On September 29th of 2007, I shook hands with three legendary Venetian rowers - Vittorio, Enzo and Bepi. We were in Albany, New York, about to set out on a 150 mile expedition down the Hudson River.
I was impressed with these three men from the Veneto: their skill, their ability to row so perfectly together, and their endurance over the six days we spent rowing.
More than anything, I was shcocked to learn that they were all in their mid to late sixties...and to be honest, these three guys rowed circles around me and the other two American gondoliers.
We were young enough to be their sons, one guys was young enough to be a grandson, and these "senior citizens" schooled us, all the way down the river.
That week, permanently changed my perspective on age and a man's ability to carry on physically into his later years. I sure am glad I chose Venetian rowing instead of pole vaulting or alligator wrestling.
Yesterday I learned that the three guys who schooled us on the Hudson are not the only examples that a guy can keep rowing into his senior years.
It turns out that two guys: Alessandro Angiolin and Giancarlo Falcier shoved off in a gondola from the Croatian city of Pula - a city that was part of the Venetian republic for over 450 years, and followed the coast for 215 kilometers. This was a trip from one side of the Adriatic to the other.
The gondola is old: built fifty-six years ago.
The guys rowing were even older: Alessandro Angiolin is 78 years old, he's from of Cavallino-Treporti and the other guy: Giancarlo Falcier is 75, he's from Noventa di Piave. Both vogatori are members of the Società Remiera Cavallino - north-east of the main entrance to the Venetian lagoon.
These two gentlemen stepped up and reminded everyone that courage, tenacity, and good old-fashioned hard work are not exclusively a young man's game.
The expedition supported the City of Hope and the Association "Mauro Baschirotto", a familiar organization which is sometimes called the B.I.R.D. Foundation (Vittorio And Enzo have rowed on their behalf in the past). Alessandro and Giancarlo followed the coastline up, around, and down towards Venice. The voyage was an impressive undertaking, and has been an inspiration to many who suffer from both disease and old age.
Heartfelt congratulations to Allesandro and Giancarlo!
I'm thinking about spending my senior years rowing expeditions with old gondolier friends some day. Anyone want to join me?
Here's a link to a local press outlet with more of the story: