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A Strange
Custom

This webpage reproduces part of

Curiosità storiche trevane

by
Tommaso Valenti

Published by F. Campitelli,
Foligno, 1922

The Italian text is in the public domain;
this translation is © William P. Thayer 2016.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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The Feast
of St. Emiliano

 p49  The Lake

[ from La Torre di Trevi, Year I No. 15, July 10, 1898 ]

That's what they called it, but the name was too sonorous — and not suitable either, since the body of water that formerly occupied the present site of the Piazza Garibaldi was not a true lake, but rather a pond formed by the inflow and pooling of runoff water from the nearby mountains, and later by the runoff also from the fountain that once stood near the center of the Piazza.

From the records I have found, I have been able to determine that the surface area of said Lake was about 1600 square meters, or just about that of our Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Durastante Natalucci also says that the Lake was "right full deep."a

Our forebears carefully preserved this ancient Lake, not only because it was used for washing  p50 clothes and watering cattle, but especially because it made it harder for enemies, whoever they might be, to make any assault on the gate or the walls of the City from this side, which was the most accessible then and remains so now, since it abuts on the mountain: unlike the rest of the City, it is not defended by the steep slope of the hill on which Trevi is built.

Several times over the centuries therefore, those who were in charge of our town saw to the regulation and preservation of the Lake.

We thus find a Council resolution of Jan. 19, 1359 in which it was decided that the Lake was to be dredged by the districts of Sant' Emiliano and Matigge, and that its banks were to be fortified by a palisade of stakes seven feet high and one foot wide, to be provided by the men of the Piano neighborhood, each man being required to bring two planks.

Later, however, it became evident that the Lake needed ongoing care and maintenance, and to prevent the source of the water from depositing too much silt in it, it was decided on June 24, 1426 to have it scoured out once a week, the contract being given to one Granuccio di Biagio.

In 1562, on August 18 to be precise,  p51 the Council decided that the Lake should be dredged at the expense of all the inhabitants of Trevi, imposing a tax of two baiocchi per household on those who did not send workers for the job. During the week the dredging was done by laborers or peasants; on Sunday, on the other hand, by the craftsmen of the town, especially the ciabattini and the bigonzari — for so the cobblers and the coopers were termed in olden times. But with the passing of a more turbulent age having passed away and with it the need to provide for the defense of the City, the inhabitants of Trevi began to realize that that pool of standing water at the gates of the city was more of a nuisance than anything else, not to mention that during the summer the Lake gave off an odor that was anything but pleasant, despite the care taken of it. And so in 1707 a competent person was charged with studying the reorganization of the public water supply and the management of the Lake. Since that water was no longer needed for washing, the expert of the time proposed to the City that the Lake be eliminated by filling it in, and that two new basins be built for washing: they are the very ones that still serve this purpose today. And so the Lake that had once had the noble task of defending the city from enemy attacks was first reduced to the humble rôle of a watering hole, then that of a wash house, and finally, having become a source of disease,  p52 was condemned to disappear. Its memory survives only in the name of the Porta del Lago, one of the main entrances of our city, on the east. But this gate was demolished, along with the remaining contiguous walls, in 1910.


Thayer's Note:

a Durastante Natalucci, Historia universale . . ., pp62‑63 of the manuscript (in Carlo Zenobi's printed edition, p57).

In the piazza del Lago another fountain, placed against a handsome backdrop, from which the water flows thru three spouts; which was rebuilt and improved in 1599 so as to water cattle (Canc. com. in rif. d. an., f.75 et 1600, f.105 et lib. camerariat. 1599 et 1739), the stone balls, however, being taken from the armory (Eadem canc. in inv. bon. com., f.114). This was the location of the earlier fountain (Ex rif. 1426, f.3) the runoff of which fed the lake that had existed behind it, slightly smaller than the piazza of Trevi and right full deep: not so much for the convenience p63of its water supply as to provide greater security and protection of the gate and the defensive walls, which were surrounded by the water and the palisade.


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