Part 1: Historical tour

The tower structure is the older part of the building dating back to the 1100s.

The tower structure is the oldest part of the building dating back to the 1100s.

Part 1 Historical Tour: Randall Stratton gave us a fantastic historical tour of Spanocchia today for two and half hours. The tour was packed with information and I will make an attempt convey some of it to you in two parts.

Spanocchia is a tower style home because of the center tower that dates back to the tenth century. After the fall of the Roman Empire, a family would live in the tower since it was not safe to live on the bottom floor or in the villa that I am currently staying in. In the event of any threat, the family could easily bring up the wooden staircase that lead from the ground floor to the second floor and defend their home from the floors above.

On the back, right of the tower, you can see a horizontal line of white stones. This was the previous height of the tower. The additional height was added during the Renaissance and the crenellation at the top of the tower was added in the 1920s/30s.

The villa was added on and is easily seen by the angle change in the roof. The terrace was the last addition and that was also added in 20s/30s.

Spanocchia was once 2500 acres. At its height, forty families were working the farm. Each family had twelve to fifteen children. Inheriting the farm was more like inheriting an entire community. In Tuscany, the tenuta or sharecropping system was in place and it was also known as the mezzadria. The people working the farm would keep half of everything that they grew and the rest would go to the landowner. You would have to plant twice as much wheat so that you had enough for your family and the other half or mezza would go to the landowner. The landowner typically lived in the city, such as Siena. During the summer, when the city became too hot, the landowner and his family would retreat to the cooler villa in the countryside. Unlike some romanticized and luxurious interpretation of these country villas, farm life was simple and hard.  This system went on for centuries until after WWII when this type of contract was made illegal. Thirty to forty generations worked the farm under the head of the household or landowner. The current cook at Spanocchia was one of the families that lived on the farm when the mezzadria system was in place.

Everything on the farm came from the surrounding land. The chestnut trees provided the wood for furniture, fire wood and roof beams; the bricks were fired on site; the distinctive yellow marble, clay and lime-based mortar came from the surrounding earth; all of the clothing and cloth household items came from sheep wool and the linen from flax plants. In the summer the days were long and in the winter, wood was harvested to make charcoal briquettes and fire wood. The shorter days in the winter gave birth to music, folk dancing, theatre and a type of lyrical poetry best characterized by Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful). Despite the efforts to sustain such a large community, a place for the arts existed and thrived.

If you look at the roof line, the angle change indicates the addition to the villa. The first door next to the vines on the left is where Randall and Francesca first met and fell in love.

If you look at the roof line, the angle change indicates the addition to the villa. The first door next to the vines on the left is where Randall and Francesca first met and fell in love.

The red line indicates the previous height of the building.

The red line indicates the previous height of the building.



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