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Dry-Stone Wall Construction in Tuscany

la costruzione di muri a secco in Toscana di Biemme Restauri Firenze

Dry-stone wall construction is an ancient tradition in Tuscany, as well as in Liguria and many other regions of Italy.

A building technique once passed down from generation to generation, it is now perhaps lost or in disuse in much of the peninsula so much so that finding a company that knows how to perform dry-stone wall construction today is increasingly difficult (done as well as they once were).

We at Biemme Restauri are experts in dry-stone wall construction in Tuscany, thanks to this article we want to share with you the techniques of this ancient art.


The Construction of Dry-Stone Walls in Tuscany

Dry-stone walls are construction works that can be admired throughout Tuscany.

They arose from the need to make the most of the land, being able to cultivate even the steepest terrain thanks precisely to terracing supported by dry stone walls.

By doing so, it has historically been possible to make the countryside of Tuscany cultivable in all types of terrain. This human intervention in the countryside has consequently changed its appearance, as for example in Chianti or Valdarno.

In the Valdarno specifically, farmers, in order to take full advantage of the arable land, created works that are now protected by UNESCO and designated a World Heritage Site in 2018, we are talking about the Setteponti and Valdarno dry stone walls.

Just along the route of the Setteponti, surrounded and supported by the beautiful dry stone wall constructions, is a monumental vineyard from the early 1900s, the Vigna delle Sanzioni.

Even today, admiring beautiful dry stone wall constructions along country roads in Tuscany is quite easy thanks to their widespread use, and the spectacle becomes even more beautiful in spring when they are covered with beautiful irises.

Stones for Dry-stone Walls

In order to create a true dry-stone wall without the use of cement for fastening, it is necessary to use stones that can precisely fit together, leaving the minimum space between them.

Stones by nature have various heights, lengths and thicknesses, and this aspect makes the dry-stone wall even more aesthetically interesting.

When building the wall by hand, however, it is important to choose stones according to their weight to make it possible to lay them.

Since it is necessary to create at least two parallel rows (to fit the stones one on top of the other so as to create stability to the construction) it is necessary to calculate about 450/500 kg per square meter of wall.

An additional aspect to take into consideration is the presence of an exposed face, making it as straight as possible. This means that the stones chosen for dry-stone wall construction should have at least one straight flat face.

When choosing stones for dry-stone wall, it is important to identify two types:

Base stones: wide and heavy, ideal for supporting the weight of the wall. About 30 centimetres long with a square and consistent shape.

Wall stones: can be between 25 and 35 centimetres wide, placing the wider stones lower.

Dry-stone Walls for Gardens

Although historically drystone walls originated mainly for the purpose of creating terraces useful for agriculture, today it is a very common practice to make drystone walls for gardens.

In an environment such as Tuscany it means taking up the style of the area even simply to beautify pretty gardens.

Dry stone walls for gardens allow you to transform your green area and create, for example, a flower bed or barbecue area. They are also optimal solutions in case of large spaces to be organized as drystone walls allow for divided areas or manmade terraces, all with excellent aesthetic results and with a low expense in terms of resources and materials.

The only technique of arranging one stone on top of another, without the aid of cement, will allow the drystone walls to have great stability and an incredible aesthetic impact, as they use natural elements that blend harmoniously into any garden.

Dry stone walls for gardens can be distinguished into two categories:

• "dividing" wall: has the purpose of marking and demarcating a boundary;

• "against the ground" wall: it has containing functions.

Thanks to these techniques, it is possible, for example, to create raised flower beds, terraces dedicated to olive trees or cultivation, or even beautiful areas bordered by beautiful walls such as barbecue areas or pool area.

muri a secco per giardini in toscana

How high can a dry-stone wall be?

Walls built using the dry-stone technique can vary in height depending, for example, on the slope on which they are built.

In the Cinque Terre area (in the region of Liguria), for example, generally the maximum height of limestone walls is between 5-6 meters compared to 2-3 meters for dry-stone walls. The minimum recommended width of the wall is at least 50 cm so that it is stable and solid.

Who Builds Dry-Stone Walls?

To build dry-stone wall, our advice is to turn to specialized firms with proven experience in the field.

We at Biemme Restauri, for example, are a specialized construction company in Florence and have been renovating farmhouses and country houses with large green areas for over 20 years in the Florence area and throughout Tuscany.

Thanks to studies and research of materials we offer our renovation services without forgetting the past, thus maintaining the authenticity of the building and the territory.

operaio che costruisce muri a secco in Toscana di Biemme Restauri Firenze

Dry-Stone Retaining Walls

The retaining wall is non-appurtenant in nature and has the function of supporting the ground in order to prevent landslide movements in the event of a slope.

Building a dry retaining wall is a solution that allows to combine a useful and functional purpose with all the aesthetics typical of dry stone walls.

The purpose is precisely to contain the soil, support embankments and prevent possible collapse or landslides.

To build a retaining dry stone wall, it is not possible to improvise but requires a great deal of experience in the field. Each stone will have to be placed optimally to prevent any kind of subsidence or sudden collapse.

Dry-Stone Retaining Wall Regulations and Permits

In order to build a dry retaining wall, a building permit is required since it is to all intents and purposes a construction that permanently changes the layout of the area in question.

Below is the Italian Legislation on Dry Retaining Walls: "The boundary or retaining wall is a structure that - differing from the simple fence, which has typological characteristics of minimal entity in order to the mere delimitation of the property - does not have a appurtenant nature, as a work endowed with specificity and autonomy especially in relation to the function performed, consisting in supporting the ground in order to prevent landslide movements in case of height difference, original or increased."

Dry-Stone Walls Terraces

Terracing walls are plains of land created by excavating hillsides and delimiting the area by stone walls.

Traditionally, these terracing walls were built using dry-stone and rested on live rock, supporting the soil and forming a kind of step.

The most famous terraces built with dry stone walls in Italy are definitely those in Liguria, in the Cinque Terre area.

In this specific area, the terraces are supported by two types of dry-stone walls:

• those whose head ends flush with the use plane,

• those whose head rises above the plane of use.

Dry-Stone Wall Prices

How much does it cost to make a dry-stone wall?

Answering this question is not straightforward as a dry-stone wall has a variable price per square meter, which depends on various factors such as the materials chosen but also on the function and size.

The price to make a small fence wall or flower bed will obviously be different than the price to make a dry-stone wall.

Making a small stone fence wall might cost about €30-40/sq.m. while making a dry-stone wall for earth retaining could reach €150-180/sq.m.

Of course, these are purely indicative dry-stone wall construction prices as costs vary depending on the areas, materials chosen and other factors. In case of dry-stone wall construction in Tuscany, it is therefore important that the construction company is familiar with the area and the techniques historically used.

We at Biemme Restauri are experts in renovations and dry-stone wall construction in Tuscany. Every day we focus on finding the raw material that is wrapped with tradition and innovation.

Examples of Dry-Stone Walls Construction in Tuscany

muri a secco in toscana


How much does it cost to build a dry-stone wall?

A dry-stone wall has a variable price per square meter, which depends on various factors such as the materials chosen but also on the function and to the size. Making a small stone fence wall could cost about €30-40/sqm, while making a dry-stone wall for earth retaining could reach €150-180/sqm.

How high can a dry-stone wall be?

Who builds dry-stone walls?

Do you want to build a drywall in Tuscany?

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