In Italy, hamlets were generally built so as to keep others at a distance: in medieval times they were castles or fortified citadels built to protect and prevent enemy attacks. Areas of high ground always offered a strategic advantage and they needed defending: hundreds of imposing stone edifices were built to protect the summits.
Today – due to the Covid-19 pandemic – keeping one’s distance is now a necessity, and as a result hamlets, often forgotten and far off the tourist beaten track, are being rediscovered or discovered for the first time as ideal holiday destinations: a few houses, a few local residents, no crowds, no mingling.
Italy boasts hundreds of perfectly preserved medieval architectural gems. They’ve stood atop their respective hill for centuries, like rooks in a game of chess, with their guard towers, crenellated walls, arched doorways and, of course, the church that someone is always willing to open out of hours. In some cases the hamlet is still surrounded by a gaping moat that centuries of soil sedimentation have failed to fill in.
Everything, except the need for self-defence, is exactly as it was the day the foundations of those walls were first laid. And that typical hamlet atmosphere suddenly seems appropriate for our lives today, lives in which, over the past year, have seemed suspended in time.