THE SAVUTO RIVER
The Savuto river, called "OCJNARUS" by the Greeks and "SABATUS" by the Romans,according to legend,derived its name from Sebasio, son of Cur, king of the Ausoni. This is the name given by the Greeks to the early inhabitants of southern Italy. The river originates from springs rich in clear, pure water "Testa del Savuto", in the vicinity of Spineto,municipality of Aprigliano, on the plateau of the Sila piccola, at 1200 meters above sea level. As it flows slowly downstream, it is joined by the waters of other minor rivers and tributaries until it flows into the basin of lake Savuto. The overflow is eventually rechannelled to its natural course and meanders through the Poverella depression. At a km downstream, leaves the plains and becomes more torrential until it flows into the Tyrrenian sea,after a 55 km journey,at Nocera Terinese [CZ].
Many towns of ancient origin were built on the banks of the river and are still very important custodians of traditions and culture and have developed commercial activities through agriculture. I will begin with the first town built near the Savuto, since having lived in its vicinity ,it has a special meaning for me.
PARENTI is the first town built on the left bank of the river on account of the many fresh water springs in the area. It is said to owe its beginnings to relatives of families from Carpanzano, another town on the left bank of the Savuto, a few km to the south. I Parenti [relatives of Carpanzanese origin] decided to settle on the left bank of the river, avoiding the flats of :Cutura", and thus be free of having to ferry people and goods across a river that could by fiercely turbulent.
In 1810, the town was entirely destroyed by the French, according to DE Rilliet's diaries, [Tournee in Calabria l852] ;A company of French soldiers of the 29th cavalry, making its way from Cosenza to Monteleone [today's Vibo Valentia], stopped north of Rogliano where they were met by a delegation from the small village of [li Parenti],a few miles up the mauntains. This delegation, headed by the mayor, sporting hats adorned with tricolor streams, offered the French soldiers the hospitality of their town and begged them to spend the night.
As the soldiers entered the village , they were received with jubilation and shouts of " Long live the brave French." They were feted and fed and honored with floral displays and demonstration of friendship. The French officers were entertained at a splendid reception in the town hall, while each soldier joined different families and were likewise entertained and fed. Unfortunately,all these demonstrations of affection were meant to masquerade a sinister plot for, at a prearranged signal fro town hall which meant that the officers had been killed, the people of the village slaughtered the soldiers in their sleep. One soldier managed to escape and informed general Manhes of the slaughter whereupon, the general rushed with troops to the scene and exacted a terrible revenge by burning down the town and massacring all the inhabitants.
Three other towns were built on the left and right bank of the river right up to its mouth. The waters of the river provided the natural source to power the many mills that were built: The famous mill of Compapepe, of zu Franciscu, and one located down river known as Trentino of the mill. They also provided irrigation for the many vegetable farms which are still in exhistence today.
The Savuto river was our sea !It provided a place for swimming and for bathing. Many communal picnics were held there under the shade of the river birches.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The Savuto basin is home to many species of flora and fauna that tend to vary as the river flows down stream to the sea; the silan pine is replaced by the fir,the beech by the chestnut,the poplar by the birch,the red oak by the white oak, the olive etc...In addition to large varieties of fruit trees, one finds many types of wild plants such as the southern heather, the fragrant juniper, the hawthorne, the carbezzole etc..In the intermediate areas, there are many vineyards which produce the well known black wine of Savuto. The fauna consists of : wolfs, deer,wildboar,fox,rabbits, wild cats,black squirrels, vipers,weasel,stone marten,hedgehog,door mause; the porcupine,otter and the marten have disappeared in the last 20 years.
The bird family include: the vulture of the lamb,[now extinct],the buzzard, the royal hawk,royal owl, the imperial crow, the hooded crow, peregrine falcon, night owl,barn owl, the jay, magpie, dove, woodpecker, hoopoe, parthridge,blackbird, etc..The abundance of pure,clean water,provided a natural habitat for all types of fresh water fish; Speckeled trout, eel, royal fish, mullet,large eel and crab.
Since it is very difficult to chronologically categorise the facts and legends dealing with the history of the Savuto, I will begin at the headwaters of the river and , from there, identify the most relevant areas while descending towards the sea.
SOURCE OF THE SAVUTO
The source of the Savuto,situated in an area frequented by hunting parties and groups of mauntain climbers, no longer exists today due to the excessive exploitation of its aquifers of the nearby mauntains. As a consequence, the fountain at the source of the Savuto dried up, disturbed by the channeling of its waters to irrigate the fields of St Eufemia. A gravel pit, operating near the spring, has , perhaps contributed to diminish the flow of the river.
The name " Spineto" [thorny one], is derived from the numerous thorny bushes and hedges which abound in the area. This spring, also named "the fountain of the thief",in years passed, was the scene of frequent ambushes by local bandits who extracted ransoms from the shepards who moved their flocks, every spring, from the Ionian sea to the Silan plateau. This activity lasted until the early days of 1900.. The shepards usually paid ransoms consisting of a young calf, the choisest sheep, a young lamb, and part of the provisions carried by the shepards.More than once, some bandits were shot and killed by resolute shepards defending their flock!
This very small lake, dammed in 1921-1923, has considerably reduced the original flow of the river, The waters of the lake are now regularly pumped into lake Ampollino for hydroelectric purposes and thence released into the Ionian sea. This represents the first of many ecological misfortunes suffered by the river Savuto!
One must visualize that,at one time, the river, now reduced to a small stream, had a running water volume of two meters in summer and of four meters in winter.and, when flooding, it would eradicate the strongest trees and carry them down stream standing, according to the writer 'Padula'. A document from 1812, date of the construction of the bridge "ponte nuovo", and of the roadway SS19 attributed to Murat, the floodwaters of the river reached more than four meters in height. The historian Arnoni, writing fifty years later, described the river as dark, sinister, frightening and cruel! These notes go back almost 200 years which give us an idea of the large volume of water that might be carried at the time of the Romans!-It is a testimony to the importance of the river as a critical highway for transporting raw lumber from the mauntains to the sea.
The Romans cut the lumber in this area,at the slopes of la Sila,in the proximity of "Cutura", whose resinous pine was considered to yield the best lumber for the building of ships.The lumber was floated via the river and retrieved at the confluence with the tyrrenian sea, near the town of Falerna. Cutura,which today is a large dry river bed, was the collecting point for the cut lumber. The trunks were assembled here and floated in alternating sequence to avoid a road block in the narrow gorges between Parenti and Balzata.
The tree trunks were fished out at this point, tied together in rafts and returned to the river which,at this spot,received the waters of tributaries 'Mola and Cannavina". The first mortar and brick bridge was built in this location in 1582 by the government of Filippo II of Spain. The material used for the bridge, was transported via the newly built road from Rogliano to Parenti. The bridge was the work of a certain master Sansoneto Belsito. It collapsed in the year 1927-1928, due to the instability of the ground and, today only ruins remain. Over time, three other bridges were built in replacement.
The first and most important tributary of the Savuto is encountered further downstream and it enriches the Savuto with its cool, bubbling waters, spilling from a spectacular waterfall. The waters of the Cannavino were considered,since ancient times, to have therapeutical value and, today, they are still visited for this purpose.
The bridge"Tavolaria", which is located at 1500 meters from the Cannavino stream, was built in 1592 during the Spanish occupation.Using single arch architecrure made of bricks, it had sides constructed with local rocks and mortar.The left shoulder of the bridge leaned on an outcropping of beautiful boulders.The bridge opened a roadway for the exchange of commerce between settlements all along the river and allowed goods to be brought to market in Rogliano.In addition to the beauty of its primitive architecture, it holds a fascinating attraction due to the history and legend tied to its name :Tavola-ria [vile dinnertable\].
Legend has it that King Enotrio, attempting to march up the Savuto valley, met with fierce resistence from the locals,therefore, in order to subjugate them, decided to use cunning and trickery. Asking for a truce, he invited all the locals to a sumptuous meal and, when the guests were sufficiently drunk, he slaughtered all of them.It was a horrible massacre perpetrated trough trickery, Tavola-ria,[ i.e. a vile dinner table].
From the book: "Storia leggenda e realtÓ lungo il corso del fiume Savuto" di Saturno Tucci - Edizioni orizzonti Meridionali