dry stone walls and fields
Lessinia is formed by a degrading plateau towards the Po plain, of trapezial shape, furrowed by five valleys: Valpolicella, Valpantena, Val Squaranto, Val d' Illasi and Val d' Alpone. Part of the Veneto PreAlps, between the rivers Adige (west side) and Chiampo (east side), between Val di Ronchi and the group of Varega Mountains to the nort, and the Po plain to the south. Lessinia is divided between the provinces of Verona (which includes the vastest part of it), Vicenza and Trento.
SETTLEMENTS IN LESSINIA:
The first setttlement in the Lessinian area can be considered the preistorical castellar, formed by dry walls and semicircular terracings. The real ancient houses, sometimes constructed on plain rock, are dated back approximately to the XIII century, but only in the successive century these houses have been organized in courts, (territorial divisions in which the houses enclose and protect a space in which to preserve the usual everyday activities). The court, locatable overall in western and central Lessinia, at middle-low heights, normally presents a "colombara" (a watchtower with small windows), an access arc, external walls and a paved threshing floor. The facades of the houses are directed to the south to take advantage from the solar energy. During the XVII-XVIII century the accesses to the court have been ulteriorly fortified with openings (rifleman) in the walls of the houses towards the entrance arc. Unfortunately today a deep devastation of the landscape with the building of small houses and villas that have replaced the terrazzati fields has ruined the area. New roads have replaced the old ones, made by dry stone bulwarks, and disposed as a fish thorn. One of the must popular construction material, that has given a particular touch to the lessinian landscape, is the "lastrame", commonly known as "Lessinia Stone" as in this zone there are many stone quarries, dating back to the Advanced Cretaceous Period, excavated in galleries in the past, and openair nowdays.
THE LESSINIA STONE MINING:
Since the Iron Age Lessinia Stone has been used in the construction of the castellars on the lessinian ridges: the external walls of the village, the pavements and the roofs of the huts, were all built with slabs of stone. This way of building continues nowdays in the civil buildings of high Lessinia, think, for example, of the fantastc complex of Gorgusello in Val di Fumane, of the settlements of Prun and Fane (Romanesque age), of XIII century's complex around the church of S. Paolo di Pun, and of Cerna, Vaggimal and Giare centres. The first mention of a stone quarry dates back to 1024 and it refers to the territory of Capavo, near Torbe:Armenardino and Zugno de Capavo are quarreling "de quadam predaraet terra ET nemus". In the early 1300, with the increase of commerce, the Lessinia stone's market developes. During the years 1360/70 some tenents in Torbe take to the monastery of S. Zeno "palustra scalinorum and pedes scalinorum" - finished material used "ad canipam revolti monasterii" and moreover a" seclarium lapidis... de quo makes you scalini I placed to you to revoltum manasterii "In the 1400's and the 1500's, with the spread of the rinascimental art and the diffusion of a crescent sensibility for the elegance of the signorile dwelling, the exploitation and the commerce of the local stone material bagin a greater development. Some stonedressers accumulate high capitals, that soon they invest in land and caves near Torbe: in 1589 Torbe is controlled by "messer Peter Burlani lapicida" that possesses a huge house right in the centre of the village "in summitate Zovecli", next to Negrar; another messere, "messer Antonio lapicida" , is known at the same time as land-owner in another village, near Mazzano.