I’ve been talking and writing about the voga alla veneta, the unique style of Venetian rowing, for some time. In my mind, it’s the world’s best exercise. Whole body, no impact, as aerobic as you want it to be, practiced often in compania (with friends), but it’s also possible alone. And anyone will tell you, whether you’re here by birth or by choice, there’s nothing that will make you feel more Venetian that rowing a traditional Venetian boat across the lagoon or through the intricate rii, or small canals, of the city.
That’s becoming difficult, however. The lagoon and the city canals are being churned up more and more by motorboats not designed for its shallow waters that exceed the speed limits more often than not without a thought. They create incessant waves that chisel away at the city walls and make passage impossible for the traditional boats that cause no damage (including the gondola) designed hundreds of years ago specifically to navigate the lagoon and the city’s canals.
Various organizations have tried to fight this highly damaging phenomenon…and being devoted both to the city and the voga, we have now formed one ourselves. We are VIVA: Voga per l’Identità Veneta, and our goal is to celebrate and document all we can about the culture of this unique rowing style (including the production of the documentary). We’d like to join together with the “Venetians of the World” to try and convince broader interests (and there are quite a few) that motorboats and row boats can now only peacefully co-exist, that the more they do, not only will Venice and its lagoon will be better off…Venice will be even more the city travelers expect when they arrive.
Looking for la vera Venezia? The one everyone thinks is disappearing? This is just a small part of it….and it’s not going anywhere. Meet just a few of the women that are members of our new association. We are VIVA:
Membership in VIVA is not limited to residents of Venice…quite the contrary. We’d not only love to have you along, we need you. You, the occasional visitor, the part-time resident, the scholar, the Venice lover from beyond: too often, your voices are heard far more than that of the local who may not stand to profit from the tourist trade.
So, please consider joining us. The more we can demonstrate to the Comune how many people living beyond the lagoon to whom this is important, the better figura we’ll make as we strive to come to some d’accordo.
Join VIVA: 10 minutes, €10.
Even if you don’t join the organization, the next time you’re in Venice, keep an eye out for the traditional boats being rowed on the Grand Canal, in the side rii, or across the lagoon. Then…ask you taxi driver to slow down.
p.s. If you have cultural group that will be in Venice and would be interested in learning more about our work, the traditional craft, and perhaps even letting us row you through Venetian canals in our traditional boats, please write us.