“The excellent water of the Vivo river, which combines all the good hygienic qualities with a mild temperature and great abundance,
authorizes the city that will be fed by it to be lucky” SIRO GRIMALDI, 1903
The history of the “Water Village”
The lack of natural water resources, since the XII Century pushed the Municipality of Siena to carry out major works
to find sufficient water for the needs of citizens.
This primary asset in Siena has always been in short supply and the little water that arrived in the wells mostly from the spoils of Fonte Gaia and Fontebranda was unhealthy, making the hygienic and sanitary condition of the urban population disastrous. Due to the infiltration of sewage from cesspools, typhoid had become an endemic disease and periodically sowed death, especially in neighborhoods where little more than a trickle of water arrived to be exploited for all daily uses. The Ermicciolo spring, which springs on the north side of Mount Amiata near the village of Vivo d’Orcia at just over 1000 meters above sea level, was indicated for the first time as the only one capable of solving the supply problem of Siena in 1890.
Scientific analyzes were then carried out on the waters of Vivo by comparing them with those that gushed through the Fontebranda and Fonte Gaia “bottini” to evaluate the most suitable. Negative reviews on the quality of the latter had often been repeated by scientists but it turned out that, due to the poor depth of the tunnels and the permeability of the surrounding terrain, “both Fontebranda water and Fonte Gaia water do not correspond to the requirements that hygiene requires for drinking water, healthy and pure”. On the contrary, the samples taken at the sources of Vivo “in flame-welded glass tubes” and subjected to “4 gelatin culture tests in Esmarch tubes”, were perfectly sterile and absolutely free of microorganisms, abundant water and best quality.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the Commission agreed that in order to solve Siena’s water problems, the city had to be guaranteed at least 40 liters of water per second, and that only the sources of Monte Amiata had an adequate flow rate. In particular, the most suitable was that of the Vivo, of very good quality thanks to the best altitude conditions and location in a sparsely inhabited territory. While all these investigations were taking place, the Municipality decided to break the delay and, on 14 September 1895, signed a compromise with the Cervini Counts, owners of the land where the Ermicciolo spring gushed, making sure not to economically damage the activities located along the steep course of the Vivo stream which had been using the driving force of water for some time: the Battistini and Depratti sawmills, the Ferriera Franchi (which was actually a carpentry shop), the Molino di Campiglia where corn and chestnuts were milled, a grain mill and the mill of Seggiano. In May 1903, two further analyzes were carried out to accurately document the qualities of the live water, which attested that “the water is chemically pure and offers the most enviable requirements for excellent drinking water. […] The excellent water, which combines all the good hygienic qualities with a mild temperature and great abundance, authorizes us to consider the city that will be fed with it as lucky”.
In 1908 the Municipality of Siena finally began the construction of the Vivo aqueduct, allowing the Sienese to finally have at home the pure and abundant water indispensable for a dignified life, realizing the dream of not drinking it anymore from the spoils and wells, scarce and increasingly polluted. Indeed, the times initially foreseen were not respected, but it is clear that the unexpected obstacles were many, even for the modest equipment with which the workers worked. They used clubs and picks to dig, small winches to lay heavy pipes, lead to make injunctions. With these few tools, over 62 km of pipes, leak-proof joints, bridges in which high-pressure pipes run, trying to shape wooded hills, landslide territories, rivers, villages and very steep slopes have been built. On May 15, 1914, at the end of a journey of sixty kilometers, the first water from the source of Vivo d’Orcia reaches the San Marco gate of Siena and over time the typhus will gradually begin to disappear and mortality will decrease.
Today, the water distribution network serving the Municipality of Siena and vast neighboring territories of the neighboring Municipalities, managed by Acquedotto del Fiora SpA, is powered by the Vivo and Luco aqueducts, built over the past century by the Sienese municipal administration .
The sources of supply of the Vivo aqueduct, in addition to the Ermicciolo source in the municipality of Castiglione d’Orcia, currently consist of the Ente springs, in the municipality of Arcidosso, and Burlana, in the municipality of Seggiano, collected in the 1950s, which they allowed to increase the water resource no longer sufficient to satisfy the growing needs of the city and the territory, once served only by the sweet and unmistakable “Water of Vivo”.