Friday, March 22, 2019


At the traditional varo for Alessandro Santini's new gondola, 
his wife Roberta Billi did the honors of christening the new boat 
with champagne - delivered, of course via a bottle-smash.

Fortunately the ferro of the new boat is a solid piece of steel, 
so she was able to proceed without concern of damaging the new boat.

Here's a great photo that was taken just as the smash took place.

To see more photos from the varo, view my previous post:
"Santini's Varo"

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Santini's Varo

I first met Alessandro Santini here in California.
He and his wife Roberta were vacationing with their kids in August of 2018.  In between family surf sessions and sightseeing, 
we had tacos and talked about gondolas.

He told me about the boat he was having built and I pretty much begged him to send me photos of the varo (a ceremonial launching party in Venice).
I had hoped to get to Venice in time to attend the varo, 
but it was not meant to be.

A career gondolier in Venezia, Alessandro had the boat custom built.
He chose the famous Venetian regata-winner-turned-boatbuilder Franco Crea.

 A beautiful work-in-progress.

There are only a handful of outfits producing gondolas in La Serenissima these days, and Crea is by far the most prolific.  He and his accomplished squerariolo Francesco began the process in July, and by late October she was complete - ready to kiss the waters of Venice.

But conditions weren't the best for a perfect new boat.
Strong scirocco winds, very high tides, and people away on holiday convinced Alessandro to wait for a better time with the right weather.
The perfect showpiece of a gondola waited patiently in Franco Crea's facility until the big day.

When you're an established gondolier, and you're having a boat built,
you have certain things custom-done according to your wishes. 
Signore Santini arranged with the accomplished Venetian carver "Marzio" to design and create some remarkable pieces to serve as the portela in the front, and the scimier mounted atop the seat-back.

Custom portela.

In addition, the pusioli (arm pieces) were custom carved, along with the decking areas in the stern around the forcola - complete with a flat charcoal black background to contrast the raised carvings.

Throw on a regal red carpet for the gondolier to stand on, and remi and forcola from Saverio Pastor, and she was almost complete.
Santini didn't scrimp on the details though - he chose crown-adorned fully shaped cavalli on either side and a traditional "delfino" as his canon decoration on the bow - all in flawlessly bright polished brass.
The ferro is stainless steel with a brushed finish.

 Cavallo with crown.

 Flag-bearing trident delfino.

Envy-worthy brushed stainless ferro with engraved initials.

After more than eight months of building, finishing, and then waiting...
it was finally time - the right time for her varo.

Friends and family assembled outside the Crea facility,
and on a brilliant day in March, Alessandro rolled her out into the sun. 

the roll out.

Alessandro's wife Roberta smiles for a shot with the new gondola.

Maestro Crea himself talks about the boat.

Signore Santini soaks up the moment with Matteo Sinibaldi -
a good friend and fellow gondolier.

The beautiful black boat was rolled into position for her christening.

And it was Roberta's duty to do the honors.

The proud owner cleaned her up, and she was ready to float.

With the aid of a hoist, she gently kisses the water for the first time.

This moment must have been fantastic for Alessandro. 
I wish I could have been there to witness it.

Taking her for a spin.

After the festivities, Alessandro's son Samuel stepped 
on the back to take a few strokes.
I wouldn't be surprised if we see him in stripes one day.

Alessandro Santini is a well-established gondolier in Venezia, 
who now rows a gorgeous new boat.

you can see the gondola and her gondolier in action along the Grand Canal.
Alessandro operates from a docking area in front of the Monaco Grand Canal hotel - just steps from the famous Harry's Bar.

So grab a spritz at Harry's, and then take a ride with Alessandro. 
You'll be glad you did. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


photos and video by Martina and Nereo Zane

My dear friends Nereo and Martina Zane (father and daughter) 
sent these gems from a recent parade in Venezia.

To say that "things get a little crazy around Carnivale" would be an understatement.
It's not the kind of naked street parade stuff you might see in Rio, 
but those Venetians do know how to make things memorable.
There are definitely costumes.

Nereo captaining a GSVVM caorlina full of "Mickeys"
(I think the sunglasses really make the outfit work).

Among the many boats that took part, 
the remarkable "Fruit Crate Gondola".

I first mentioned this unique craft in January of 2018.
A guy named Angelo Boscolo built the boat using those wooden crates that fruit vendors often receive their produce in.

To read more, go to "The Fruit Crate Gondola".

See what I mean: actual fruit crates!

Here's the video that Nereo sent me from the same event last year.
You can see the famous "Fruit Crate Gondola" at the twelve minute mark.

The direct link to this video is here: 

Imagine a multitude of rowing boats, with rowers in various costumes, 
all assembling at Punta della Dogana.  
They row down the Canale Grande, 
pass under the Rialto, 
then head up the Canale di Cannaregio - stopping just before the Ponte dei Tre Archi. 

At the heart of the whole thing is a caorlina with a huge rat 
(they call it a "pantegana").
As a grand finale, the pantegana bursts open with colored smoke and a bunch of multicolored balloons are released into the sky.

Nereo was honored to row as captain of the caorlina he was on this year, so video wasn't really an option, but he did get a few snaps of the pantegana as it was opening up.

The colored smoke begins.

It's probably getting hard to breathe on that thing.

And here come the balloons.

Meanwhile, over on the Fruit Crate Gondola, 
they had a rather clever sort of "felze". 
Shaped like a traditional carnivale mask, 
and bordered by lots of greenery, 
this new addition to the boat looked great - especially with two gondoliers rowing in full white angel costumes.

A side view of the "mask felze".

And check out those wings and the traditional tricorn hat.

Big thanks to Nereo and Martina Zane for showing us another side of Venezia.

I'm thinking about adding "row the Fruit Crate Gondola" to my bucket list.