Friday, November 9, 2007

Gilberto Penzo

photos by Nereo Zane
Gilberto and I in his Lab

There are several different types of people who can be considered “famous” among those who love and/or operate gondolas.

There are guys who are known for their success in regatta rowing – guys like Ciaci, Bepi Fongher and Franco Crea are good examples. Paolo D’Este has made an impression in the same way. Ask any of our Hudson Expedition team members about Bepi Suste and it becomes clear – rowing champions are larger-than-life.

Gondola builders like Bonaldo, dei Rossi, and the Tramontin family certainly rank high; where would we be without their handiwork? The same can be said for remers Saverio Pastor, Paolo Brandolisio, and Franco Furlanetto, and who can talk about remers without the name Giuseppe Carli coming up?

Vittorio Orio and Enzo Lizska have caught the world’s attention by rowing some high profile expeditions.

One of my favorite people in the gondola world is Gilberto Penzo. He has dedicated his life to the preservation and archiving of traditional Venetian boats. He is the one to talk to about plans, models, history, and even the people who have been involved with Venetian boats, both today and throughout history. When the authorities find an old vessel, preserved in the mud at the bottom of the Venetian lagoon, they call Mr. Penzo. He is the authority, and he has earned the title.

Gilberto has published a number of great books, with topics ranging from old traditional small craft to a complete hardbound volume chronicling the well-known vaporetto, past and present.

In a previous post I mentioned one of Gilberto’s books:
“I’ve spent years assembling a small library of gondola and Venice-related books. By far the best book for learning about how to row like a Venetian is Gilberto Penzo’s “Forcole Remi e Voga alla Veneta.”

The book has an English translation in the back, along with great photos. Penzo collaborated with Saverio Pastor, and it shows. You get a real insider’s view of the world of the remer. I risk sacrilege here, but on more than one occasion I’ve called it “the Bible for Venetian rowing”.

“Forcole Remi e Voga alla Veneta”

I must admit that in my fanaticism for gondolas, I’ve become a collector of Gilberto’s books. In fact I didn’t realize it until I had six or seven of them that I’d gotten caught up in the whole “be the first kid on your block to collect the whole set” mentality.

His website is a great resource for information regarding Venetian boats. From the small S'ciopon to the legendary Bucintoro, you can get a quick description of all types of craft that are floating or once were floating in Venetian waters.

Last time I was in Venice, I had the opportunity to tour the city with Gilberto in his boat. It was a real treat, and a tour I won’t soon forget.

Gilberto explains something to me in his shop, with models in the background

To learn more about Gilberto Penzo, his projects and publications; go to:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Gondola Greg,

I am completely new to the whole gondola thing. But I recently found a forcola made by Guiseppe Carli. Sounds like he was the master. Do you know where I could find some information about him.