ROCK QUARRIES IN THE EUGANEI HILLS
Placed on the amphibious land of the lagoon, Venice drew since its origin from the Mainland resources. Leaving out the conifer woods and the oak plain scrubs, which have been felled to "feed the insatiable" Arsenal, it is important to remember the innumerable poles used for the foundations, the lime of the cement binder, the clay for kilns, the white stone of Rovigno for the architectural ornaments, but above all the Euganean trachyte, the "masegna" or living stone, as memories and documents often remind.
Extracted since antiquity, as proved by the pre-Roman funerary steles of the Archaeological National Museum of Este, the volcanic rock turned out to be the best and the most suitable for the basements of several buildings and, from the XV century, the most appropriate to embank, along the coasts of Sottomarina and Pellestrina, the large wave of the Adriatic Sea. The quarry par excellence was above all the hill of Lispida, already exploited at the end of the Middle Age: it was not a case that the fathers of the monastery of Santa Maria were dispossessed of their properties by the government of La Serenissima, mostly interested to a large exploitation of the "priare". Not too far from Lispida, the low hills of Archino and Pignaro were attacked by a crowd of hungry quarriers, often armed with only a pick.
From the Canal of the Piere, the trachyte was taken on board and sent to Rivella, at the Acquanera. Here, it was transhipped on the "burci", larger ships, and directed to the lagoon landing. They went back and forth for centuries, except when, occasionally, extraordinary events occurred, such as for example floods, or in case of lack of means of transport. During the XVIII century the trachyte has been more and more used to pave "calli" and fields, small squares and shores of the lagoon city, such as San Marco square and Riva of the Schiavoni. It was an exploitation that, during the XIX century, had relevant dimensions with disastrous effects for the slopes.
The hills which surrounded Monselice changed their shape and their outline, in particular the Hill of the Rocca and the southern side of Mount Ricco. Among the several owners of those quarries we cannot forget to mention the Cini family – just that related to the San Giorgio Island that gives its name to the Foundation – which made its fortune extracting and trading with trachyte. Other quarriers shipped the euganean rock along the shores of the Zattere and of the Fondamenta Nuove: Girardi, Corinaldi, Pamio, Bonetti, Lazzaro, Trevisan and Dalla Francesca, all scattered with their operations centres along the Euganean Riviera of the Battaglia canal.
The Venice "calli" between the XVIII and the XIX century were almost entirely paved with the "selesi" (flints), the quadrangular trachytic rocks with the base in form of reversed pyramid, a shape which has been improved during the centuries in order to better suit to the soil and sand laying surfaces.
During the rainy days, those who walk around the lagoon city – as well as in Chioggia and in the smaller islands of Murano, Burano, etc. – walk without slipping: the "masegna" has in fact the peculiarity of being permeable and assuring a perfect grip to the soles shoes. "Burci" and barges, wheelbarrows and arms, hard work and sweat have given life to the age of the euganean trachyte, allowing the city of Venice to improve the city road system.