Grit and Grazia: A Story of Venice, Voga, and a Few Unwavering Women

A documentary project of Living Venice e VIVA

Grande Canal – Corteo Acqueo

Posted on | May 8, 2009 | No Comments

contraluce.jpgMay is the Mese del Decoro e Rispetto per la Città, Month of Decorum and Respect for the City. One of the first scheduled activities is a water procession, or Corteo of bache a remi (rowed boats) down the Grand Canal.

The procession will depart from the rail station at about 10:00, and end in the bacino at about 10:50, and will include the Serenissima, peata, gondole, private boats from all the remiere in the city, the lagoon, and even the river Brenta, all flying the Venetian bandiera; but in particular they’ve invited the over 700 maciarele* (young people), who row, each of who that participates will be recognized by the Mayor as they pass Ca’ Farsetti with a parchment inscribed, “Youth with Hope for the Voga alla Veneta.”

The city is in a constant struggle in how to both provide motorized transportation tourists and merchandise about the city and lagoon without destroying the very ambience that’s required for its existence…the same that’s required for traditional lagoon boats to navigate. The procession is to demostrate the support of those devoted to maintaining the online casinos voga as a part of Venetian and lagoon life, and respect for the city.

  • Sat, May 9
  • 10:00 departure from the Ferrovia
  • 10:50 arrival and alzaremi San Marco

* In Venetian, maciarele refers to kids, and comes from the name for baby go, or ghiozzo fish.


Gondola Gals: all-woman regata, Sunday, May 10

Posted on | May 7, 2009 | No Comments


The Regata delle Palme is an annual event normally held the week before Easter. However, for the first time the field will be comprised of nine gondole, each with an all-female crew. The indominable Gloria Rogliani, una grande campionessa, came up with the idea to combine two campionesse (in bold below) with two esordienti (debutantes, for lack of a better translation), or those with less experience — although even their expertise levels vary widely.

There’s a pre-race ceremony that will take place, at the Ponte di Tre Archi on the Cannaregio Canal. The boats will then head for the starting line at the Madonna dell’Orto (or where the wind direction dictates), for an 11:30-ish start. After the race, the colorful gondole will parade down the Cannaregio Canal.

  • 10:45-ish Ceremony and benediction, Ponte dei Tre Archi
  • 11:30-ish Race start
  • Following: parade down the Cannaregio Canal.

A regata is normally comprised of up to nine boats; each boat number always corresponds to the same color. We’ll be wearing matching t-shirts:


Francesca Calzavara, Elena Costantini, Gabriella Lazzari, Roberta Fassina


Rossana Scarpa, Romina Catanzaro, Adele Scalabrin, Amelia Coco


Maika Busato, Erika Zane, Laura Riganti, Nicoletta Tussetto


Gloria Rogliani, Debora Scarpa, Leida Tiozzo, Chiara Scarpa


Luisella Schiavon, Giorgia Ragazzi, Sandra Tognatti, Antonella Fassina


Maela Zancan, Elisabetta Nordio, Sibylle Lohausen, Monica Vio


Silvia Scaramuzza, Francesca Brotto, Nancy McElroy, Betty Martini


Luigina Davanzo, Wally Zanella, Serena Testolin, Chiara Curto


9 – MARòN
Elena Tosi, Valentina Tosi, Elena Almansi, Michela Melloni

Just prior to the race, the captains draw lots for the actual boat positions.

All we need is wonderful weather, the rest will take care of itself. Wish us luck, and remember, we adore fervent applauso!

Many thanks to the Remiera Casteo for the use of their boat graphics!


Vogo e ti Difendo: Saturday, April 25

Posted on | April 23, 2009 | 2 Comments

Vogo e Ti Difendo (I Row to Defend You; By Rowing, I Defend You) is an annual event established by the Coordinamento Associazione Remiere. This Saturday morning, Aprile 25th, hundreds of local vogatori (men, women, Venetian, Italian, French, Australian, British, Russian, American…and more) will amass in the bacino di San Marco to row around the entire city (a course of 22 kilometers, or about 14 miles)  to demonstrate both their numbers, and the devotion to voga. The marathon will begin at 9:30, and follow the route below.


Vogo e Ti Difendo differs from Vogalonga (which takes place at the end of May) in that it is restricted only to those rowing the voga alla veneta. The route is also tougher in that it encircles the city, and because motor traffic is not halted, the “seas” remain choppy, and even more inhospitable for these shallow-bottomed, human-powered, lagoon boats — emphasizing the point the event intends to illustrate.

Despite the iconic image of the gondola, the casual visitor to Venice understands little of the rowing style that is unique to the city and its history. This event is one of the ways its practitioners try to bring to light both to the Comune and the “Venetians of the World” the value of maintaining the voga alla veneta as a part of Venetian life.


A preview of what’s to come.

Posted on | March 31, 2009 | 1 Comment

After months of effort on two continents among some exceptionally talented and willing professionals, we’ve collaborated to bring forth just a sample of the documentary to come. The full project will be one and a half hours, and will cover many more aspects of this engaging culture, but with this preview we hope to give viewers an contributors just a sample of what’s to come.

Preview the Vogadoc


It’s official.

Posted on | December 2, 2008 | No Comments

We’ve just been notified by Fractured Atlas that we’ve been approved for fiscal sponsorship. This means, effectively, that we’ll be able to accept tax-deductible cash and in-kind donations to fund our project.

We could not be happier to have completed the next rung in our this magnificent project.

Viva Venezia, viva la voga!


The Oblivious Barcaruòl

Posted on | November 10, 2008 | No Comments

Chance encounters are commonplace in Venice. People live, work, and commute cheek-by-jowl, the city’s close quarters ensuring constant social contact and a decided lack of privacy.

This summer, while investigating why a certain composer was imprisoned in a monastery on the Giudecca in 1591 (long story), I happened across a fascinating document. It is a fascicle (separate section of a larger publication) containing depositions from witnesses of and participants in a matinada (i.e. a serenade) that took place near the convent La Celestia. The magistrates were concerned about this musical boating party because serenading well-born nuns was not something they could overlook: not in the tense, reform-minded years after the Council of Trent. So, the matter of how and why the burchiello went festively close to La Celestia was a matter of some import, and the magistrates were determined to get to the bottom of it.

They questioned everyone: neighbors, housekeepers, the organizers (a nobleman and two merchant friends), several of the musicians, and, of course, the rowers: for this was a boat party. Just as the musicians’ testimony sheds light on how they plied their trade, so too do the barcaruoli give us a glimpse of theirs. Here, then, is a sneak peak at some of the passages about rowing.

On 5 February 1568 [modo veneto, i.e. 1569], the magistrates who oversaw the monasteries [the Provveditori sopra i Monasteri] asked barcaruol Piero Ravano whether he had recently rowed for a group that was playing music. He answered yes, and described the circumstances:

“A gentleman came, son of messer Jac.r Lion, about fifteen or twenty days ago, and asked me if I wanted to row a burchiello in popa or in prova. I said yes, and he replied to me ˜You will be paid excellently well: and said that I should go at the second hour of the evening [i.e., about 7 p.m.] to his house at S. Gregorio in the Rio di Saloni, that the burchiello would be there. And thus I went, and about fifteen or twenty instruments were brought into the burchiello.”

The interrogators continued the questioning:

INT: Who were those who came on board?

RESP: I knew no one besides that gentleman of Ca’ Lion [who hired him].

INT: Who rowed prova?

RESP: An Isepo who works at the traghetto at S. Gregorio.

INT: What happened after everyone was on board?

RESP: We went alongside the house of Cardinal Pisani, and they played music.

[V-As, PsM, b. 263, 10v]

When asked if there was anyone else in the rio with the burchiello, Piero described how they pulled over to allow a gondola to pass.”A gondola came who delivered on the right bank a gentleman with some of his women.”
INT: Do you know that gentleman?

RESP: No sir. And to make room for the gondola we pulled close to the other side of the canal, on the left [tirassimo da l’altra banda del rio, à  premando].

INT: Did anyone come out of the burchiello and go on top of the cabin [tiemo]?

RESP: Certainly not sir, [no one did] what you suggest, but they all stayed inside. And some played music, and some slept, since it was the eighth hour [i.e. about 1 a.m.].

[V-As, PsM, b. 263, 11v]

Piero, for his part, seems to have thought it was an accident.

INT: Might you know on whose account they played in that location?

RESP: I don’t know a single thing about on whose account it was done, nor do I know who asked that they play. I believe that they played [there] by chance, because we wanted to go in Rio di S. Martin, but we couldn’t because it was too shallow, so we had to to turn around.

INT: Did you see anyone at all on either bank?

RESP: No sir, except for those who were getting out of that gondola.

[INT:] Do you know the fruitseller at S. Gregorio who plays music?

RESP: Yes sir, I know him by sight.

[V-As, PsM, b. 263, 12r]

We’ll never be sure whether Piero knew about the revelers’ true intentions, but the testimony is full of references that still ring familiar today: Celestia, San Gregorio, Ca’ Lion, Cardinal Pisani, Rio di S Martino…that was too shallow to navigate. And at the end of this quote, we get a glimpse of a Venice that then, as now, is a small, dense city full of familiar faces, even if not all of them are known by name. A city marked by chance encounters in the calli, crossing the campi, and certainly, navigating the rii in barca.

And in my case? A chance encounter in negli archivi


Mary Grace joins the Vogadoc team.

Posted on | November 6, 2008 | No Comments

We’re delighted to announce the addition of a stateside producer to our team. Read Mary Grace Higgs’ profile on the Principals page.

We think it is appropriate that a producer’s name on this particular project translates to Maria Grazie.



Maria della Laguna

Posted on | October 27, 2008 | No Comments

This striking portrait, housed at the Museo Correr, is of Maria Boscola. Mother of five boys, she lived in Marina di Chioggia during the 1700’s, raising produce and rowing it regularly in caorlina (in the days before channel markers, mind you), where it would be sold at the the Rialto markets.

The banners she cradles are from five regate held during the period from 1740 – 1784. The first she won as a young woman; the last two, in which she was also victorious, took place in 1784, amost forty-five years later. After this last regata, women were not to race again for almost two hundred years. A record of Maria’s races and how she placed is painted in the lower left-hand corner of the portrait.

Earlier this month, we attended the presentation at the Marciana of a new novel about Maria and her life, Maria della laguna by Alda Monico. It’s fiction because, although Venice is known for its voracious record-keeping, there is very little record of the life of this fascinating female. Monico is also the author of Delitto al casìn dei nobili, a period mystery set in 1500 and featuring the famous cortesean Veronica Franca. 



Posted on | October 4, 2008 | No Comments

arzanà22.jpgArzanà  is the term Dante used in the Inferno when referring to an arsenale (a word that’s Venetian by origin). This Arzanà , however, is the name chosen by unique cultural association whose passionate members scavenge Venice for boats and boat-related objects that are either in danger of either going to ruin or simply slipping into oblivion. These items are instead confiscated, conserved, cataloged, and otherwise rescued for posterity, and whenever possible, put back to use a vogar.

Located in the historic Squero Casal dei Servi in Cannaregio, Arzanà  recently hosted a presentation in collaboration with the gondola artisans, El Felze. Members Germano da Preda and Giovanni Caniato painstakingly recounted the squero‘s prestigious history with original photos of the owner-family and the variety of traditional boats they constructed; That was followed by a tour of the facility itself, which is jam-packed (in quite an orderly way) with everything from scale models to boats and boat parts to tools and implements used in both boat construction and even in lagoon’s the hunting and fishing tradition.

arzanà28.jpgSome of the more fascinating examples include the wonderful gondola al fresco, perhaps the last in existence, and there’s a spendidly-carved, original felze from the mid 1800s (along with the one that was constructed for use in the film Casanova).

Anzanà  and its devoted members, along with their contributions to many publications on the naval traditions, are forming a large part of the research base of the voga documentary project.


Interviewing the Experts

Posted on | September 30, 2008 | No Comments

P1030566.jpgEven though there’s a great deal of detailed research to do, we wanted to get as many preliminary interviews as possible done before Shawn departed for the homeland. We managed to corral the president of the Coordinamento delle Associazioni Remiere, a local attorney who’s been participating regularly in regate for almost thirty years (as evidenced by rows of bandiere and a pile of oars that are only half of all that he owns), and one of the founders of an associazione culturale whose aim it is to collect, repair, maintain, and utilize boats that are at risk of ruin.

Our attorney has a library of books on the voga, the boats, the regate, and on life in Venice in years past; the co-founder was the author and/or contributor of a few of them; the president of the Coordinamento, who is also a master stonecutter (as was his father) told us the story of the sculpting of the Venetian Lion as an aside.

I’ll tell you the truth, between the three of them, they almost wrote our doc for us.



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