Venice: the vera da pozzo: Water Wells

Venice may be one of the most photographed cities in Italy and well deserved. The canals, the colorful gondolas and the many bridges are only a few of the unique sites to photograph.

It is easy to miss items that have a great story to tell. Sometimes only a local can share insight and stories about their home, that you will never find in a tour book.

On one of my visits Home to Italy I met Marisa Convento who is an accomplished Impiraressa, and the creator of Venetian Dreams. The pozzi in Venice were a perfect photo story but to know more about them I turned to Marisa for details. She sent me a photo from her colletion that easily explains the daily activity at each well.

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Away from the tourist sites in Venice, you find the neighborhoods where locals work, shop and raise their families.   Roam the calle that will take you to a campi or corti where children play and seniors sit and chat with their neighbors.   Often the route is punctuated by the  remaining pozzi that were engineered to supply clean water to the residents of Venice. 

Varying in size and design, the well covering was often the striking design but more often the cover is simple while artistic carvings adorn the sides of the wellhead.       As the center point for the families that lived here, it was also public art and a great photo opp for a visitor.     

Turning a corner or finding yourself at a dead end you may be rewarded with a unique design on the local well or one repurposed by the locals as a mini garden.  An area near the base of the wellhead often included a stone basin designed so that animals might drink here and not contaminate the well water. 

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The gastaldo (block leader) and the local priest had the keys to the well cover and would lock and unlock the well  twice a day, morning and evening with the ringing of the bells.   

One of the many jobs for the women in the household was to carry buckets of water home for cooking, drinking and washing.    

At times when there was insufficient water in the wells, water was brought in by boat from the mainland.   Bigolanti were assigned to take water around to the neighborhoods, another job performed by women. 

According to Veninezia Authentica, originally there were public, private wells and those sponsored by the church.      “An 1858 report by the Comune di Venezia numbered 180 working public wells and 6,046 private wells.   ” Wealthy families who donated a well to the city might have an inscription added to the carvings on the well head.” 

Several famous pozzi are listed with ‘TurismoVenezia’: the red marble well in the courtyard at Ca’ d’Oro by Bartolomeo Born in 1427,  A picture containing building, outdoor, stone, arch

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photo credit ‘Bing photos’  

     photo credit ‘Bing photos’ 

The only bronze wellheads are at the Ducal Palace, VeniceA picture containing ground, water basin, fountain, old

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Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Granda, photo credit 

Eventually the system of wells was replaced with an aqueduct and later a direct connection with the mainland.  A small number of the original wells, now sealed, can still be viewed on a walk through the many neighborhoods of the city.   

Venice is surrounded by water and therefore the wells required unique engineering to collect rain water and keep sea water out.

The traditional method of digging a well is not an option when your live on and surrounded by salt water. Images of Venice clearly describes the unique construction of wells in Venice to supply the residents with fresh water.

Since a large surface area was required around each well to collect sufficient rain water, many were located in squares, courtyards, palaces and religious buildings. According to Images of Venice ‘gutters were created around the well and they drained the rainwater into the filtering system”.

On your next trip to Venice, be sure to watch for something tourists never find.

Published by Lee Laurino

A traveler not a tourist, searching for experiences not in travel books. Solo traveler who travels as long and far as possible sharing photos of the people and places I discover

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