For thousands of years, the voga alla Veneta was the only way to navigate the lagoon. Standing up and facing forwards gives a good view over reeds and water, while placing a single oar to one side facilitates manoeuverability in the intricate canal system. “Learning the voga was -- and is -- a challenge of the mind as well as the body,” explains resident rower Nan McElroy in The Smithsonian. “As a Venetian friend told me, ‘We row with our heads, the rest of the world rows with its ass’.”
There’s nothing so lyrical as the image of the gondolier, resplendent in black pants and striped top and crooning local standards for smitten couples, writes Shivana Vora in The New York Times. “Like so many who travel to this part of north-eastern Italy, we were lured by the gondolas.” And you can give it a go yourself, says Stephen Bleach in The Times -- “it’s the start of 30 minutes of unscripted slapstick, like a Cornetto advert directed by Buster Keaton. I teeter, I lurch, I stagger, but somehow I don’t fall in”. Or, if you’d rather keep your feet on dry land, simply immerse yourself in Sean Wisley’s New York Times long-read Open Water: Among the gondoliers for a rip-roaring account of what it’s like to manoeuver a thirty-six-foot skateboard in the busy highways and byways of the Venetian lagooon. And, if you happen to be in Venice in May, you can enjoy the Vogalonga regatta, when all motorboats are banned from the lagoon and Venetian rowers old and young, professional and amateur take to the water for one of the city’s best loved festivals.
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