Was it a joke? Were these guys rowing this Venetian caorlina really monks, or were they just a bunch of jokesters in costumes? I talked with our expedition photographer Nereo Zane (who took this photo) and some of the guys at my rowing club (GSVV-M) and found out that they were the real thing – rowing monks. “Capuccini monks” from Redentore to be exact. The Redentore is a famous church on the Island of Giudecca, facing Venice. The church was built between 1577 and 1592 by Andrea Palladio to commemorate the end of the plague.
These Capuccini Monks can be seen in their distinctive habits – and sunglasses – rowing their black caorlina along the route of the world-famous Vogalonga and the Regata Storica which is so well known in Northern Italy.
In the Veneto Region, everybody rows. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it sure seems that way when you see so many kinds of people out rowing. I’ve seen couples out for an early evening row, still in their business attire; I’ve seen groups of old men, young girls, and rowing clubs of all sizes. The Naval Academy has their own guys on the water; there are the monks, and now even firemen. Sure there are Venetian firemen who row, but now American firefighters are joining in. No, they aren’t rowing as fast as they can towards burning buildings; it’s recreational. While talking with our FDNY friends Vincent Tummino and Dan Nigro, who are also leaders in the International Columbia Association, I learned that a group of guys from the Fire Department of New York fly to Venice now and then and row with the local rowing clubs. They’ve been doing it since at least 2000. Some of these guys probably just go once for kicks, but others are serious rowers. I understand that we’ll get to meet a few of them while we’re in New York. Now if I can figure out a way to meet those rowing monks . . .
The “FDNY rowing team” in 2004
New York firefighters row with Venetians in 2007