A different way to approach Venice. Take your time (with a burchiello)

“E quando agli occhi suoi Vinegia aparse,

gli edifici del ciel veder gli parse,

le case degli Dei, di Giove il regno;

…abassò i labri et inarcò le ciglia

Per la meravigliosa meraviglia”.


Slowness is a key element to discover Venice and this is only possible thanks to the reuse of slow mobility, through the rediscovery of the historical boats and ancient docking points to and from the lagoon city. The routes can be made through by ferry boats called “Viazzi”, that were making a navigation service that today we can define extra – urban.

These vessels had dimensions and diversified types, depending on the type of transported goods as various merchandise, animals and passengers and their stations were largely concentrated in Rialto where guaranteed a regular connection with main land locations: from Pordenone to Portogruaro, from Treviso to Vicenza, from Badia Polesine in Padua and pushes sometimes well beyond the boundaries of Venice, up to Ferrara and Mantua, Cremona and Pavia. All vessels were characterized by the adoption of the flat bottom, to allow the pass into shallow waters, in conditions often at risk for possible reflux of the tide. These boats also were creating a perfect synergy with the shape of the city, in fact, there are places where their colours establish references and exchanges with the colours of the facades of the houses, creating spaces of extraordinary value. So you can now resume those ancient shipping lines to arrive in lagoon city rediscovering the sense of slowness and taste to admire the lagoon on one completely different perspective.

The most used type of boats was called the “burchiello”, which can be reconstructed, also rediscovering the ancient crafts of carpenters and boatmen, adapting it to modern requirements of safety and comfort (can be equipped with a motor support for safely secure the most dangerous manoeuvres and ensuring the viability at times when the wind is absent).

Ancient Burchiello boat

The burchiello was a wooden boat for passenger transport, with an elegant cabin with three or four balconies, finely crafted, decorated with mirrors, precious carvings and colours; driven by the force of the wind or by oars, in the lagoon trip, and pulled by horses in path from Fusina to Padua, along the Brenta Riviera. Aboard of burchiello took place the “dolce vita” of Venetian people: here nobles and aristocrats and adventurers, ladies and fops, comedians and artists created a singular and picturesque environment that animated and made pleasant river trip to local and foreign travellers.

A modern Burchiello

Important is the creation of safe routes that do not come into conflict with those of the fast boats, so please refer to the careful design of accurate paths by specialized planners, particularly in the lagoon shipping industry.

Three important embarkation areas were identified: Fusina, S. Giuliano and Mestre, Piazza Barche and only during the summer, the beaches of Jesolo, Chioggia and Cavallino. Also as it regards the mooring in the city of Venice can be resumed the old ferry landing points of the so-called “de fora.”

Map of the old docks inside the city of Venice to reach locations outside the city

Other historic boats divided by function:

• Fishing in the lagoon: caorline da valle, sampierote, mussetti, bragazzi, latee da valle.

• Freight: caorline, bateloni, bratele, tope, peote.

• People transportation: gondolas, ferry gondolas, sandali, balatine, marcarati.

• Ceremonies and celebrations: gondolas, pupparini, galleons.

• Hunting: sciponi, cafoni, fisalere.

Giandomenico Padovan

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