In a city built on the water, permeated by water and that created its own success on waterborne commerce, it seems almost impossible that for centuries this natural resource has been the scarcest one. The historian who lived in the '500 , Marin Sanudo, wrote "it’s in the water and water has not." Obviously we are referring to clean water.
For a runner the possibility to hydrate is important in a race like the Garmin Venice Night Trail 16k it is even essential. Well, now Venice is the right city for thirsty runners thanks to its many fountains. Drinking water in today’s Venice is a common good, accessible to the entire population and its visitors, subject to relevant problems of scarcity. But until the recent past it was not so.
Along the course of the Night Trail you'll run across many artifacts stone scattered around the various Campi and Campielli that you will cross, sometimes simple, sometimes monumental: they are the venetian “Vere da Pozzo”. The first settlements in the V-VI century lagoon clashed immediately with a sort of paradox: living literally in the middle of the water but with a permanent shortage of this resource. The water of the lagoon is brackish , is excellent for fishing and for salt pans, but not good for the rest . A community need water to drink, to cultivate the land and so on. The first few inhabitants of the lagoon territory solved the problem of water supply through the simple rainwater harvesting, but with the coming of entire populations from the mainland mostly fleeing from the barbarian invasions the collection was no longer sufficient. They switched to natural wells and used water table by digging reaching the first waterproof layer, so as to use surface water.
While the number of inhabitants was growing steadily – reaching the peak of 170,000 people in the history of the Serenissima – it was necessary to find new forms of supply of drinking water: the Venetian wells. These tanks are located into the ground 5 meters under the sea level: they have walls covered by a waterproofing clay (the venetians call it “crea”) and filled with filtering sands. Between the 3rd and 4th km of the Garmin Venice Night Trail you will cross an ex “crea” warehouse.
Each tank was paved and on top there were placed the “pilelle”, special trap doors through which rain water was filtered while penetrated into the tank.
Together with this filtering system, another way to supply the need of fresh water was studied: the “burchi” were boats that brought the fresh water by the rivers and canals and whose shipments of water were reserved in the Venetian wells which in fact became the tanks.
Only in 1884 started the construction of the aqueduct that brought the water to the lagoon directly from the mainland. Today the wells have a purely ornamental function and in most cases they are alongside by public fountains. In the historic center there are more than 120 public fountains, almost one for each island of the city, from which flows the good water coming from more than 300m deep.
So runners don’t be afraid, in Venice you will have a good fresh water to quench your thirst!