The ancient washhouses

The Ancient Washhouse of Verezzi
The Ancient Washhouse of Verezzi

A hundred years ago, there was a place to talk, exchange information, argue and spread the news, and it was essentially just women. The soundtrack was noisy, accompanied by deaf thumps and continuous rinsing, maybe even a hint of singing, sometimes by expletives: it was the public washhouse.

There are still many examples of these washtubs in our villages, but by now they are lifeless, silent structures, often lacking even the presence of water.

The activity carried out by the frequenters was heavy, tiring and ungrateful; they suffered the cold, the humidity caused pain and the weight of wet clothes was considerable. The soap and the brush were the only aids, there were no protective gloves and in the long run the hands cracked and deformed.

 

But the meeting at the washhouse also had some small positive side for the women and the girls who went there: there were no men around and you could talk freely among women. 

The Washhouse of Finalborgo
The Washhouse of Finalborgo

This meant that the words that were exchanged could range from gossip to the request for advice, from malice about some absentee to information about the management of some small intimate problem. And people talked, laughed, cried, cursed, sometimes sang.

One of the most beautiful wash-houses is certainly the one in Finalborgo, beyond Porta Romana: covered, large, well-lit, with a double row of adjoining tubs where the water flows freely, brought by a special channel and leaves with a well designed collection system, dates back to 1918.

Another beautiful wash-house is located in Verezzi: in the open air in a well sheltered and shaded corner until not many years ago by a large tree, it shows the ingenuity of the builder in being able to supply water to the village because it is equipped with a manual pump still working. Sometimes the wash-houses were located directly by a spring or along a "bealera" (water canal system) as in the case of the one in Calice Ligure.  

                      (Taken from "I Lavatoi" by Giovanna Fechino on n°18 of "Il Quadrifoglio")