Milan is one of those cities that somehow seems destined to be visited in a rush. Maybe because of its fame as a ‘working city’, a city for business in the busy north of Italy, not many people take the time to get to know it properly: they devote to it a few hours at most, in between trains, planes or business meetings.
If you only have a few hours in Milan, you might enjoy my post ‘one day in Milan’
But Milan is an elegant, beautiful city and some peculiarity of its architecture are unique in Italy and worth visiting. One of them is the peculiar case di ringhiera’.
Ringhiera in Italian means railing or balustrade and the ringhiere are surely one of the most peculiar traits of these constructions. They run all across the width of the building, one per floor, they are connected by stairs and act as the main entry to the several flats in the block.
Le case di ringhiera date back to the beginning of the Twentieth century and were born as dormitories for the workers of the nearby factories. They were built as blocks of flats and the ringhiere were the common passageways to reach individual homes. Each flat was in turn built with a front area, visible from the outside passage, and a back room that worked as a bedroom. The flats did not have individual facilities and the bathrooms were communal, at the end of the balconies. This means that from your front room you would see a good bit of passage!
The houses were also lacking running water, so the women would use the communal facilities for daily chores, filling the courtyards with, I imagine, the smell of clean clothes, the voices of children and sharing food with the ever present cats. A very charming image, although probably not as idyllic during the Milanese winter…
Today le case di righiera are very far from the simple homes they once were. Many have been restored to a very high standard and have become elegant homes and even art galleries, with a price tag to match. Quite a different atmosphere from the one of their beginnings, but surely worth seeing!
A great example of the modern style of case di ringhiera is n. 10 corso Como, which now hosts a stylish and beautiful cafe’.
Have you been to Milan and have you visited le case di ringhiera? I’d love to hear what you thought of them!