Water has always been an essential element for establishing and maintaining cities, not only for consumption, but as transportation and as a source of power.
Say “canals” and “Italy,” and everyone rightly thinks of Venice. Not far from Venice, though, is another city threaded by canals that give it a distinctive character. Unlike Venice, it’s on the mainland: Treviso.
Treviso is an ancient city, predating the Romans, although it became a Roman town, and continued under a succession of other rulers, including Byzantium; the Lombards and, in the 14th Century, Venice itself; then France and Austria. Its aspect is still entirely Italian. It’s an easy hour’s train ride from Venice, and not much farther from Vicenza, Padua or Verona, and worth a look on your second or third trip to Italy, once you’ve sampled Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan.
Treviso doesn’t depend entirely on its canals, as does Venice. There are streets and highways and vehicular traffic. The canals, though, have been central to Treviso’s history, and they were all navigable, providing an important means of transportation, linking the city by water to Venice and the Adriatic. There’s still a fish market on an island in the middle of one of the largest canals, dating from early times, when fresh catch from Venice arrived daily.
Unlike the Venetian canals, Treviso’s have flowing water, fed by local streams headed for the nearby Sile River, and were an important source of power. Treviso was a mill town, and there are still numerous mills among the city’s buildings, some still sporting their watercourses and mill wheels, even if they’re not actively working.
At the center of the following photo is a former mill. You can see the canal flows directly under the building.
Here’s the opposite side of the building, with The Counselor standing in front of the restaurant that occupies part of that building, where we ate lunch.
Flowing water also provided some more basic services than milling, including laundry.
We’ll return to look at some other aspects of Treviso in the next post.
There are many cities around the world with canals. Other than Venice, do you have a favorite canal city ? Leave a comment.
© Brad Nixon 2016. Some photos © M. Vincent, all rights reserved, used by kind permission.