The Chiusa of Casalecchio: a game of strenght between man and nature

  • Chiusa of casalecchio by Stefano Piana via Wikicommons in CC

The following story is a narration that begins back in time and binds man to nature 'till the present days, in a game of strength and skill, within a land that's the cradle of history for many centuries...


Few steps away from Bologna lies the "Chiusa of Casalecchio" [The lock of Reno river in Casalecchio], one of the oldest works of hydraulic operation in the world, the use of which has not stopped during years, but still proceeds in perpetual motion, uninterrupted, just as the flow of time.

Let's start from the beginning:
In ancient times the dyke had a dual function, both for the regulation of whimsical waters of the Reno river, which often alternated floods and dry period, and as a hydraulic mechanism for imposing the waterway to the uses of the city. In fact this barrier, by diverting the river, provided to the urban and rural areas, an inexhaustible source of energy, and enough water for the irrigation of fields which consequently increased the luck of agriculture in the surrounding green areas of Bologna.

The flow rate of the Reno in the city was diverted by a canal along the way which, passing through ports and channels, was exploited in its power to activate hydraulic winches of city's factories.
Surrounded by canals, of which traces still remain picturesque peeking in the historical center, the medieval Bologna looked like a little Venice sustained and enriched by the waters of the river. Not only that, think that back in 1800 people were used to arrive in the city by water, since the Reno was still navigable, reaching the walls of Bologna.

Back in the Middle Ages we can capture the first evidence on the implementation of the Chiusa, dated around the year 1000.
The city was supplied by streams but the trade and navigation demanded a steady flow for the appropriate development and to allow the activation of the heavy wheels of the city's mills. Hence the idea, ambitious and studied in details, to exploit the waters of the river, creating a diversion that became the lock of Casalecchio.
Since its inception, set around the fourteenth century, many renovations and upgrades have been made ​​on this incredible work of engineering, in order to preserve intact its valuable and efficient use, including the memorable involvement of Jacopo Barozzi, called "il Vignola" at the end of the sixteenth century, who made even more impressive the majesty of the Chiusa.
The dialogue between the engineering genius and the unstoppable power of the natural environment has always been between a fight and a dance in which the spark of man has tried to tame the power of nature and at the same time, the environment has put itself at the service of the community, sometimes unwillingly (in fact many repairs have been done due to large fractures) making it flourish.

The Chiusa of Casalecchio is configured as a bridge, a link between the urban and the rural reality, the countryside that embraces the city, living in a millennial and fascinating cohabitation, as it is the large natural green surrounding in which it is located.
The citizens are not only pleased by a sense of historical or cultural pride, but usually enjoy it, making out of the Chiusa a place to relax in the countryside, to swim in the Reno, or simply to take sun-bath. As the words of Stendhal remind to us "I go almost every morning in Casalecchio, picturesque walk to the Reno Falls: is the Bois de Boulogne in Bologna" in the nineteenth century, it was a favorite spot for country walks, nowadays running tracks for athletes.

The Chiusa, symbol of motive power that has been allowing the city of Bologna and its plain to flourish, has taken on also a symbolic value of the same strength and importance, becoming UNESCO heritage as a symbol of a culture of peace in favor of young people. A program, the "Heritage Messengers of a Culture of Peace" established by UNESCO in 2000 in order to identify the monuments and natural sites with value of solidarity. In this perspective, the mechanics of the Chiusa is the perfect example of unity and collaboration among the citizens of Bologna, engaged in the construction and maintenance of the great work.
With more than 7,000 signatures of citizens, administrators, parliamentarians and collected more than 20 applications from municipalities and institutions in support of the campaign for the recognition, achieved in 2011.
Water is a source of peace, of life, and the Chiusa is its pillar, sharing a common good of considerable importance.




Beatrice Belletti
Beatrice Belletti

Words and art lover, in all its shapes, addicted to travel, sport and shoes, i'm constantly seeking beauty and emotion

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