Venetian rowingThe exclusive art of Venetian rowing

The Venetian rowing technique has ancient origins: according to tradition, it goes back to the 5th century, when the first urban settlements in the lagoon were established. The two key figures in Venetian rowing are the pope, the stroke oar, and the proviere, the prow oar. The pope is the oarsman at the stern, who is in charge of the crew of the boat and directs the route, while the provier rows at the prow, has the oarlock on his left and sets the rhythm of the stroke. Nowadays the term pope also describes the function of the gondolier.

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The Venetian rowing style is unique in the world because it adapts to the specific needs of the lagoon environment and especially those of Venice itself, with its narrow canals throbbing with life. The oarsman stands in order to have greater visibility over the shallow waters of the canals and lagoon and not run aground. Another precaution taken in order to escape the perils of the seabed is that the craft are lightly built with flat bottoms: they have no keel.

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The absence of a second oar means that craft can manoeuvre easily among the Venetian side canals and in the chaotic maritime traffic and not collide with buildings and other craft. The single oar also acts as the rudder, keeping the craft on an ideal straight line with the assistance of the asymmetrical hull and the oarsman’s skill.


the stroke

The oarsman pushes and steers the boat standing, facing forward towards the prow. The stroke is divided into two alternating phases: a push, called premer, in which the blade is immersed vertically, and the return, called stalìr or starà, in which the oar is taken back to the starting point with the shaft immersed and suitably inclined forward.


A forcola is the rowlock or oarpost used in traditional Venetian boats, the most well-known type of boat being the gondola. Forcole (plural for Forcola) are unlike any other type of rowlock because of the unique rowing position of the oarsman: he stands facing forward and, in craft like the gondola, propels and manouevres the boat with a single oar. The various manoeuvres require different oar postitions, so the forcola must provide a number of leverage points. This accounts for its sinuous, organic shape.


The oars used in Venetian rowing have a fairly simple form but they must have certain characteristics and precise details to optimise this unique style of rowing. The central shaft in ramin is made of a long cylinder (giron) inserted into the trapezoidal blade with two lateral trims in beech (cortei). The shaft is not a perfect cylinder but has an oval section that tapers to form the handle of the oar.
The blade is asymmetrical: the top side has an edge (spina), angled towards the stern, which strengthens the blade and helps to maintain the direction of the stroke of the oar; the bottom side of the blade is rounded. The edge at the extremity of the blade must have a perfect curvature.

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The Venetian rowing experience

Duration 1 hour
People max 6

Our visitors can feel authentic Venetians for a day with this experience. Accompanied by expert guides and after brief instructions in the special Venetian rowing technique and the position to take up when rowing, there will be a short tour among the canals of Venice, large and small, on typical craft: the 18th century Batea da Fresco or the 17th century Gondola.

Our guests can even just relax on board, enjoying the unique panorama of Venice from the best viewpoint: a boat.

A drink will be offered during the return journey.

Send us your request and we shall be pleased to submit our best offer.

An unusual Venice, from an unique perspective

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