Monday, April 21, 2014

Rowing Lessons in Venice

photos by Nan McElroy
Venice is great
I must admit, that while I love Venice, and think that everyone should
visit La Serenissima to see what an amazing city she is...
I hate the way so many tourists end up seeing my favorite city. 

The problem
Few things annoy me more than to see a crowd of Columbians,
a herd of Hungarians, or a mob of Malaysians getting shuffled into an
already overcroweded Piazza San Marco to look at this and that
before shuffling off once again in a desperate attempt to keep up
with the lady holding the folded umbrella over her head. Normally she's using
some sort of device to describe things hastily in the language they speak.

It's the same for tour groups of countless origins and languages -
they spill out of their gigantic cruise ship, buy some gelato,
shop for masks and trinkets (that were probably made in China)...and then follow the lady with the umbrella.

I suppose one day in Venice is better than none at all, but it amazes me that people pay money for such an un-enlightenning experience.

On the other hand, I'm a huge fan of experiencing a city in the way that her native inhabitants do:
Have breakfast the way they do, in the place they do,
move at the same speed that they do,
and if at all possible, have a local with you to keep things on course and interpret things the right way.

It goes without saying, of course, that I'm big fan of rowing.

The solution
So for those few people who want to visit Venezia in a more proper and complete way, may I suggest the following:
Slow down - abandon the breakneck pace that you normally employ
when traveling.

Hang around a bit - spend not a day or two in Venice, but rather five days to a week. Rent an apartment if you can, and eat what the locals eat, where they eat it.

Get lost a little - really, what's the worst thing that can happen if you just keep wandering in Venice? You won't end up in Florence or Croatia, you won't stumble upon some dangerous high-crime area, no, you'll end up at the water and figure things out from there.  In the mean time you're likely to see a Venice that's quite different from the overcrowded tourist areas.

Learn to row - Now here's the reason I sat down to write this in the first place.  There's this terrific operation called "Row Venice", staffed by folks who are passionate about the Venetian style of rowing.  These folks offer several options - all of which give you the chance to actually row the boat! And as an added bonus, they do this in many different languages.
Check them out at

 photo by Nan McElroy

Row Venice is operated by l'associazione sportiva culturale Viva Voga Veneta
Students learn on a boat known as a batela coda di gambero - traditional but very rare.  This vessel has just the kind of stability that lends itself to training.

 photo by Nan McElroy

A few days ago there was a great piece in the Washington Post
that sums it up quite nicely:

photo by Nan McElroy

More great images from Nan McElroy can be seen at:


Other posts on learning to row:
"Family Rowing Lessons"

"Rowing Lessons"

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow! We just wrote a post in "italian languages" about "how to learn to drive a gondola". You are invited to read it!

I think give the opportunity to the tourist from all over the world to rowing, is incredibile.

Scuole di Voga Veneziane