Monday, October 8, 2012

The Wells of Venice - FAI MARATHON

(Venice, Italy) If you are in Venice on Sunday, October 21, 2012, you are in for a treat. The Venetian chapter of FAI will take part in a national cultural marathon, "the only marathon that you run with your eyes." I have written about FAI before:

Italy, Defend Your Heart


The Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), or the Italian Environmental Foundation was established in 1975 to "emulate the English National Trust." (For Americans, a similar organization would be the National Trust for Historic Preservation.) ...FAI declares that it bases its work on five principles: knowledge, pragmatism, consistency, independence and quality. Since FAI is a foundation, we can agree those are principles upon which any solid foundation should be built. FAI safeguards the heritage of art, nature and the Italian landscape. 

The FAIMARATHON is a non-competitive race involving more than 70 Italian cities, in which the goal is to call attention to cultural and artistic places that are part of hectic, everyday life, but often overlooked. Together with Il Gioco del Lotto, Italy's national lottery, FAI hopes to raise awareness of the art and culture that surrounds us here in Italy while raising funds to protect and restore that beauty. Using funds from the Lotto is a tradition that goes back 400 years when Pope Innocent XII finished construction of Palazzo Montecitorio, the current Chamber of Deputies, with lottery money.

Photo: ParadoxPlace
In Venice, the marathon will focus on the wellheads throughout the city that are a crucial part of its history. Providing fresh water to its citizens was always a serious concern during the Venetian Republic, and an estimated 2500 wells were constructed, mainly out of stone. The wells were located in the middle of squares and courtyards, and daily life revolved around them. Strict laws regulated the purity of the water, and the amount that could be drawn.

From The Venice Wikibook - Venetian Public Art:

Because Venice was cut off from reliable sources of fresh water, Venetians built underground basins to collect and filter rainwater. Their system of cisterns collected rainwater and retained it in a clay basin, which citizens could access. Wellheads capped these cisterns. Often, wellheads were festooned with carvings of saints, family crests, inscriptions, or other images important to Venetians; carvings of saints usually faced the nearest church. The decorative characteristics of wellheads ranged through the Carolingian, Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque eras.

Photo: Nino Barbieri
Wellheads exemplified the city’s culture and its love for art, as well as functioning as a barrier between the important water reservoir and sources of possible contamination. Wellheads functioned as protection for the water source by preventing animals from falling in and keeping floodwaters from contaminating the drinking water. It was also common to have a small hollowed-out bowl near the base of the wellhead, which was kept full for animals to drink.

As the city grew, so did the number of wellheads. They were typically located in the center of campi, and were always a place for socializing and interacting with neighbors. Photographs dating to as late as the nineteenth century show women washing clothes on the steps of wellheads, children playing nearby, and men hauling up the water. With the completion of an aqueduct from the mainland in the late 1800s, wells lost their function and were quickly abandoned.

Photo: Renato Canciani
The FAIMARATHON will start at the Archivio di Stato at the Frari, wind its way through San Polo, Santa Croce, Cannaregio and finish at San Francesco della Vigna in Castello, visiting 35 wellheads along the way. All participants will be given a kit which includes a backpack, a bib, the itinerary, a postcard to mark the stages completed, a free ticket to one of the FAI landmarks and a sticker in support of the campaign Ricordati di salvare l'Italia or "Remember to Save Italy." All those who complete the course will receive an orange scarf, a symbol of commitment to the cultural heritage of Italy and support of the activities of the Foundation. In addition, the FAI delegation of Venice has also planned a surprise!

Sunday, October 21, 2012
10:00 AM
Cloisters of the State Archives
Campo dei Frari
San Polo 3002


Day of the event from 10:00AM to 11:00AM
Prior to the event at Olivetti Store, Piazza San Marco 101, Procuratie Vecchie
Online at:

Adults: minimum contribution of 6 euro, 5 euro for FAI members
Couples and families: minimum contribution of 10 euro; 8 euro for FAI members
Anyone who joins FAI or renews their membership may participate for free

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In Memory of Sidney H. Stires

On another note, my fairy-godfather, Sid Stires, passed away beautifully in his sleep on October 4, 2012 here in Venice soon after he had arrived from the States. He was a musical man, and he died a musical death in the musical city where he wanted to die. Rest in Peace with the Angels, Sid. Click to read the New York Times obituary.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. If you are in Venice on Sunday, October 21, 2012, you are in for a treat. The Venetian chapter of FAI will take part in a national cultural marathon, "the only marathon that you run with your eyes."