The courts

The territory of Capannori is characterized by the presence of ancient rural settlements concentrated in courts, historical patrimony built and organized by the countryside population and now become unique.
The courts of Capannori, and more in general the ones of Lucca, are basical structural elements of the rural territory of the plain: there are about 1000 courts in the territory. From the Middle Ages we have news about the courts in Lucca and in the adjoining villages that, from that period, played an important role in the economic aspect of the plain.
The "courts" of Lucca and Capannori are clusters of rural houses that, differently from the same buildings in Padania and Friuli (characterized by a central covered courtyard and four buildings on every side), are "longitudinally arrayed"" (linear cluster). There are different kinds of courts, depending on the disposition of the buildings: the most typical structure is formed by a central cluster of buildings with annexes on every side.
These are rural buildings, simple houses characterized by the presence of shared annexes used by all the families that lived in the court: wells, ovens, toilets, courtyards, stables, henhouses, "pigsties", huts and hay lofts. The huts are characterized by the presence of the "mandolate", openings in the superior part of the walls used for the circulation of air and light and obtained through a particular disposition of the bricks: "a lama di coltello" (blade shape), "a scacchiera" (chessboard shape) or "a castello di carte" (house of cards shape).
The court structure reflects the patriarchal structure typical of the rural families: the head of the family permitted to his son and his wife the construction of a new house next to the former and so on for every generation.
The inner disposition of the houses is so reassumed: on the first floor we find the kitchen, the living room and the cellars; on the second floor we have the bedrooms. The staircases that link the two floors can be outside or inside the house.
The oven is placed outside, sometimes under the staircase; the henhouse, on the other hand, is often built under the oven. In front of the kitchen, outside the house, we find the courtyard, generally in plain earth and with a bricked area just in front of the kitchen door. The courtyard was not so vast. Nowadays it is divided by little walls that mark the territory of the different families.
The courtyard was and is the nucleus of the court: here people gather, repair tools, flake the maize, dry fuits, prepare jams and sew. Is there where children play and elderly people relax in the evenings, "a veglia". In the courtyard we also find the well and the fountain because, in the past, water did not arrive directly into the houses.
In the court people share experiences, joy and sorrow. Even today, if asked about their infancy and youth, elderly people remember the great solidarity that existed between the families within the courts.

During the years, the courts have been deeply modified and now they tend to disappear as their function already has. However, we can still admire their structure and enjoy their fashion, that remind us of a past, not too remote, that belongs to all of us.

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