Where You Should Live – a Medieval Guide

If one is thinking about finding a place to live, they have many places where they can turn to for advice. Even in the Middle Ages you can find an expert who knows where you should live!

The Italian writer Bartolomeo Sacchi, better known as Platina, composed On Right Pleasure and Good Health in the 1460s, apparently for his friends. It is mostly a cookbook, offering insights into healthy eating and other best practices for taking care of oneself. Early on his work he even provides some advice on finding a place to live:

a civilized and intelligent man should choose, in the city as well as the country, the place most advantageous for the time of the year, pleasant, delightful, charming where he may build, where he may devote his efforts to farming, where he may relax with his artistic interests, where he may, in sum, commune with the gods themselves, an easy accomplishment for a man of the greatest integrity and learning.

After this, he gives some more practical advice, which mostly deals with how the heating of the home can be maximized for better health:

In the summer he should seek high places which are not cloudy and not too windy, but with a pure, clear, warm sky. He should have a house with well-arranged rooms where windows face east and north, according to Varro. Such a house is lighted by morning sun and cleared, as it were, of all nighttime disease. Although it will not be very warm as the sun moves west, it will be cooled by the northern breeze. We will also use the same plan if we happen to live along the pleasant sea shore, because houses built differently will be very warm in summer with noontime and western sun. As a result, our bodies may be weakened by continuous heat and may fall into serious and dangerous illness if no pleasure is provided.

However, for most of the year, the choice of a place to live is not such a worry:

In the spring, winter, and autumn, however, when the weather is mild, you will live in comfortable and healthy life on plains, in hills, or at sea shores, as long as they are far away from swamps, stagnant pools and hot sulphur springs.

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Platina also offers this warning:

There are some who write about river and seaside breezes that they are unhealthy if they blow from the south, especially in low places, as is seen even today in Latium and on coasts exposed to the south winds with their frequent deaths.

You can read the book On Right Pleasure and Good Health, edited and translated by Mary Ella Milham, which was published by Pegasus Press in 1999.

Top Image: 15th century home being built – from Pier de Crescenzi, Livre des prouffitz champestres et ruraulx

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