Arts and Crafts - Symbols of Venice: the Squero and the Gondola

Youth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Venetian craftsmanship, research and journeys through history.

The Squero of San Trovaso
The Squero of San Trovaso is located in Sestiere Dorsoduro and is one of the few squeri still operating in Venice. It lies between Fondamenta Bonlini and Fondamenta Le Nani, opposite the Church of San Trovaso, a name that apparently derives from a Venetian contraction of Gervasius and Protasius. Some say it dates back to before the seventeenth century. Inside, you can visit the chapel of the “squeraroli” (“boat builders”), where there is a “dedication” to the art of boat building because it belonged to the “small school of boat builders”.

Thanks to the Street View technology, you can move the cursor to see the “De la Scoasera” Bridge on the right and the façade of the Church of San Trovaso on the left.

Squero may derive from “squara”, indicating a team of people who work together to build a boat, or could be from the Venetian word “squara”, i.e. a “square”, a tool used by shipwrights.

The setting around it is reminiscent of a mountain context and is unusual for Venice.
The wooden buildings at either end are similar to typical mountain houses. Find out why below.

The small door is the only access by land to the Squero of San Trovaso. This arouses great interest among the flocks of tourists who enter here, intrigued by the story of the squero.

As it was long ago, the workshop for the construction of gondolas. Today, for various reasons, only 1 or 2 gondolas are built ex-novo each year. Much of the work done nowadays is for maintenance.

Squero San Trovaso - The importance of Wood
Youth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO
Months of work and eight different types of wood. This is the reason: most of the craftsmen and the timber came from Cadore, from where the logs were floated along the River Piave.

The Venetian squero is a typical boatyard for the construction of Venetian rowing boats.There are numerous etymological interpretations of the name “squero”.

Tourists enjoy a close-up view thanks to the boats that pass along the Rio de San Trovaso and the Rio del Ognissanti.

An artist paints a picture of the Squero, treasured because it still preserves an age-old tradition.

The wooden structure known as a “cantiér” is the basis of the construction. It is a reverse profile of the keel. The centre line axis, which is not a straight but curved, determines the asymmetrical structure of the gondola.

Reflective glossy paint in the foreground of the gondola. The view point shows the main tools of the squeraiolo (boatbuilder).

Gondolas undergo frequent maintenance as they are exposed to the weather and to prolonged contact with water. These are the result of inserts and reconstruction of damaged parts.

Brackets for gluing wooden inserts used in the various stages of repair.

A historic glimpse of the repair workshop

Just like before... everything is still done with skilled craftsmanship

Deteriorated parts are removed manually, with chisels.

Detail of a “frieze” of the Gondola.

Work station for painting and decorating

A detail during sanding, with fine abrasive paper.

A coat of filler

The work of squeraioli, including the lifting and moving of the boats, is done without winches, using only the sheer strength of their arms.

The hats of the Gondolari...

The “féro da prorà” (“iron prow head”), also known as the “pettine” (“comb”).
Over the centuries, it has undergone various evolutions. In the beginning, it did not have the 6 blades, and was known as a “dolfin” (“dolphin”) due to its sinuous form.

Originally a simple reinforcement, it became a sign of economic status. In the beginning, the teeth were the heads of the nails used to fix it, and were later enhanced to become an indispensable ornament

Overturned gondolas awaiting restoration.

Historical Gondolas
A brief review of some historical examples of gondolas from the late 19th century

Aristocrats sensitive to frost and prying eyes could pass unobserved by remaining inside the awnings, which were usually made of wood or fine fabrics.

An example of a cabin made from wood.
This could be placed on the gondola as a shelter for the passengers, providing intimacy during short trips or romantic crossings.

A sign of nobility, the most opulent gondolas were fitted with comfortable leather seats.

The Peggy Guggenheim Gondola
Its details and rich ornaments have made this boat one of the most famous in the world.

The lion, symbol of Venice and the Most Serene Republic, was often depicted to display the power of Venetian domination.

Another example of a stylised lion.

The Gondola
The Gondola, symbol of Venice. Eleven metres in length and over 600 kg in weight, composed of 280 different pieces and requiring 500 hours to build. It is an art that has endured for over two centuries.
Credits: Story

Special Thanks to:
The Squero of San Trovaso
Squeraiolo Lorenzo Della Toffola
Text, Photo credits and editing (?) Oscar Zampiron Referente Comunicazione - Comitato UNESCO Giovani
Regional Head of Communication - Italian National Youth Committee UNESCO

Youth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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