The Rio Elba Public Washhouse, located in the part below the town, near the source of the Canali, from which it draws water, is enclosed in a large structure with a trussed ceiling and large windows. Over time, the wash house has undergone various transformations, while remaining in the same area.
In this place, women gathered to socialize while washing clothes, and miners stopped for refreshment before returning home.
Today the public wash house of Rio Elba is a destination for visitors who stop to admire the building and the source.
History of the Rio Elba wash house
The ancient wash house of Rio Elba was located inside the nearby building, where today there is the water pumping station. In 1873, given the significant increase in the population, the Municipality bought land to enlarge the wash house. The construction of a new washhouse , due to the need to improve and better distribute the drinking water with the arrangement of the whole area of the Canals, began in 1905. The construction of the washhouse was intended to remove the causes of pollution of the source , so it was equipped with eighteen self-draining pans instead of a single tank. The work ended only in 1911 when it finally came into operation with the purchase of the 18 intermittent jet fountains. All the works done on the public washroom stemmed from the need to safeguard public hygiene.
The passage of the wash house from Pozzetti to large basins
The Rio Elba wash house remained with separate tubs, called “wells”, until the 1960s, when it was reduced to just two large tubs: the first higher for rinsing, the second for washing. Now there were no longer the hygienic concerns of the past and moreover it was attended less and less assiduously. The wells, once frequented by local women, who found themselves socializing and then return to their homes carrying the basin full of wet cloths on their heads, or used by miners, who washed themselves before entering the village, still retain today the echo of that past life.
How to reach the Washhouse
The wash house is located in the lower part of the town, on the road that reaches Rio Elba, coming from the Cavo (La Parata).