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South | Vuno

Vuno the mountain ridge acropolis

First Impressions

Two of the northernmost sea-facing villages in the Himarë Province are Dhërmi and Vuno. These villages are of a unique type compared to the villages farther south. First of all, they are roughly in the middle of the hillside, cut through by the national road. They were built against steep hills, and are broad, with roads that cut back and weave in between almost vertical stacks of houses. Vuno is quite steep. From the national road it looks like a wall of houses in a gentle semicircle, facing southwest. That steep slope translates to stunning views once inside the village. There is no bad seat, so to speak, in Vuno. The village can feel at times like classic Greek or Italian villages in their steepness and cutback roads. In it, too, are many fine examples of the regional architecture from the eighteenth century, both in houses and churches. Vuno has been home to many notable scholars as well. Like Kudhës and Qeparo, Vuno is quite stunning in juxtaposition to classic south Albanian ruggedness, and a certain kind of cosmopolitanism: shepherds and professors have coexisted in centuries-old stone houses perched above the sea.

The People

The people

Residents of Vuno, or Vunjotsit, are mainly indigenous, but through the centuries many of them have been forced to emigrate and work. A large number of men from Vuno worked in southern France in the Saint-Étienne mines, as well as in Italy. Because of its position, Vuno has long attracted the attention of foreigners—who admire it for its hospitality and well-maintained nature.

The people and the culture

Women from Vuno are known for their beautiful dresses that feature a wide variety of colors. According to tradition, as the women age, the colors of the dress darken until black becomes the total wardrobe. Elderly women mostly wear white or black headscarves. Knee-length socks crafted from fine wool yarn, with colors and traditional motifs, are worn as well. Their characteristic shoes are traditional leather shoes with red tassels on the top called caruqe. A special element that accompanied the dressing and presentation of women was their hairstyle—the “bell tie,” a very special form inherited from the distant past, is found only in certain remote areas of Mirdita.

The roots - the history

The village of Vuno likely dates to the late Bronze Age. Numerous findings of pottery and the presence of a number of different pre-urban fortifications near the village prove the continuity of life in this settlement. But more concrete evidence of this settlement are Ottoman documents from 1551, which inform us that Vuno had 84 houses; later documents from 1584 record 100 houses. Like the other villages of this region, the residents of Vuno were active in the anti- Ottoman resistance. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the residents of Vuno were friends of the famous Pasha of Ioannina, Ali Pasha. A number of letters and personal correspondence that Pasha had with the Kasneci family and other residents of this village are archived in the village. Like other residents of the villages of this region, in the late middle ages, residents of Vuno served as soldiers in the kingdom of Naples and a part of them in “Regiment of Albanians” near Bonaparte. During World War II, Vunjotsit greatly contributed in liberation.

Vuno visualizations of 19th century

British traveler of the mid-nineteenth century, Edward Lear, stayed in this village in the house of the Kasneci family; other than talking about the great hospitality of the inhabitants of Vuno, he left us a number of watercolor tableaux that are now stored at Harvard University. “I was very surprised by the buildings in Vuno, such as the Kasneci one. They give you the feeling of Venetian “Palazzi”, as well as other constructions around rural area in Italy. The people of Himara use the Italian language more than anyone in Albania. In every village of this region I went, I noticed that despite the fact that they are Greek orthodox by religion, they are all Albanians, with some small exceptions” has written Edward Lear.

The Setting - Urban Fabric

Some claim that because of the village’s location on the hills, ascending to approximately 300 metres, the village’s name derives from the Greek word Vouno (Greek: Bounó), meaning “mountain”. Vuno, like Dhermi, is an extremely steep village. It is built across the side of a gently concave hill, and the majority of the historic fabric sits above the national road. The built environment is compact and produces particularly interesting typologies of open and close spaces, routes and connections; including the arched passages typical of Vuno. There are a number of characteristic dwellings in the village of Vuno, which, through their architecture and traditional ways of working, preserve the cultural heritage of the area. Some of the most notable among them are the House with the Tower of Shane Koka and the Dwelling of Odise Kasneci.

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