THE WASH-HOUSE OF VIA RE (RE’S STREET)
The presence of public wash-houses characterizes up till now all the old town centres, in fact the running water in the houses was accessible to everybody only in the postwar period; this makes us realize the need for collective places, where water could be used for daily needs.
In this connection it is interesting to note the dislocation of numerous fountains, a good twentythree, which supplied with water the whole village for the housing activities. For this reason, the fountains were meeting places especially among women and children, who went to fill up the buckets of water.
Some fountains were also used to wash clothes, such as the ones with a rectangular basin, where it was possible to lean the inclined scrubbing board where the dirty clothes were shaked.
On the contrary, in the houses the clothes were washed in a tub with modest sizes, called “huì”, where was leant an inclined scrubbing board, which had a cavity for supporting the soap in its upper right corner.
In Bienno the real public wash-houses were only three and they were directly built on the Vaso Ré (the Rè Duct).
They are of two types: the wash-house on the Vaso Rè (the Rè Duct) in the open air and the one on the Vaso Rè (the Rè Duct) covered.
Those outside are made up of concrete and have been built at the beginning of the twentieth century when it was introduced the use of this material for the maintenance of the Vaso Ré (the Rè Duct).
The historical wash-house is the one you find in Via Re (Re’s Street), made up of large inclined flag stones, that water of the duct lap on and in this point the duct forms a tank.
The wash-house has been created under the high doorway of a house built close to Via Re (Re’s Street), which historically was the road that connected Bienno with Prestine and the mountains.
A step between the two pillars of the doorway allows you to go down to wash-house, that is situated below the street level; it takes entirely up the stretch between the two pillars with the three large granitic stones that have also three quadrangular cavities, where the soap were supported.
The wash-house overlooked a tank with its respective floodway in order to allow the continuous change of water, which then flowed back in the Vaso Rè (the Rè Duct). On the right side of the basin is still visible a guillotine sluice gate that allows water to flow in order to clean the inner sides of the tank. This wash-house, being covered, allowed people to use it even during the rainy days, for this reason it was very frequented by washerwomen from Bienno.
The protective railings have been put in the eighties of the twentieth century. The work of these women was particularly difficult, because their hands were constantly in contact with very cold water. In remembrance of all them we spare our thought for the sisters Margaret and Victoria, who used this historical wash-house until the early nineties.