PARCO NATURALE DEL FIUME SILE

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Ancient trades on the banks of the Sile

The miller's art | The burci and river navigation | The resources of the marshes |

The Sile, Europe's longest resurgence river, boasts wetlands of great interest, together with traces of the life and age-old work of man. In symbiosis with the river itself, the main beneficiaries of its creative force have always been farmers, hunters and fishermen. The slow passage of the centuries along its banks has witnessed the handing down from generation to generation of ancient trades and crafts suggested by the river's proud progress and marked out by its rhythms and the possibilities it offers. The importance of the river in the economic and social life of the surrounding area remained largely unchanged until immediately after the Second World War. However, the rapid industrial development which began in the 1950s rapidly led to the Sile and its ancient trades being forgotten. Today, while some have definitively disappeared, others have survived thanks to modernisation and having paid the necessary toll to the new times with the introduction of variations imposed by progress. Boatmen, millers, washerwomen rinsing clothes in the crystal-clear waters, stable boys, barrow boys, comanderessi (tow supervisors), boatyard workers, master shipwrights, craftsmen making brooms, straw chair bottoms, creels and fishing nets and ferry men.
Trades and portraits of days gone by, now practically extinct, leaving the poets and painters in love with the Sile, source of artistic inspiration for their characters and books.

Until the first decades of last century, river fishing was one of the most widespread occupations along the Sile.
Local peasant farmers habitually fished the river, as did the millers who facilitated catching the fish by placing wooden structures or nets downstream of the mill gates. The fishermen caught "bisate" (eels), tench and pike, mainly using "bertovei" (cylindrical-conical net traps) or wicker creels, less commonly spears and trammels.
The characteristic riparian vegetation along the Sile has always attracted the people of the river to gather the marsh plants for use as forage and litter in the animal sheds, or as raw material for rural trades to make straw chair bottoms and brooms, cover flasks and produce mats and bags.  The need to move about in an environment dominated by water led to the development of navigation on modest flat-bottomed boats propelled by a pole known as pàntane). These craft were constructed by carpenters or peasants and used for hunting, fishing, gathering marsh plants, transporting modest quantities of grain to the mills and ferrying people and animals from one bank to another.