The venetian water wells: the art of engineering treasures
The venetian water wells: have you noticed how many there are in Venice? But how do you think they work since the underground of Venice has no water at all? And have you notice that they are all located in the middle of large areas such as the ones of campi or campielli? Well, if you love this amazing city and you like to know all the secrets of the hidden Venice, follow us to the discovery of one of the most clever and ingenious way to get a ‘generous’ drinkable water supply…
Venice has never had springs: thus, in the past, the drinkable water had to be obtained from the rain. In order to collect it, venetian used to dig big tanks – 5 or 6 meters deep - in large grounds (usually campi or campielli). The bottom of the tank was filled with waterproof clay and than with layers of river sand with different fineness in order to create a sort of a filter. The top of the tank was covered with the so-called pietra d’istria in order to create the pavement of the square. In this pavement there were usually four sewers - to collect the water - and the well.
The venetian water wells were composed by two main parts. The ‘canna da pozzo’ and the well curb. The ‘canna da pozzo’ was as deep as the tank and it was made by special bricks (pozzali) that allowed the water to penetrate into it. The upper part of the well was decorated with the well curb which was also useful to take the basin in and out of the well.
In the ancient times, the curbs of the venetian water wells were often obtained by roman capitals. As the time passed, the curbs became a way to celebrate the families that gave money to built the wells and thus were usually decorated with bas-reliefs, inscriptions and arms related to the donors. The majority of the venetian water wells are made of pietra d’istria which is a particular kind of stone coming from the north-west part of Croatia.
During the XVIII century, the water wells of Venice were stimated in 157 public wells and almost 1000 private ones. In 1858, the Ufficio Tecnico Comunale counted almost 7000 wells (6046 private and 180 public ones). Until the waterworks were made at the beginning of the XX century, the water wells in Venice were over 600. Nowadays, none of them is used.