When one of your dearest friends messages you to ask whether you are free to meet them in Venice for the weekend, it really would be rude to say no! So on Friday morning, I popped myself on a train and less than three hours later, pulled up at Santa Lucia station. My friend Grania was there for an event with the company she works for, so I was really lucky to be able to join in with some of the things they had planned, such as a presentation on Italian Art from a well known art historian (more on this in another post) and a beautiful dinner on the Island of Torcello! However on Saturday after the event had finished and before I had to catch my train back to Milan, we went on a little adventure!
The two of us had lived together whilst we were on our Erasmus year in Modena and had both previously been to Venice on more than one occasion, so when Grania’s friend asked her if we wanted to go with him to meet his friend and go on his boat, we jumped at the chance! It wasn’t until we were at dinner on the Friday night that he told us it was a rowing boat and to be honest, this did fill me with a little bit of dread! I had rowed once before with a friend at Flatford Mill in Essex and we spent nearly the entire hour getting tangled up in weeping willow trees and crashing into the sides of the river. Much to the disapproval of the cows grazing on the river bank! I was imaging the four of us in a situation like this, seated with two oars each and me being utterly useless! However, I couldn’t have been more wrong!
After a speedy twenty minute water taxi ride from our hotel to Sestiere Castello, we meet Luca’s friend Walter. Walter is a Venetian tour guide and runs ‘L’altra Venezia’ – The other Venice – a company which offers visitors to Venice something a little different, like tailored tours of the North or South Lagoons or their “Murano Exclusive” tour, visiting the Murano glass factories. We however, had a Venetian Rowing Lesson and what a fabulous experience it was!
As we walked along to meet Walter at the boat, I realised my expectations were completely wrong! The boat was larger than I had imagined, and had only two oars, meaning two people row at a time whilst the other two sit, one in the middle and one at the front of the boat (maximum 4 people). Have I mentioned you row standing up?! At this point I resigned myself to the fact I probably shouldn’t even try rowing as I am extremely prone to falling over even when on dry land!
After a few minutes working out how best to jump down into the boat, we set off out into the open water! Luca first tried his hand at rowing, with Walter at the back of the boat instructing him on everything from posture and wrist movement to the position the oar must be in when it hits the water, but it was not to be his forte, so Grania stepped up and had a try. Well, she was like a duck to water and within a few minutes was rowing like a pro! Walter was an excellent teacher and helped coach her to move her body with the oar rather than her arms and anchor herself with her right leg forward and left leg towards the back of the boat. At this point we were in the open water in front of the Island of San Michele, but we now were moving inwards to the tricky narrow canal streets of Venice!
As we worked our way through the quiet, tourist free streets, we asked Walter lots of questions about the buildings and palaces we passed and life in Venice. He was extremely knowledgeable and it was really interesting listening to his stories and anecdotes! Soon we emerged out into the open waters again, right by Piazza San Marco, where all the traditional gondolas are harboured. But we didn’t hang around for long and took a new route back into the winding streets of the city. I was feeling super relaxed but as we made our way back, I decided to have a go at rowing too, so I took over from Grania. After an initial few minutes of adjustment and coaching from Walter, I soon got into the rhythm of it and found out it was really fun and not as difficult as I had imagined! It is so true that time flies when you are having fun and before long we had to make our way back to the hotel. I had just about enough time to grab a coffee and warm up a little before heading to the station to catch my train back to Milan.
If you are planning a trip to Venice and are looking for something a little different to do, I can not recommend highly enough a tour with l’altra Venezia! It really was a unique experience and fabulous way to see the city! If a Venetian rowing lesson isn’t for you, they have plenty more options to check out on their website and next time I’m in Venice I will definitely be trying another one out! http://www.laltravenezia.it/