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

A documentary project of Living Venice e VIVA

La Voga

We row with our heads;
the rest of the world rows with its ass.

The voga alla veneta is the unique Venetian rowing style that’s performed standing up, facing forward. Most people are familiar with the famous image of the gondolier, but there is much more that lies behind the voga alla veneta the unique style of propelling water-craft across the lagoon since it was settled well over a thousand years ago. As such, it is not only a mode of rowing, but a culture in and of itself.

arzana_15Upon the introduction of motor traffic in the 1960s, as motor craft quickly began to replace rowing for transport and daily activity, the practice of rowing witnessed a dramatic decline. In fact, it quickly became a symbol of being “outdated.” It seemed as if it would slip out of existence, until in 1976, the first Vogalonga was held to protest the diffusion of motor traffic, highlighting the desire of tenacious vogatori to keep the practice afloat.

Since that race, the voga alla veneta has become increasingly popular, supported by over eighty rowing clubs throughout Italy, all organized by the Coordinamento of the national Associazioni Remiere. The motorboat and the barca a remi struggle to cohabit the lagoon waters, one making them too choppy to row across, the other putting too much restriction on speed.

The voga must survive, however, because as Giovanni Giusto, head of the Coordinamento says, “only when the voga dies will Venice’s story truly end.”


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