It’s incredible to think how Modena in the past was a city of waterways, like a little Venice!
A few time ago I made great tour following the route of the waterways that once flowed into the city.
I learned a lot of things that I want to tell you 🙂
If you think about the names of some streets in the city, you can easily guess the connection that they have with its “water culture”: Canal Chiaro, Canal Grande, Corso Duomo but also Redecocca (which takes its name from Rio de Coca) or Canaletto are all examples of how the fluvial nature of the city has influenced the names of the places.
All the waterways of the city (both of murky water, which came from the rivers Secchia and Panaro, and those of spring waters) came together in “Piazza Roma”, in the Naviglio canal, the “water house “, which arrived to the Po river. In this strategic point, the Este Dukes decided, in the 1200s, to build their fortress, the Ducal Palace, as city garrison (it was a good choice, wasn’t it? ; )).
If you are now in front of the splendid Ducal Palace and you look on your left, you will see the old Fountain of Abisso, once located at the base of the tower of the palace. From this fountain came out pure and crystalline spring water that the Duke used for his life at court. The fountain takes its name from the Abisso Canal, which used to flow through the city coming from Via Saragozza and joined the “Canale della Cerca” (so named because its route followed the “circle ” of the city walls), under the Ducal Palace.
Continuing in that direction, take Via delle Belle Arti to the intersection with Via della Cerca, turn left in Via Ganaceto and arrive to the legendary “Osteria da Ermes”. Once past the inn, turn left again in via Castelmaraldo reaching Piazza della Pomposa. Before continuing, raise your eyes and notice that, on the wall of the building located in the corner, there is a pulley that was used to bring the supply directly inside the houses from the boats. I tell you the truth, before this tour I hadn’t never noticed this pulley! 😉
Once you arrive in the beautiful Piazza della Pomposa, stop at the fountain that you find along the wall of the church. Known as “Fonticolo dell’Oste” (the host’s fountain), this fountain is famous for a nice legend that has Telesforo Fini as protagonist – just that same Fini, who made Modena famous in the world for the excellence of its cuisine. Legend has it that people of Modena, perhaps a little bit envious of his success, began to accuse him to add water to his Lambrusco wine. True or not, the exuberant Telesforo made to affix a sign on the fountain in which you can read:
“A gift from Telesforo Fini, Modenese shopkeeper, to his city for the excessive water that has put into the wine”.
Funny, isn’t it ?! 😉
Now, take Via Taglio and turn right in Via Nazario Sauro until you reach Via Carteria. Close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine how this area could be at the time of the waterways. Here, there were different mills used by paper factories. Continuing, you will arrive in front of the San Barnaba’s church and then, turning left, in Largo San Giacomo, where you will find a beautiful bronze fountain, one of the many made by the sculptor Giuseppe Graziosi, such as the the “San Francesco” ones, in front of the church of San Francesco, and the fountain “of the girl with a basket of fruit” in Albinelli market. The fountains in the city are many: it could not be different given the deep bond of Modena with water 🙂
Between 1.400e and 1.500 most of the canals were covered by the owners who lived in front of them. The “Naviglio” remained in operation until the mid of ‘800s and until 1930 you could still find some waterways in town! The aqueduct was inaugurated in 1938 and on that occasion was realized by Graziosi the “Fountain of the two rivers”, probably the most beautiful and meaningful fountain in the city, located in Largo Garibaldi, that represents the 2 rivers, Secchia, the female figure, and Panaro, the male figure.
Sometimes be a tourist in your own city is very funny! Seeing new and unusual points of view it is important to maintain the connection with the origins, that we should never lost 🙂