Thursday, September 17, 2015

Balconies in Italy

Balconies have been part of the Italian culture for centuries.

In Italy, balconies may be fancy... 

... or simple,  

but most everyone has one. 

Balconies are not just an architectural feature; they’re a part of the Italian lifestyle.
The origin of the word “balcony” is “balcone” the Italian word for “scaffold,” probably because it lifted you above the rest of the world.

Stone corbels or large stone or wooden brackets supported balconies of medieval and Renaissance times. 

More modern times brought supports of iron, reinforced concrete and other materials.

In days of old, balconies were a necessary architectural feature. They were the extended living space where women hung out clothes to dry and did much of their work. 

Up until not too long ago, colorful laundry flapped in the breeze of Italian windows and balconies. Our recent visits, however, have found laundry-free balconies, perhaps a result of laws banning the practice.

For centuries, balconies on public buildings have also been places from which speeches could be made. This tradition is continued by popes at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

Balconies of the past made it convenient for women to purchase goods from traveling street vendors by lowering over the balcony's railing a basket tied to a cord.  Down would go the basket with money – up would be pulled the basket with goods. In some towns, this practice continues today as we discovered on a recent trip to Sicily. Baskets still go up and down with purchases, and bags of garbage as well may hang from balconies awaiting early morning sanitation trucks.

Whether balconies are shallow or deep, Italians enjoy how they expand the living space, bringing in light and air.

They are the place for a quick cigarette, coffee or glass of vino -

as well as a place to relax and enjoy the view, or chat with a neighbor at the end of the day.

And love - Let's not forget love!

Italians often decorate their balconies with plants and flowers making the space a delightful mini-garden for relaxing or from which to watch life below. 


Some balcony gardens are simple... 

.... and some lavish or quite lush ...

... but, all bring greenery or a colorful bit of outdoors to the space inside creating a postage stamp-sized patch for respite.

Balcony awnings shield interior living space from the heat of summer and...

...provide a small, secluded hideaway with a beautiful outdoor view.

When in Italy, I love noticing the different types of balconies and how they're decorated. For hubby and me, an empty balcony beckons to be used and enjoyed. 

It calls and says, "Come. Sit. Relax and enjoy a great view and all our beautiful country has to offer." 
And...we do!

- Nina Spitzer

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