THE TOWERS AND TOWER-HOUSES
In the XII and XIII centuries, on account of the restricted space inside of the city walls, people began adding on to their houses by making them taller, and in this way the tower house was born. Actually, towers were being built already around the year 1000, but in Florence most of them seem to have been built in the XI and XII centuries. Originally, they were used only for military purposes and were inhabited only in case of imminent danger. The danger came from within the city, as the great rival families struggled for power. The tower could be reached only from the upper stories of the house,to which it was usually adjacent, and there were no doors on the ground floor. Sometimes the towers were connected to each other by means of walkways and suspended bridges. The rooms were arranged so that there was only one on each floor and they were not connected by and kind of permanent stairway; in order to go from one room to the next they had to use ropes or ladders which were removed in case of siege. As it became more difficult to find housing and the political situation changed, in the XII century the towers started being used as houses. The ground floor was used for all domestic purposes; the second floor was where guests were received, and the bedrooms were located under the roof because in this way the smoke would disperse directly outside. The loopholes were enlarged so that they became windows and were protected by wooden shutters or shades made of waxed canvas. By the middle of the XIII century there were over 150 towers in Florence. The mercantile and manufacturing middle class that had replaced the old aristocracy in power, began to consider the tower-houses as a potential danger, and many of them were torn down or drastically reduced in height, which was not supposed to be over 50 braccia (about 29 metres). One of these “decapitated” towers can still be seen standing next to the so-called “Casa di Dante”.
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