Wiring Medieval Italy

When you get off the elevator that takes you from the parking lot on our side of Orvieto up to the town itself, this is what you see:


And you’re so focused on the totally confusing map on the wall, trying to figure out how you can get to the Duomo (NOTE: The map will not help you get there) that you would never think to give attention to the wall itself, and even if you did, there’d be no reason to notice what else is on the wall other than the map. But look more closely at the photo. See the wiring? It’s everywhere. It connects this building with the one next to it as well as the one across the street. And then who knows what wires connect those buildings to others nearby. It’s like a web woven by a spider who spent too much time in Haight-Ashbury during the 60’s.

These wiring webs are to be expected in a town whose buildings often have walls a meter thick. In fact, the wall in the photo and the building we live in are both part of the same former religious complex, which according to the sign on the front, was built in the 13th Century. (Those who know me well are no doubt amused at the irony of my ending up in a former religious complex.) You can see in this photo of one of our windows


that the there’s quite a bit of distance between the edges of the outside and inside walls – in this case just over 3-1/2 feet. I don’t know why the discrepancy, but the back wall of our apartment is only 2 feet thick. If the walls were built for defensive purposes, then perhaps they didn’t think the enemy (or since it was a religious building — the devil) would come from that direction.

In any case — back in 2011 when I told you about our new kitchen (https://halfyearitalian.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/la-cucina-nuova/, should you care to refresh your memory), I explained how difficult it was to move a light fixture or electric outlet from one wall to another, and if it was that difficult inside, it would be pretty much impossible outside. Hence, wires strung everywhere.

Here’s a photo I took from another window, looking at the inner convent courtyard.


You can see wires bound to other wires, wires resting on wires, conduits that might or might not have wires running through them. And if you think that’s a lot of wires, here’s the front of a building on the main street of town:


I considered this one of the top finds in my wiring “collection” because of the incredible jumble — just out there…..exposed to the elements….exposed to vandals….exposed to whatever evil might befall such vulnerable threads of technology. Can you imagine this passing any kind of building inspection in the US? In fact, I’m sure it wouldn’t pass an inspection here for a more modern building.  And yet, I’ve not heard of one case of any kind of damage being done to property or people due to the entire infrastructure being, in effect, stapled to the outside walls. I don’t know how old this particular building is, but considering ours is well over 700 years old and has probably endured at least 100 years of electronics, I’m not going to worry about the frailty of Medieval buildings; I’m just going to enjoy my new hobby of seeking out more pieces of wiring artwork.

And as for finding the Duomo – forget the map; it will just give you a headache. Better to ask a real person for directions. And then you can enjoy your stroll around town, discovering your own favorite wiring masterpieces to go along with all those guide book “suggestions”. You can now use “wiring” as still another excuse for visiting Italy’s beautiful Medieval towns.