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THE POLESINE IN 20TH CENTURY

Fratta_Villa_MatteottiAfter the harsh parentheses of World War I and the political struggles that also affect the Polesine, homeland of Giacomo Matteotti, this intensity of life is limited to the poetic and theatrical sphere. It's the time of Marine Marin, Gino Piva, Eugenio Ferdinand Palmieri and Livio Rizzi, while Pio Mazzucchi rediscovers and illustrates the language, traditions, proverbs and popular culture of the Polesine.

The chronicles of the last half of the century, record the dramatic years of World War II with the slow but decisive awakening of many against the methods and actions of fascism.

One to remember is the extraordinary figure of Giacomo Matteotti, born in Fratta Polesine in 1885.

In the postwar period, economic recovery will be severely put to the test in 1951 by the flooding of the Po which submerged entire towns from Occhiobello to the sea. The intervention of the Government, the tenacity and ability to recover and pull through, typical of the people of the Polesine, enabled the complete reconstruction or repair of houses, public buildings and roads in just a few years.
However, a few years later, mainly due to economic laws rather than environmental problems, the exodus of the Polesine resumed, towards the industrial areas of Piedmont and Lombardy. This emigration fortunately eased off in the 1970s also in relation to the coordinated commitment of local authorities and economic bodies towards the resurgence of employment and production.
The look of cities and towns over the past few decades has changed; new residential districts have arisen that have enabled many families to build decent homes following economic criteria. In the towns bordering on the Po all the buildings located in the flood plains of the river have been demolished with social, urban planning and human repercussions. In particular, among young people, a renewed demand for culture has arisen which has favoured the emergence in the town and in the territory, of several associations and institutions to promote art, archaeology and local history.
There are over 40 working libraries and the joint efforts of the Provincial administration and the Accademia dei Concordi enable the organization of public reading events and the promotion of the considerable heritage of culture and art preserved in Polesine.


Matteotti Giacomo Matteotti
Giacomo Matteotti was born in Fratta Polesine 22 May 1885, and was elected Deputy in 1919. He strongly accused the methods of the Fascist Government and in his memorable speech of May 30 1924 to parliament, he showed much strength and courage in denouncing electoral fraud and the violence and assassinations perpetrated by the black shirts during the elections of 1924. On 10 June 1924 while leaving home on his way to Parliament, he was kidnapped by a fascist squadron on the Lungotevere Arnaldo from Brescia and killed. His body was found on August 16th in the Quartarella Wood, North of Rome.
 

Ca' VendraminReclamation – The dewatering pump of Cà Vendramin
The history of the Cà Vendramin dewatering pump deserves particular attention. Located at Taglio di Po, it was built between 1900 and 1905 by the "Drainage Consortium of the island of Ariano", in order to reclaim the island, which had been subject, in previous centuries, to frequent floods. Despite attempts made by the population to regulate the waters and defend their lands, swamps and marshes continued to prevail in a very precarious environment where malaria fever, typhoid and pellagra were common.

When the first drainage works commenced thanks to the new dewatering pump, a new phase began for this territory and indeed, the whole Po Delta, with territorial transformations that produced positive effects on the economy and on social and cultural growth.
A vast network of canals was built to channel drainage water to the new Ca ' Vendramin dewatering plant, which thanks to its steam - driven pump lifting groups, unloaded the waters in an embanked channel; the waters then finished their course at the mouth of the Po di Goro.

The realization of the Ca ' Vendramin dewatering plant was an event which crossed local borders.
Many descriptions of the work and of the results obtained were reported in the newspapers of the time along with the visits of institutional representatives and technicians from various parts of Italy and Europe. The newspapers of that time also proudly reported the visit of Dutch engineers, masters in hydraulic engineering, proof of the international echo of an advanced work of technological engineering.
In short, Ca ' Vendramin became not only the heart of the reclamation of a territory to be transformed, made fertile, populated, and developed socially and economically, but also a reference point for many Italian and foreign territories to be reclaimed. The reclamation of the island of Ariano operated by the Ca ' Vendramin dewatering plant became famous throughout the country, participating in exhibitions and conventions, collecting awards and recognition for the conformity of its results to the project which had been laid out and for the great value of the objectives achieved.

The activity of the plant means finally ensuring security to the territory: during rainfall, 12 machine operators are employed at the 10 steam boilers and the 4 pumps that raise 11,000 litres of water per second and empty it into the Veneto Emissary channel that in turn, carries it out to sea near the mouth of the Po di Goro.
During the integral reclamation period from the1920s to 1930s, which involves both the island of Ariano and the whole of the Po Delta, it is the Consortium which operates a complete transformation of the district, not only because it regulates the waters for drainage and irrigation (which becomes an essential agricultural practice for well drained soil) but also because it carries out land improvement, builds rural houses and relative outbuildings (stables, storerooms) as well as social buildings, schools, roads and aqueducts.
Is not only the vital centre of the hydraulic system, but a symbol of social and economical redemption, to which the population looks as a certainty for their future.
The Ca ' Vendramin dewatering plant survived changing methods of cultivation and the vicissitudes of war undamaged. Subsequently, in the 1950s, it encountered an unexpected gradual but progressive and shocking territorial phenomenon: subsidence, a consequence of the extraction of methane-producing water from the subsoil.
The plant ceased working in the 1960s and in the 1990s was transformed into a Museum of Reclamation.
Ca ' Vendramin is not only a monument to reclamation, a testament to the drainage work accomplished in the island of Ariano, but above all a point of reference, a symbol of the Delta and more generally of the Polesine. It is a symbol which “condenses” the history of the territory characterized by floods and defense of the land and population from the Po, of the hard work of men to tear the land away from the waters and make it habitable and arable. It is the product of hard toil and human will, in which one may search for the cultural and social identity of the people of the lower Polesine.
(Source: Sistema Museale Provinciale - www.smppolesine.it)