Tour Locations | A Stroll Through Carouge: Geneva's Little Italy
LOCATION 11 | A Stroll Through Carouge: Geneva's Little Italy
The inside courts
Walk to the center of the garden near the big square stone in the middle and stand there… or make yourself comfortable on that stone or on one of the benches.
Isn’t this a spectacular change! Behind all the houses of Carouge, there are beautiful gardens. You can check on Google Maps. The houses of this triangular block all belong to the city of Carouge. This avoids speculation. And all the houses of Carouge are under monument protection, so nobody can disturb this beauty.
In ancient times, these backyards were of course vegetable gardens. Today, the gardeners of the city are mandated to create a Mediterranean ambiance to remember that Carouge used to be part of the Sardinian kingdom. And see, there are palm, fig, and olive trees, a little vineyard, etc.
We have seen that the houses have simple facades on the street side. At the backside, they have balconies which are called “balandrier”, a special Savoyen name for this type which is unknown in Geneva. The typical ancient “balandrier” is a wooden balcony added to the stone building on its entire rear façade. On one side, there is a wooden snail staircase and on the other are the toilets, one per floor. But there was only one family per floor anyhow. So, the balconies you can see in front of you are nice, but not typical. On your screen now, you can see a drawing of real “balandriers” sketched by the world-famous painter and sculpturer James Vibert from Carouge, a pupil of Rodin. – These balconies create a very Italian lifestyle. You can put a table and chairs to dine and chat with a neighbor, ask him for a bottle of wine or tell him to stop staring at your wife. Very Italian!
The inhabitants were lucky because almost under our feet is groundwater, that is stones and earth soaked with water. They had to dig but a few feet to have a well. One house out of two had its own well with excellent and abundant water coming from the Mont-Blanc mountain, just like Evian water. How lucky they were!
But then the toilets were not far away, and you can imagine what happened. There were typhoid and other diseases. How to solve this problem? I’ll show you at our next stop.
Leave these gardens now through the other wider passage, opposite the entrance you came in by towards the marketplace.