Hidden treasures: inside Tbilisi’s sun-drenched ‘Italian’ courtyards

Fall in love with the age-old charm of Tbilisi’s wooden buildings, and the residents who still live there

14 March 2018

When you think of Georgian architecture, usually it’s the more eye-catching landmarks that come to mind — daring Soviet leftovers such as the Wedding Palace and the Ministry of Highway Construction, or the new but no less controversial Rhike Music Theatre and Exhibition Hall. Ask any Tbilisi local, however, and they’ll tell you the city’s much-loved architectural treasures are its charming “Italian” courtyards. What makes them “Italian” has less to do with the architectural style than the relaxed way of life that flourishes between its wooden facades. “There is a lot talking, arguing, gossiping that happens here. Georgians are very emotional, just like Italians,” says Ksenia Vysotskaya, who captured these remnants of old Tbilisi during an autumn trip. The Lyon-based photographer originally travelled to Georgia to document shepherds in the Tushetia region, but since the roads were closed, she spent two weeks in Tbilisi instead. “I instantly fell in love with the backyards for their aesthetics and friendly communities. I photographed every single day. I had a huge city map where I marked the areas I wanted to explore and managed to visit all the backyards on my trip,” says Vysotskaya, who also compiled portraits of its residents, many of whom have lived there since childhood. Next time you’re in Tbilisi, make sure to see these leafy hideaways, before its too late.