Monday, November 30, 2009

Another take on Acqua Alta

Well, I'm still not sure whether this actually happened or if it's another impressive accomplishemt by a guy with editing skills and a fetish for computer animation. Whatever the case may be, it's worth a look.
Our beloved Venezia has just experienced another "Acqua Alta", and here's a unique piece of video on the high-water theme.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Varnished Fodra

photo by Garrett Budwine
Most fodre are black, some have accents in other colors or in gold-leaf, but now and then we see them varnished.
Garrett captured this great example of such a fodra while exploring the historic Squero San Trovaso.
I wonder how long the intagiadòr (carver) spent on this one piece.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Mountains Above Milan

I know this has very little to do with Gondolas, but I liked the photo, so here it is.
At the end of our adventure in Europe this past spring, we spent one more day in the region near Milan, where I shot this photo.
The city of Milan is often compared to New York, but not far from the center of activity, things are much more relaxed. And as with just about anywhere there are Italians living - the food is amazing and the approach to living much wiser and more enjoyable than most other parts of the world.
As has always been the case, I didn't want to leave.

Indescribably Green boat spotted off Burano

photo by Tamás Fehér
Tamás saw my post featuring the two Dutch boats painted in a unique shade of green, and he remembered seeing one of them during Vogalonga. This photo was taken from Burano.
The boat certainly does have a lot of signage. I'm not sure if those are the names of the rowers on the paddle surface of each oar, or if each oar was individually sponsored. Heck, that's one way to get to Vogalonga!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Santa Maria del Giglio - Then and Now

Here's a pair of images of the same servizio - the traghetto at Santa Maria del Giglio.

This one comes from the late 1800's:
And this one I shot earlier this year.
It's interesting to see how some things have changed, while others don't seem to have changed a bit.
To read another post on the same traghetto,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving and Salute

photo by Nereo Zane

I deliberated for a while on what image I should use for the Thanksgiving post, and then I got an e-mail from Nereo with another photo from the Festa della Madonna della Salute and it seemed to me that the two holidays are quite similar.
They both date back to long ago,
they are both holidays that transcend the usual differences among the people of their respective nations,
and they are both days where people give thanks.
Venetians give thanks for their health, and all the ways they've been blessed.
Americans give thanks for everything.
The only difference that seems obvious is:
I don't think Venetians watch football on their day of thanks, maybe soccer.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.
I'm thankful for so many things, especially your friendship.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Regata di Murano con i "Veci Campioni"

This is a great piece of film.
It goes way back, to the days of old.
I must give credit to Tim Reinard of Sunset Gondola for finding this film clip; I actually first watched it on his Facebook page.

The film is interesting to watch from a rower's standpoint - some of the guys in the single-rower gondola regata row in ways you don't often see.

I often find myself explaining to students the reason we place the right foot behind when rowing. As it was demonstrated to me years ago by maestro Arturo Morucchio at the GSVVM: when you row a poppa, with your right foot aft, it allows you to take advantage of the full reach of your body at the end of your stroke. Look at some of the rowers in this film - at full extension, you can see how they use the technique.

Also see if you can spot the extended pontapie platform - which allows the gondolier to step closer to his forcola and lean his boat over more.

Rowing a full-sized gondola in competition is no small feat, doing it solo is reserved for the best-of-the-best.

In his book "Forcole Remi e Voga alla Veneta" Gilberto Penzo refers to single-oar regatas as "the university of Venetian rowing".

Watch the video on YouTube and you'll gain an appreciation for this most extreme version of our style of rowing.

I'd grab the clip and put it here, but if you go to YouTube you'll see it in a larger window.

Enjoy the Regata.

Gondola Framed by the Arch

photo by Garrett Budwine
A while back I received an e-mail from Garrett; he'd just been to Venezia and visited a few places that us "gondola fanatics" find interesting.
I'll post a few more of his photos in the weeks to come.
I chose this one to begin with as it's a nice gondola image, taken with a clever eye, framing the gondola perfectly with the arch of the bridge.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Indescribably Green

"Ultra Lime"?
Hi-Viz? - I don't know what the heck color that is, but it sure is Green!

I shot these from the vaporetto the day after Vogalonga.
The city of Venice hosts a lot of people for the famous "Long Row". Some row local boats, others bring their own - especially if they're coming from European countries that aren't too far away.

In the days leading up to the Vogalonga, you'll see all sorts of boats, and the same is true for the days after. Along the fondamenta in Santa Croce, within sight of the Ponte d. Liberta, there's an area popular with folks who need to hoist their boats in and out of the water. Normally I think it's used to load goods in and out of moto-topos, but when we plowed through the Canal d. Santa Chiara on the day after Vogalonga, the whole wall was rafted with various boats waiting to be hoisted out and trailered away.

For obvious reasons, these two dutch lifeboats caught my eye.

To tell you the truth, I didn't know anyone made marine paint in that color, but then I suppose that if anybody did, it would be the Dutch - masters of paint that they are. Anyone want to give that color a name?

Window to the Sky

The Piazza San Marco is surrounded by buildings;
these structures, which range in both age and architectural style, provide the backdrop to a view that would otherwise just be a bunch of paving stones and some pigeons.
In between the Piazza and the Bacino Orseolo you'll find the three-storey "Procuratie Vecchie".

The original structure that stood here had two floors and was built in the twelfth century.
Today's version was completed in the sixteenth century after the original was damaged in a fire.

If you walk from the Piazza to Bacino Orseolo, you'll pass through one of these openings in the structure, the Procuratie Vecchie has five or six of them, they are like very small atriums.

Perhaps one of you has better knowledge of architectural terminology.
For now, I like to call them "windows to the sky".

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just the Photo - "Red, Black and Blue"

I shot this at Sunset Gondola a few days ago, intrigued by how the two black boats contrasted each other - one with blue canvas, ther other with red seats. Also, as the boats are docked in opposite directions, I like how they appear to be leaning toward each other.

Yachts and Venezia

Venice is on the short list of places the rich and famous like to go in the Mediterranean - especially if they've got a megayacht. I shot these photos from the top deck of a cruise ship as we made our way towards the Adriatic.

One of the most prestigious places to moor such yachts is just off the Puta della Dogana.
The yacht closest to the Dogana is the 171 foot/51 meter Amels known as the "Lady in Blue". She was built in Holland in 2004. Available for charter, she spends the summers in the Mediterranean and the winters in the Caribbean.

The yacht with the very unusual windows is the 244 foot/75 meter "Enigma". Designed by German shipyard Blohm and Voss, she is easily recognized by her mirrored convex windows.

Enigma was launched in 1991 and is one of the largest privately owned yachts. Owned by the son of a British media tycoon, the Enigma is exactly the kind of floating masterpiece you might expect to see moored off the Punta della Dogana.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Tallest Stout I've Ever Seen

Raise your glasses, my friends, to a great accomplishment by Eric Johnson - pub owner and distinguished gondola alumni.

"E.J.", as he is known by many of his friends, began as a gondolier in Long Beach, before starting The Gondola Company with Sean Jamieson - Sean now owns that great operation in Coronado, CA.

A few years ago Eric Johnson and Dave Copley opened the Auld Dubliner - an Irish pub which has been quite successful and several more have been established in other locations. If you already know E.J., then I'm not telling you anything new, in fact among many Southern California gondoliers, he's a celebrated guy - a "kid from the neighborhood" who went on to succeed.

Yesterday E.J. and Dave Copley took pouring stout to a whole new level.
They poured the world's largest Guinness...for the Guinness Book.
Here's the story as told by the Orange County Register.

If you were at the Auld Dubliner in Tustin, you know what I'm tallking about. Then again, if you were there to see and drink from that eight-foot-tall might still be asleep.

"Get Me to the Church On Time"

photo by Nereo Zane
On my way out the door to get to church, I discovered an e-mail from Nereo with this, most appropriate photo.

As you might expect, the Festa della Madonna della Salute is big among Venetians. This is a photo Nereo shot yesterday, of the people waiting to get into church. Venetians light candles in the church, giving thanks for another year of good health. It's a reminder each year of Venice's deliverance from the plague in the 17th Century.

Now, I must run out the door, as I'm late for church myself.
I hope there won't be crowds that big where I'm going.

Cavalli d'Oro

Today we're "getting to know" another nice gondola, operating under the Ponte Scalzi on the Grand Canal near the train station.

Like some of the other gondolas we've seen here, this boat has a number of nice features; like the draped piece of brocade cloth behind the seat, matching pillows and upgraded pusioli (the arm pieces that support the cavalli), but it's the cavalli that really shine (both literally and figuratively). These are not the lightweight two-dimensional ones which are so commonly seen - they're much bigger and resemble small statues of horses.
Ahh, but it's the finish that attracts the most attention, and rightfully so - gold plating doesn't come cheap, but you get a lot of looks.

Once again we see a spare remo and a red tapeto matching other parecio elements on board.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nereo's Blog

Well, brush off your Italian 'cause today's a great day to visit Nereo Zane's blog. He's posted an excellent piece on Madonna della Salute Church. A few other new posts are up as well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stencils - "The Child"

Here's another piece by "C215" - the stencil artist from Paris.

This one was much smaller and incorporated more than one color. It was just around the corner from Campo San Basegio, along the fondamenta near Calle d. Chiesa.

I find it curious that this artist places his work in such precarious locations. Some of the pieces I've seen on his page and other internet pages depict his stencil work on the sides of trash cans and derelict buildings which could be demolished or repainted at any time. This one was sprayed onto a part of the wall which would likely crack and disintegrate, falling off the wall in less than a year or two.

If you do a search for "C215" you'll find more of his work. Here's a nice collection of his street art. When you're ready to dive in to his work for a long time, go to and engross yourself in the flickr photostream - I must have spent an hour just watching the images go by.

Stencils - Looking Up

Just a few steps away from the San Basilio vaporetto stop, lies a tiny little campo known as Campo San Basegio. There, on a metal door that's probably older than I am (possible older than my father), I saw this terrific piece of stencil work.

It could be an image of Christ, of a nun or just a woman looking up. The use of only one color, with a great emphasis on negative space caused me to stand and stare for some time.

In the upper left-hand corner there's a small signature that looks like a geometric cube shape with "C215". Without delay I realized that the person responsible for this piece is serious about their art. They've chosen a somewhat unconventional form, but the quality is there, and deserving of a signature.
I went hunting around the internet for more stencils with "C215" and found out that the artist is quite accomplished and well-traveled - he lives in Paris and his work is found in cities all over the world.
Here's his MySpace page with many more of his creations. Most of his pieces are literally "street art", and many incorporate more than just one color.

An Honest Woman in Venezia

this photo by Nereo Zane

Most of the bridges in Venice today are made of stone.
There are a few wooden ones and even a few iron bridges.
This post is about one such bridge.

Several years ago I was running around La Serenissima, trying to keep up with Nereo Zane, and he showed me this unusual bridge. It wasn't very big, and didn't seem to be all that important. But it became clear that this bridge was worthy of regard.

The bridge is called il Ponte della Donna Onesta.

I did notice that the bridge looked a little different - it wasn't like the big heavy stone ones so prevalent in Venice. Nereo told me that this was the "Bridge of the Honest Woman".

I took a few photos of my own and then we moved on. Recently I contacted him about it and he gave me a few of the "legends" behind this unusual bridge.

Nereo writes:
there are severals legends about the "Ponte della Donna Onesta"

1st legend: Close to the bridge there was a sword maker living there with his young and pretty wife. A noble was in love with that woman and one day ordered a sword or a dagger from her husband as a trick to have the possibility to see and stay alone with her. The woman refused the advance from the noble so he raped and then killed her.

2nd legend: same as above but the husband (or a friend of her) arrived and saved the woman killing the noble with the dagger.

3rd legend: The only honest woman in Venice is the one whose face is embedded in the external wall of the house near that bridge.

4th legend: It seems that in that house lived and worked an "honest" prostitute.

5th legend: There are some documents that demonstrate that a woman whose name was "Honesta" in the '500 lived there.

6th legend: a bunch of friends were joking about Venetian women's honesty. One said that when the first honest woman crosses the bridge it will collapse ... but the bridge is still there!!

I love things like this. You never know what the real story is, but it doesn't matter - all the possible legends are fascinating.

One sure detail that we know of is that the bridge was made of iron - unusual in Venice. There are (and have been) iron bridges there in the past, but the standard masonry approach is far more prevalent.

A closer look at the side of the Ponte Donna Onesta reveals that the main frame was produced by Fonderia Layet. And while I don't know much about the Layet Foudry, I can tell you that they built a nice little bridge which seems to do the job there in Dorsoduro.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Training in Texas

photo by Matthew Schenk

Matt took this photo a few days ago in Irving, Texas. That's gondolier Nick Hansen out for a training row in the canals of Las Colinas on Lake Carolyn.

Tri-Row with Tim and Chris

Yesterday I joined up with Tim Reinard, owner of Sunset Gondola and gondolier Chris.

We set out on the pupparin and had a great row on a sunny November day.

Rowing trio is a little different from tandem or quattro. Tim had his work cut out for him keeping the boat on course, but he was on top of it the whole time.
Our adventure wouldn't be the same without the Strap-Cam. I climbed out to the bow and wrapped it tight. The footage was pretty good, so I threw it into a little video which I hope you can see below. My plan was to get this post up last night but the video upload process had other plans. Let's just say that I'm better at rowing than I am at computers.
The camera angle didn't catch much of Chris, but you can see his remo working right alongside mine.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eight Great photos from the Poppa

Tim at Sunset Gondola just published a post on his blog with some great images - many taken while rowing.
Take a look, leave relevant comments.
Buttercows need not apply.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stencils - "Wrong Way"

I'm not really sure what the thinking was with this one, but it cracked me up.
Was the stencil-painter trying to confuse people, or did he or she just harbor some kind of resentment towards Ponte de S. Basegio?

Green Cavalli

As I navigate the maze that is Venice, there are some spots I go to deliberately, to shoot photos and observe. Then there are those places I always just seem to stumble upon.
The Ponte dei Ferali is one of those places.
It's right by the Bampa brothers' hat shop, and not terribly far from Piazza San Marco. Each time I happen by that bridge, there's at least one gondola there, and it's usually something more than a "fleet boat".
The other thing about the Ponte dei Ferali is that you can usually find one or two gondoliers sitting on a bench there on the fondamenta.
This is the same spot where I photographed the
"brown shoe gondoliers" back in 2000 and the "two wedding gondolas" in 2006. Another post, "Illusion" was based on a photo from that same pair of wedding gondolas.

This time we're here to admire a boat with some very unique cavalli. I shot these photos in June of this year.
The trumpeting angel design is unique, but not altogether rare - it's the finish on those angels that deserves a closer look.
They appear to be green.

She's a "wedding gondola"; you can tell from the bow deck which is adorned with complete carvings. In addition to the carvings, the boat has many other luxury features, such as gold-leaf details and a nice brocade seat cover.

I always get a kick out of the way some gondoliers hang out by their boats looking like animals at the zoo. In some places they are animated - interacting with passersby, but in other places, like the Ponte dei Ferali, they seem to just exist there, while people walk by and observe.
I can just see the tourist couple from Texas walking by:
"Oh look honey, it's one of those gondoliers"
"Sure is baby-doll, take a picture for the folks back home"
The conversation takes place right there, within earshot of the gondolier, and it doesn't seem to register with the tourists that the gondolier can hear them...and speaks english.

As with nearly every place in Venice, there's a story behind the name :"Ponte dei Ferali". A few centuries ago this was an area known for the lamp-makers, who lived and worked near this bridge. "Ferali" is a dialect word for lamps, which in the 1700's were officially implemented in Venice.

Each time I visited this spot, the finishing touch of Ponte dei Ferali was a set of red and white striped paline. They looked like well-worn candy canes. I noticed this year that the "candy canes" have been replaced with poles that are all red with white tops. Hopefully those are temporary - I miss the cliche red and white striped ones.

Here's a good view of the hand-carved bow deck, with classic allegorical characters: And now let's get a closer look at those cavalli: At first glance they seem to have a natural patina, like the oxidation you might find on a copper roof, but it looks as though the gondolier had them specially finished that way.

It's a rather convincing finish, and in a city where almost every gondola has brass-toned cavalli, who can blame a guy for trying something different.
It also looks like one of those angels is missing a trumpet.

In this last shot you can see a few of the ferali mounted to the wall above the gondola.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Stencils - the "Permanent Pigeon"

Venice is known for her pigeons; most of them come and go as they please. They fly, they walk, they crap on things, they do that weird head-bobbing thing that many birds do.

In fact most of them never stop moving.

So when I was walking through Dorsoduro one day and noticed a pigeon just standing there, it occurred to me that something was no right.
I took a closer look.
It had the shape of a pigeon, and out of the corner of my eye, I'd thought it was a pigeon, but it was a stencil.

With some graffiti and stencilwork, there's a purpose: marking territory, making a statement, swaying public opinion or perhaps just pissing people off.

In this case I'm not sure what the motivation was.

Perhaps the artist did it so they could sit close by on a bench and laugh at people like me - standing there and wondering.

Maybe the artist felt that Venice needed another pigeon.

Or maybe the person who sprayed this "Permanent Pigeon" on the wall wasn't an artist at all. Maybe he or she is a hunter, using a two-dimensional decoy to attract other pigeons.

With the recent law against feeding pigeons, perhaps someone was worried that all those precious pigeons would fly away, so they painted one that would stay there permanently.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stencils - the "Red Cat"

Venice is full of artistic things to look at.

Aside from the architecture, sculpture and famous paintings, there are several other types of "artwork" to be sampled. Some of this "artwork" takes the form of posters and stickers, there are various types of graffiti throughout La Serenissima too. Another method some individuals have used to mark their territory is through the use of stencils.

A stencil is something with cutouts which can be used more than once to make the same impression - often using sprayed paint. Seeing as how it's against the law to mark territory in such a manner, the stencil gives the painter the ability to not only make the same mark several times, but to do it quickly in hopes of not getting caught.

Here's a small stencil I saw in Dorsoduro.

It appears to be a red cat.

I'm not sure of the significance behind it, but it probably carries meaning for the person with the spray-can.

There appears to be something in the cat's mouth, but I can't quite make it out.

Travel Scams to Watch Out For

Over the years I've noticed a few things that seem to be common among gondoliers; one of them is a love for travel.

Some do the backpack-and-hostel thing, while others take a more formal approach.

Show me a room full of gondoliers, and I guarantee you that at least half of them have well-worn passports.

As we travel we see the world, gain invaluable experiences, and run the risk of losing some of their own valuables.

This article in Travel and Leisure is a great collection of tips and warnings, many of which I've seen or heard of happening in places other than the ones listed. I witnessed a variation of the "newspaper attack" once in Jamaica.

Read up, and enjoy your travels my friends.

Just the Photo - "Bilge in Bianco"

To see more images of this boat, see my post from June 20th of this year entitled Spring Cleaning.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beautiful November

As the seasons change, we don't see the kind of extreme differences in our weather here in Southern California as they do further north, but the change is noticeable.
Tonight the air was crisp, a light breeze touched the branches of the palm trees, and the sky had a beautiful display of clouds.

"Death in Venice" Article

This article in Budget Travel is an interesting read.
Check it out for yourself.
I think at least one of you has already left a comment.

Buzzers and Knockers

Throughout Venice you'll see the iconic Lion of St. Mark.
There are great statues and architectural adornments which feature this lion.
But you'll see lions in little places too.
Here are two of them.

For starters, there are a lot of doorbell buzzers in Venice, and some of them have the face of a lion.

The doorhandles and doorknockers also often pay tribute to the Lion of San Marco.
Lions are strong, impressive, and quite worthy of reproduction.
I wonder if such reverence would be present if Venice's symbol were a turkey or a dachshund.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Red Seats under the Ponte Scalzi

I caught a few decent shots of this gondola while waiting on the vapporetto platform in front of the train station. A number of gondolas were coming and going in the shadow of the Ponte Scalzi, but this one seemed worthy of a second look.
She had a host of unique details.
the red seats were the obvious eye-catchers but there were a few other things I thought you might like to see.

A closer look at the tip of the tail shows us that she's got one of those "fold-down-lamas", which are popular with gondoliers who have to fit their boats under low bridges.
Like many of the gondolas we've seen lately, the gondolier has a second remo at the ready - complete with red and white chevron stripes.

The red tapeto (carpet) ties things together nicely.
I got a kick out of the gondolier's Top Sider boat shoes.

Bright red seats stand out, and the pom-poms and ropes trailing back from the cavalli match well. With all this bright red, it's easy to overlook the cavalli, but they deserve an appreciative look as well. No doubt someone paid a lot for those horses.

Now let's check out the front of the boat.
She's got nice, clean lines, and the curves flow well with the stainless steel trim.
The trasto da prua has some intricate carving, and that area has been finished in a clear varnish rather than black paint.

The gondolier has chosen a traditional alluminum ferro with the three decorative pieces between every other finger.
Under closer scrutiny, the ferro seems to have an ever so slight bend.
Here, I've dropped out the color and enhanced the contrast to make it easier to see: She leans back a tiny bit. Something most folks probably wouldn't notice, but when you own and maintain one of these babies, every little detail becomes evident.

All in all, she's a very nice boat. Well maintained and clearly loved and appreciated by her owner.

The gondolas that operate in front of the train station are often the first ones people see when they arrive in Venice. They are, to a certain degree, welcoming ambassadors to this most incredible city.