A trade that was born outside of any other profession, this was because only in Acqui Terme could this trade be practised, of providing the gift of hot water that mother nature supplied to the city. It is the story of the hot water from the Bollente that carriers delivered to the local families, of “artisans” that distinguished themselves with creativity and initiative, a sacrifice during a time in which wellbeing was something that could only be achieved through hard work. It sounds like a legend, but since the beginning of the 50’s, these «hot water artisans» operated in Piazza della Bollente. They practised a profession that was typical and unique for the city of Acqui; they were the carriers of the boiling hot water from the Bollente spring.
The “Brentau” with his “Brenta”, a container made from galvanized steel, held 50 litres of boiling hot water on his shoulders that he’d deliver to the houses in the city. It was a source of income for those that practised this profession and a service in favour of those, who at their own homes, received the water that came from the «two mouth» water source, before the existence of water boilers and centralised heating systems.
His tool of the trade was the brenta, from which «brentau» derives, not made of wood like the ones used by the brentatori in the wine cellars, but made from galvanized steel. It had the shape of an upside down cone and held 50 litres of water. The customer would expect that the water contained was “broca”, translated from dialect meaning “a chiodo” or “at nails length”. In fact, the head of a nail would be fixed to the top of the container so as to visibly indicate the exact quantity of water that was carried, that being 50 litres. The brente that were used, have now become no more than antiques. However, two of these have survived that are used each year by the contestants during the Palio del Brentau, a characteristic race held in September during the “Feast of the Feasts” which recalls this important trade.
The last of the brentau was «Caudren», known to everyone by his nickname, it is not known why the Acquese people labelled him with this name. People in their 70’s and beyond, will remember that the profession of the brentau was also practised by a woman: Louisa, that still appears today on old city postcards.
People usually knew the brentau by their first name or by a nickname. These were Paolo, Bondi, Stevo, Luisa and Caudren. It wasn’t of interest neither their surname or the family to whom they belonged. They were stationed in Piazza della Bollente where they would wait for the request from a client.