Category Archives: VIVA la voga

Venetian life beyond the edge of the fondamenta.

Ready, set, row! Vogalonga 2008.

percorso.jpg The Vogalonga is this Sunday, May 11th, 2008. Keep an eye out, we’ll be four (likely worn-out by the time you’d spot us) women in white skirts and a totally tricked-out sandolo. We’ll be one of about 1,500+ boats, if past years’ enrollments are any indication…there are over 50 folks from our remiera alone. There’ll be oared-powered boats of every size-and-shape, with the non-Venetian boats easily out-numbering the locals. The best part: no motorized traffic of any kind from the early a.m. ’til almost 3p. Venezia di una volta…

The course is 32 km, just under 20 miles. I never thought I’d be in any sort of marathon…but I can’t resist. Please keep your fingers crossed for sun and not-too-much wind (we’ve already calculated the tide will be rising as we head back from Burano. No rest for the weary). If we make it to Murano though, we’ll be set.

p.s. There’s a great representation of the route, along with a wonderful historical recount and more info on (there’s an English version, don’t worry). There’s also a great animated, arial youtube presentation posted by user vongalongavenezia…look for the hi-res version on youtube itself.

Alza remi!


Vogo e ti Defendo: April 25

testone.jpgWe’re all familiar with the stupenda, increasingly-popular Vogalonga, the “race” (held this year on May 11) in which any and every type of oar-powered boat may participate. (I’ll be in caorlina with five other women, in the requisite white attire traditional for any regata). This upcoming Friday, April 25th however, the weekend of the Festa della Libertà, the Festa di San Marco, and the Festa del Boccolo, there’ll be an added event: Vogo e Ti Defendo: I’ll row, and defend you.

Organized by the rowing clubs of the city and lagoon, this civic demonstration and mini marathon is reserved only for the Voga all Veneta, and is designed to highlight the increasing threat and continuing damage that the augmentation of motor traffic (from taxis to transports to high-powered outboards to monster cruise ships) has on existence on not only the delicate lagoon environment, but on the practice of one of the most historic and uniquely Venetian activities ancora vissuto today, the Voga alla Veneta.

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Abbiamo vinto! First race, first place in the all-woman amateur regata in mascareta.


I didn’t get to participate in last fall’s all-woman regata della voga alla veneta (rowing with one oar, standing up, facing forward). Regate rowing races are held throughout the year for every sort of oared craft and combination of rower. The more serious competitors referred to as agonisti — compete in those; we are instead called esordienti, or something akin to rowing debutants. We are women of all ages: single, married, widowed, moms, working professionals, and students; all passionate about the voga for the challenge, the exercise, the chance to be on the lagoon, the camaraderie and sheer allegria that are all natural by-products of participating this very-Venetian rowing tradition.

Last Saturday was the first of this year’s series of regate for us esordienti. It was March 8th, the Festa delle Donne, and we were in 8 mascarete: the lighter, more agile versions of the Veneto lagoon craft. My rowing partner (names are drawn to form the pairs that pilot each boat) was Amelia Coco, a young Venetian woman who’s studying to be a veterinarian at the University of Padova. Thanks to intemperate weather conditions ranging from wind, fog, and even a four-day bora with gusts of up to 40 kph lashing across the lagoon, in the weeks prior to the race we only had four opportunities to get used to each other as rowers.

No matter, though…we WON. I have no idea how, but it was one of the most delicious, exciting, breathtaking experiences I have ever had. Amelia was amazing as a provina (at the front): young, strong, and determined; it was all I could do to hold our mascareta on course (“Where’s the bouy? Non la vedo!” “Dritto! Sempre dritto!” Straight ahead!). After a come-from-behind partenza, we were in second place when we managed to round the bouy with a big swousche, cutting in between the bouy and first-place boat which had swung wide. We took the lead (oh, Serena, forgive me), and then managed to not to lose it between there and the finish.

bandiera rossa - 2.jpg

Che soddisfazione. This ridiculous, giddy grin will simply not leave my face. Every time I believe I have dreamed it, I go check on the bright red, hand-sewn, first-place bandiera rossa, that remains my proof. Perhaps in the next race, someone will cut us off, or we’ll have a weak start, or scontrare up against another boat at the start to cost us time and the race. But for now…

Abbiamo vinto! Evvia!

Voga, voga, cocola…


Voga, voga cocola Za che ti xe in gringolà¦

Canta e dopo basime, che_i toà basi me fa tanto ben¦ Canta e dopo basime, che_i toà basi me fa tanto ben


One spectacular mid-October afternoon on my first trip to Venice in 1995, I, like millions of travelers before me, paused atop the Accademia Bridge to enjoy the view. I became mesmerized by a lone woman rowing toward me up the Grand Canal, in what I now recognize as a mascareta. She was standing, facing forward, arms crossed pushing the water competently and rhythmically with two long oars, one in each fist (alla Valesana). I was entranced by her motion and persistent advance up the Canal, and as she disappeared sliding beneath my feet, I took an unconscious vow: someday, somehow, I would try this myself.

Eleven years later and nine months after I first got my hands on a remo, I finally enrolled in the Società Remiera Canneregio and began taking lessons in the Voga alla Veneta, the traditional Venetian rowing technique. (This, after a brief run-in with a renegade pseudo-instructor last August: what an absurd, pathetic experience. It was a very short lesson that ended with me ordering him to return immediately to the cantiere: I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that it’s neither customary or necessary for anyone to stand behind you while teaching you how to row. Che schifo, how disgusting. Please Lord, spare us from gli omini piccoli, the small men of this world.)

It hasn’t been easy finding the time for the lessons, but I’m determined…that is, obsessed. I don’t know how long it will be before I can be in a boat alone, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able capable of rowing with two oars, but I’ve made a start…and I must say, it’s as grand as I thought it would be.


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