I am am often asked by passengers if I've ever been to Venice.
My answer is usually
"of course, if you're an Elvis impersonator...
ya gotta go to Graceland.
If you're REALLY into Karate, ya gotta go to Japan."
In my opinion, anyone who rows a gondola owes it to themselves, and anyone they take as passengers, to experience Venice - the place it all comes from.
During my first visit to Venice, I was very fortunate that my friend Nereo Zane introduced me to the GSVVM rowing club.
It's in Mestre at the base of the bridge that leads to Venice.
It was there that I not only received expert training, but got to see so many other parts of Venetian life that a tourist never sees.
The GSVVM is a rowing club. You join, gain access to the various boats they have, and get to participate in all sorts of social activities as well. Think of it as a gym, but instead of weights and workout rooms, everyone works out on the water on boats, and because it's often a leisure activity, there's a strong social aspect to much of what goes on there.
More importantly, members get to practice an activity that is part of their history, their heritage, and is culturally unique to their region.
couples, families, and friend groups can be seen there together, and often the rowing excursions they take into the lagoon have been scheduled and then looked forward to for days.
In other cases members will just show up, take a boat out on a whim, and then hang out and socialize.
Additionally, there are regattas that members can compete in, and annual events that members sign up for.
During each of my visits to Venice, the GSVVM has been an important thing on my list.
I've learned basics, had fun recreational rows, and even received competitive race training there.
In 2015 Simon Atkins came with me and we spent a week, every day, on the water preparing for the upcoming US Gondola Nationals. The instruction we received from maestro Mario Rossetti was invaluable, and made a big difference in how we trained once we returned to California. We believe it also made a huge difference in our race times.
In this post I've included several photos from the "going to the hoist" part at the beginning of one of our training day rows with Nereo Zane and maestro Mario.
while Simon steadies the boat.
The club decal adorns both sides of the stern of the boat.
this sandolo was handcrafted by the in-house boat builder
Nereo tends to the forcole as a club gondola is hoisted in the background.
What happened next was all rowing, and no picture taking.
We set out into the lagoon, rowed in some of the protected areas in Mestre, than crossed the water into Venice.
Seeing Venice from the water is wonderful.
Seeing it from a boat that you're rowing is the stuff of dreams, and it ends up IN your dreams afterwards.
We moored the boat near the fish market, across the Grand Canal from the Santa Sofia gondola station.
After mooring the boat, we headed into a little place called the
Bar Stellina, overlooking the Campo Beccarie near the fish market.
Every experience I've had in Venice seems to be engraved in my memory.
I treasure it all, and look forward to going back, again and again.
Big thanks to both Nereo and Mario for training, translating, and all of their patience with us.