The traditional art of dry stone walls  was officially added in 2018 to  UNESCO‘s List of the world’s Intangible Heritage of Humanity to protect a thousand-year-old art. It refers to all the knowledge, handed down over the centuries, connected to these walls built with stones piled onto others without using any other material except , sometimes, dry earth.

Muretto a secco - ph. Giulio Lettica

Dry stone wall – ph. Giulio Lettica

A nomination common to eight European countries for a practice that in Italy is widely used in many regions. A wise and millennial art that is a “living” one and, for this reason, it is rightly preserved. It’s one of those best practice that show how man can modify the landscapes for his purposes, while remaining in perfect harmony with the environment.  Houses, terraces and banks for counteracting the erosion of winds, floods, desertification of lands and thus obtaining the best micro-climatic conditions for agriculture and livestock.

In Sicily plenty of landscapes and regions are characterized by the presence of these buildings, made with the typical local materials, so deeply tailored to the places conditions, that  they eventually define their identities.

Costruzione rurale in pietra bianca - ph. Giulio Lettica

Rural construction in limestone  – ph. Giulio Lettica

The landscape around the slopes of Mount Etna, for example, is characterized by countless lava stone terraces, where lush vineyards give rise to the excellent Etna Doc wine.  Going along the roads through the fields, you can also come across the mysterious turrette, that,  due to their particular shape, are also called “pyramids of Etna“.  There are about forty around the volcano these architectural artifacts made in steps, up to 40 meters high. Funerary monuments or Sicilian temples for religious worship, according to some hypotheses, but more probably ancient artifacts built by peasants  while clearing the fields by piling the stones neatly onto others and creating these magnificent structures often as storage for their work tools.

Not to mention the suggestive Iblea countryside where the white limestone walls meander throughout the area, among farms, pastures and cultivated fields, showing a fascinating and characteristic aspect of this region.

Campagna iblea - ph. Giulio Lettica

Iblea countryside – ph. Giulio Lettica

In  Pantelleria island – the black pearl of the Mediterranean Sea – this kind of art has ancient roots. In a both splendid and difficult nature, peasants have used over the centuries this wise and ancient technique for building their own dwellings, the typical dammusi, and for terracing the craggy land and planting their grapes.

12,000 km of dry stone walls cross the island, perfectly integrated into its landscape. Here, certainly not surprisingly, two intangible assets were named World Heritage: the grapewine sapling of Pantelleria and dry stone walls, which are united by an indissoluble bond: here, in fact, where there is a grapevine, a wall cannot be missed.

Dammusi in Pantelleria – ph. Paolo Barone