A lot has been written about the Pope's visit to Venice.
Press release-like articles can be easily found on-line.
An army of press staff were there, and there are plenty of photos out now which show the Pontiff waving from that beautifully varnished motor boat.
But to get a better idea of what it was like to be there, first take a look at the videos. There are a few online, here's another link to the one Marie of Italy to Los Angeles and Back shared: http://nuovavenezia.gelocal.it/multimedia/2011/05/08/video/il-papa-a-a-venezia-benedetto-xvi-in-gondola-da-san-marco-alla-salute-29522860/1
Roberto Nardin was one of the few gondoliers honored enough to be there welcoming the Pope as he arrived via rowing boat, and can be seen in some of the video clips of Pope Benedict's ride across the Canale Grande. Maria Ohanesian Nardin, Roberto's wife, has made some of us on Facebook aware of these videos, and I have watched in awe.
The boat they finally chose to use is incredible, and I know many of my gondola friends have looked at that vessel with great admiriation.
I also suspect that I'm not the only one who has watched the video clips over and over, not to see the people in the boat...but to get a better look at the boat itself.
The gleaing white vessel we see in the photos and video has been called by two different names in the news. I asked Nereo Zane to help clarify; is she a "Ballotina" or a "Dogaressa?"
"The 'balotina' is a kind of boat (like gondola, mascareta, sandolo and so on), 'Dogaressa' is her name"
So the Pontiff rode across the water in a balotina known as the "Dogaressa".
The other thing I noticed while watching the video, was the flotilla of perfect gondolas that accompanied the "Dogaressa". It was clear that everyone had put on their absolute best. There were no frayed canvas deck covers pulled to one side, I didn't see dangling hoses and vespa tires on any of the gondolas, and I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that every gondolier in the shot was wearing a new striped shirt, a new crisp white overshirt, and either a new hat, or his very best hat. Nothing was untucked, and the boats looked flawless.
Next, if you haven't already been to Erla's blog, read her first person account from the ropeline at the Naval College. Erla's writing is always great, and this is no exception.
"Papal visit: the party's over"
It's been more than twenty-five years since a sitting Pope has ridden across the Grand Canal.
And as Erla so aptly pointed out, many of the grand processions in Venice are re-enactments of historic events. This was an historic event - one that folks will talk about for generations.
Meanwhile, Nereo was there, looking at it all from the water. He saw it from a GSVVM boat and has posted some great images on his blog in the post "Visita del Papa - 4".
Earlier, a number of club boats from the GSVVM, Canottieri Mestre, and Tre Archi converged at a "capiteo", or shrine of a Black Madonna, to pay homage, and later Pope Benedict XVI stopped nearby to give his blessing to the capiteo.
You can read Nereo's account (and see if I got my translation correct) at "Visita del Papa - 3".
I was watching via the Vatican's live Web TV feed and the peata "Brentana" was there in the picture, with all of her crew, but I did not understand their passive role.
The big red boat was tied up in front of the Salute church and did not move while the Pope's "motor-boat-cade" passed them, enroute to the Naval College.
Were they simply there to do "alza remi" or maybe some program change prevented them from rowing alongside? The big boat on water should have been some real sight!
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