architecture at Il Paese che Muore.

View of Rome from Gianicolo Hill | ©Tom Palladio ImagesNow we can fast-forward to the Caput Mundi, where the B.C. meets the A.D.

Here, the scalpellini (stonemasons) set to work to adorn Rome with magnificent palaces, villas and monuments, along with proletarian dwellings, pedestrian walkways, and lots, and lots of walls, now constructed from stone, lime and sandstone.

Later, the innovative fired clay and mud bricks were introduced — by i Romani — which, in turn, gave rise to a new group of tradesmen known as as muritori (bricklayers). Trade unions and associated sciopperi (work stoppages) could not have been very far behind.

La Rotonda - Vicenza, Italy | ©Tom Palladio ImagesBy the time the Renaissance appeared and gained momentum in the 14th century, bricks were still widely used as one of the primary construction materials, but were quickly covered with plaster once the mortar dried and then exterior facades were laid over the frame to give the structures depth, style and appeal. Only the walls, those beloved walls, were left unadorned in naked brick, stone and rock.

Today, Italy continues to be innovative and creative in its building trades, applying new techniques and materials to both antique restorations and modern, state-of-the-art structures. But, it does so mindful of its past — a past that was founded on ancient brick ‘n mortar.

©The Palladian Traveler

©Tom Palladio Images

TPT Borsalino on Cobblestone | ©Tom Palladio Images

Written by

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 50 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along the travertine and cobblestone that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches via and Anthology Magazine Ireland.


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