According to local lore, the entire village once baked bread in the forno (oven) that now sits in disrepair in our ground floor. The forno is no longer useable because of impossible-to-ignore ventilation issues. And I’ll try to say this kindly, but there is really nothing attractive about it except the communal life it represents. So with mixed emotions, we are about to dismantle one of the most evocative and interesting historic features of our house, Rocca di Benano.
Renovations on the ground floor will begin soon. They will add much more living space to the house, another bedroom and bathroom, and connect the main living areas to the beautiful terrace, which is off the ground floor. The work, which will begin as soon as one last approval is finalized (Italian bureaucracy!), will allow us to make more of the history that remains in these walls. The stone walls in the ground floor make no secret that those walls were once arches.
Even better, we will be able to highlight the ancient cantina (wine cellar). The cantina is an amply sized room at the bottom of 36 steps dug out of tufa rock. The brass rings our long-ago predecessors used to help roll the barrels down all those stairs are still in place. Imagining the history boggles the mind.
We really wanted to keep the forno as a tribute to the history of the village, but we just couldn’t incorporate it into the renovation. So we came up with a solution that satisfies all of us. We will install oven bricks in the floor exactly where the oven once stood. The forno will disappear, but we will preserve its footprint.
In years to come, people will certainly walk over it without giving it a thought. But maybe a few people will be attracted by the untold stories in that space, sit between the doors leading out to the terrace and the stairs down to the cantina, and contemplate the very spot that was the center of village life in centuries past.