Take to the water

The boats typical of the Venetian lagoon and the Adriatic Sea have shaped the history, economy and life of the city.

Caorline, mascarete, sandoli, s’cioponi, topi, peate, burci, bragozzi, pieleghi and trabaccoli and of course the well-known gondola; a host of strange names that symbolise some of the typical lagoon boats that have long been used for fishing and transporting goods to the city.

They used to be a much more common sight in the lagoon and the canals, but are nowadays almost entirely replaced by anonymous and standardized motor boats that contribute to the much-maligned “wave motion” damaging shorelines and buildings along the small and winding canals within Venice.

Traditional boats are now usually only seen during regattas, in the Vogalonga race or skippered by a small number of enthusiasts who are members of various rowing clubs, they can be admired rowing along with difficulty, navigating a path between the motor boats that so frequently speed down the waterways with no regard for these boats that are part of the history of the Serenissima.

Of course, the power of Venice was born from the sea and the trade that took place there, and ships and boats were a crucial part of this, while the large rowing and sailing ships, the famous galleys and war galleys, sailed the Adriatic and the Mediterranean trading with the East, the less sizeable boats were used for sea fishing or for trade along the Adriatic, and the smallest vessels, almost all with flat bottoms suitable for sailing in shallow waters, were used in the lagoon to transport goods to the city, in particular agricultural products produced on the many islands in the lagoon.

Today, visitors to the city can still take a gondola ride or possibly even catch sight of some of the other traditional boats, if they are lucky enough to be visiting when one of the races is being held; for a few years now there has also been the option of taking part in lagoon excursions on some of these boats, obviously motor driven and not rowed.

Up until the first half of the 1900s some boats, luggers, sail boats and then mixed sailing and motor propelled boats were still used for fishing or as cargo boats arriving in Venice from the Istrian shore of the Adriatic, often loaded with inert construction materials, some examples are stored at the  Cesenatico Maritime Museum .

A few years ago, a well-known Venetian Association, the Club degli Amici del Nuovo Trionfo (Friends of the New Triumph), acquired the last lugger in the lagoon and is now undertaking careful and painstaking restoration work in order to preserve this link to a past which is unfortunately disappearing a little more each day, engulfed by “modernity”.

The “Nuovo Trionfo” (New Triumph) lugger was built 90 years ago and is now being restored with long and essential maintenance work on the hull to ensure its preservation and navigability.

A genuine piece of lesser known Venetian history, to be handed down for future generations and soon to return to its berth at the Punta della Dogana, at the mouth of the Grand Canal, where it can be admired by everyone in Venice, visitors and residents alike.

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