House Crush: Italian Edition (sigh…)

August 7, 2014 | House Crush | By: Allison

Wherever we travel, we are always intrigued by the variety of housing types and attributes that are found in different places around the world.

On our family’s recent trip to Italy earlier this summer, we found ourselves discussing the some of these unique attributes and styles that are specific to the region.

We visited three Italian cities, Rome, Florence and Venice, and in each, the home’s entrance made a statement. A popular feature in Rome was oversized doorways framed with Ivy, while Florentine residences took pride in their unique and beautiful bronze door knockers. Gorgeous!  Not to mention the incredible first impression they make about the home.

The housing stock of Rome and Florence’s are the most similar. Both are comprised mostly of lower garden style apartments that were accessed through a large front door that leads to an interior courtyard. From the courtyard, you find your individual unit entrance. Rome had more individual townhomes and more modern high rise apartments than did Florence, but the high rises were relegated to the outskirts of the City. Rome is home to many roof decks, most with gardens, since private patios are rare. In each of the cities, large heavy shutters are not just decorative! They are closed when residents want to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter, or to block out the light. In Venice, it is popular to put a sheet in the doorway to let in more air, but keep it private. Similarly, Italians save space and energy by line-drying their clothes. That was such a lovely sight, seeing the clothes drying overhead while walking along the canals!

In both cities, it is often difficult to tell if the front door leads to one residence or apartments unless you look closely! Giveaways are similar to those in more historic urban parts of the DC area, such as NW DC or Old Town. For example, looking to see if there a mailbox slot on the front door which indicates only one occupant. Similarly, you can look at the intercom next to the door to see how many nameplates there are which clearly corresponds to the number of units. The size of the doors really ranged in size in Italy and were much larger than what we are used to at home. Many doors even have “hidden” doors within a larger structure that was either once a true doorway, or just created to look that way. The larger the door, the larger the complex OR the grander the home.

In Venice, the housing stock was slightly different. While on the interior of the island, there were many of these courtyard style apartments, most of the properties bordering the canals were townhomes. A sure sign of wealth in Venice is having a private bridge leading directly from the dock to your front door! The island has an interesting mix of these palatial canalfront townhomes owned by wealthy foreigners, interspersed with large dilapidated homes abandoned by their owners. The high water marks visible on many of these buildings indicate a large level of property maintenance required. Combined with the skyrocketing cost of living in tourist-heavy Venice, this trend may continue. During our stay in Venice, we took a trip to the small fishing island of Burano where each of the homes, almost exclusively small townhomes typical of an Italian fishing village, were painted beautiful bright colors. According to our guide, each family has one color that is unique to them that they paint all of their homes on the island! Over time, the combination of the lovely hues on each of the homes has made the island a favorite of Venetian tourists looking to sample freshly caught fish, appreciate the colorful collection of homes and peruse the island’s famous handmade lace.

For more information on housing in Italy, or anywhere around the world, please let us know! We can connect you with a great Realtor through our partnership with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World. Just give us a shout.