Not a Drop to Drink
|Venice is famous for its canals, but drinkable water is brought in from the mountains.|
How Waterlogged Venice Quenched Its Thirst
By Rick Steves
Venice, while surrounded by water, had no natural source of drinking water. For centuries water was collected dangerously and with much effort from the mainland.
In the 9th century, locals devised a way to collect rain water using town squares as catchment systems. Clay tubs were constructed under each square with a sand filtering system. Channels directed water to a cistern at the center. Squares were paved at a slight slant so rain water would drain through funnels into the tub, which served as the neighborhood "well."
With a safe local source of drinking water, Venice's population grew. Thousands of these cistern systems provided lagoon communities with drinking water right up until 1886 when an aquaduct was opened, bringing water in from nearby mountains.
The old clay tubs have rotted out. Today, at high tide, the floods show first on these grates, which mark the low point of each town square.