Silis. Here silet. The Sile, or the “river of silence”. That it is a very particular river, in fact unique in Italy, is confirmed by many peculiarities: it is a resurgence river, in fact it does not originate from a mountain range or even simply hilly but from springs of water that rise from the depth of the land in the middle of the plain; it does not change in flow, whether summer or winter the level of its waters is always constant; the sources that originate it are so excellent that some of the most popular brands of Italian mineral water draw their famous bottled water from these layers. Moreover, in a few kilometers the course becomes so wonderfully swollen that it becomes navigable even for large boats, today as it has been for millennia.
The Sile “was born”, but it would be better to say “emerges in a thousand springs” (here called “fontanassi”) in the territory of Casacorba, in the countryside between the provinces of Treviso and Padua, and flows into the Lagoon, in Portegrandi, from artificially cut branches . In all there are 95 kilometers of path on a difference in height that does not exceed, from the sources to the mouth, the 30 meters, the height of one of the many bell towers of the villages that surround it and which, since the first human settlements, from its waters have found lymph and protection.
First of all the city of Treviso, a historic “city of water” still crossed today by dozens of canals which have their fulcrum in the blue of the Sile.
For some years now the territory that hosts this marvel has become a Regional Park, thus safeguarding the river from the effects of anthropization and industrialization that have made Veneto a single, immense “widespread city”.
Since then, with local, regional and community investments, imported works of safeguard and enhancement have been carried out, focusing on respect for nature, on the restoration of the original characteristics of the watercourse and of the territory, making it the pivot of routes and proposals that, today , make this park (152 hectares in 11 municipalities and three provinces, www.parks.it/parco.fiume.sile/) one of the most popular destinations on the Venetian mainland.
Of course, those who want can approach the Sile by car (finding a network of parking lots from which it is easy to reach the river) but it is certain that for a real discovery it is advisable to choose less invasive means, from the classic “horse of St. Francis”, or the means of the oldest locomotion, the feet, to bicycles (rentable on site), to the horse, intended as a quadruped (even horseback excursions can be managed on site).
Or by choosing the most natural way, that is the waterway, therefore renting canoes, kayaks and house boats, unless you want to be led in which case, in addition to all the aforementioned boats (rentable along the entire route, with or without companion or conductor), there is also the most classic of boats available, the “pantana”, a flat-bottomed wooden boat driven not by oars but by a pole to be driven into the bed of the ponds. For those who love numerous company, the route from Casale sul Sile to the Island of San Francesco nel Deserto in the Lagoon can also be booked with the large motor boats which, closed after closed, descend and go up the river.
All around, places where modernization has not affected the magic. Starting from the Porta del Sile through which you enter that unicum which is the area of the resurgences, with the “fontanassi”, the “closed fields” of Benedictine origin, the ancient and new strips of plain forest, orchids and other rare spontaneous species and a long walkway path that allows you to visit a terrain where you literally walk over the water.
A place of legends, this one, as old as man, where witches and other characters meet under huge oaks, where the old men point to the seething fountain “della coa longa” that sucked the proud queen up to the bowels of the earth or remember that on certain nights the bells of a village sunk in the swamp still ring.
After admiring magnificent villas in the surrounding area such as Villa Corner della Regina, or the Palladian residences of the Emo and Cornaro, and strolling under the arcades of the famous Rotonda di Badoere, a few kilometers further downstream you arrive at the Cervara Oasis, a humid area between the most beautiful in Italy, with the fourteenth-century mill, the fish ponds, the casone and above all herons and other birds that have chosen this paradise on earth as their habitat (www.oasidicervara.it). The oasis is one of the hearts of the Park and its programs for schools, families and enthusiasts are exemplary.
Before entering the city, the Sile expands into large buckets of water created by the excavation of the gravel that has changed the environment and even its path over the centuries. Over time, nature has transformed these violence into places of great beauty, ideal for canoeists and birdwaching.
From the center of Treviso, on foot or by bicycle, it is relaxing to reach Casier and Casale sul Sile. The path to take is almost on the water, along the “Restera” or “Alzaia”, or the road that runs parallel to the river, once used for the transit of horses and oxen that dragged the barges loaded with goods against the current from the lagoon they reached Treviso. The evidence of this ancient activity is not lacking, starting from the port of Fiera, to the mills that lived on the river, to get to that magical, surreal place that is the “Burci Cemetery”, the body of water in which they were sunk, all together, the large wooden barges used for river transport that progress had made no longer necessary.
From here the Sile, between watchtowers, villas, ancient monasteries, quietly starts towards the Lagoon, crossing ancient Roman roads and settlements, large agricultural estates, in a singular “path of memory” where history, archeology and nature combine admirably. After touching the ancient site of Altino, passing through land of reclamation, the river reaches the North Lagoon of Venice, a humid area unique in the world for its ecological peculiarities as well as for the islands that anticipate the Serenissima city.
If it is true that appetite comes with walking, there is something to satisfy hunger and thirst. Here there is no shortage of trattorias with an ancient flavor, farmhouses, taverns where you can have a shot or taste river and sea fish (eels, the symbol of the Sile are inevitable), or the cheeses and vegetables that the water of the river makes unique, from the radicchio of Castelfranco and Treviso, asparagus from Badoere, all IGP products, and fruit wines. To offer emotions to the palate after filling the eyes with beauty.
For info: Sile River Regional Natural Park Authority