Taking up ... . Italian, the style which is perhaps of all the most difficult to translate into terms suitable to the conditions existing throughout the North, East, and West of the United States, we find that in Italy the roofs are flat, the walls thick, and the windows small and deep set. Italy has been for two thousand years a country where buildings of practically every sort have been constructed of masonry, because the supply of wood on the Italian peninsula was exhausted at a very early date. The Italians, therefore, as early as the Roman times, sought to economize wood to the utmost possible extent, and the exterior walls, the floors, and the roof coverings were of masonry of some sort or another; the walls usually of stone, or, in the cheaper work, of stone covered with stucco; the floors of brick or of terra cotta, sometimes of cement, and the roofs covered with tile.
1 Ibid., pp. 48-52.
The use of small windows was probably due to two causes: the first, a desire for coolness in the summer time, which was obtained by constructing houses practically like cellars; the second, to the difficulty and the expense attending the construction of wide openings in masonry walls without steel. The use of large stones for lintels was of course common in the Roman period, but it seems to have been confined chiefly to the public buildings for either religious or civic purposes; and while it is true that some of the largest single stones ever quarried are found in buildings of the Roman epoch, it can be very readily understood that the expense of quarrying such stones by hand, and with implements of bronze or poorly tempered iron, was prohibitive for the dwelling house. These conditions continued throughout the Middle Ages, and only with the introduction of blasting powder was the quarrying of fairly large stones economically possible, but by this time the tradition of small openings was pretty firmly fixed. Of course large openings could be spanned by arches, but the construction of window frames for arched openings was difficult and consequently expensive, and arches themselves require skillful workmen, unless mortar of a high quality is used. So while arched openings are by no means uncommon in Italy, the typical Italian house has squareheaded window and door openings, the wall above them supported on lintels. The roofs were usually of slight pitch without usable space below them, because rooms immediately under the roof would have been impossible of occupancy in hot weather, and also because there was no necessity to shed snow or heavy rains.
These were the factors which influenced the development of the Italian style, and because in this country every one of them is different it can readily be understood that the use of Italian architecture is more or less of a tour de force, and a successful Italian house must either be very different in principle from its original or factors of comfort and convenience must be sacrificed, which of course will not, in the livable house, be the case.