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

Venetian craftsmanship, research and journeys through history.

Youth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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 San Trovaso - Ingresso dello SqueroYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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.

Squero San Trovaso - Vista dalle Fondamenta NaniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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.

Squero San Trovaso - La famosa portaYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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.

Squero San Trovaso - Panoramica Officina di CostruzioneYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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 - L'importanza del LegnoYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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”.

Squero San Trovaso - Attrazione TuristicaYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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

Squero San Trovaso - Il pittoree lo SqueroYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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

Squero San Trovaso - Altra prospettiva del CantiérYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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.

Squero San Trovaso - Il banco di lavoroYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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

Squero San Trovaso - Dettaglio RistutturazioneYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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.

Squero San Trovaso - Dettaglio Officina di CostruzioneYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Squero San Trovaso - Sagome, legni e staffeYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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

Squero San Trovaso - Scorcio interno officina di CostruzioneYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

A historic glimpse of the repair workshop

Squero San Trovaso - La PruaYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Modelli di ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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

Squero San Trovaso - Artigiano al lavoroYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Deteriorated parts are removed manually, with chisels.

Squero San Trovaso - L'intarsioYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Detail of a “frieze” of the Gondola.

Squero San Trovaso - Banchi per ladecorazione e la verniciaturaYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Work station for painting and decorating

Squero San Trovaso - La levigaturaYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

A detail during sanding, with fine abrasive paper.

Squero San Trovaso - La stuccaturaYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

A coat of filler

Squero San Trovaso - Tutto a manoYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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

Squero San Trovaso - La Storia dei CapelliYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

The hats of the Gondolari...

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Modelli di ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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.

Squero San Trovaso - El "Ferro" o "Dolfìn"Youth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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

Squero San Trovaso - Differenti ferri di PruaYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Squero San Trovaso - Storico alloggio e casa montanaYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Squero San Trovaso - Gondole riverseYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Overturned gondolas awaiting restoration.

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Storiche ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Historical Gondolas

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

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Modelli di ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Storiche ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Storiche ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Modelli di ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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.

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Storiche ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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.

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Modelli di ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Modelli di ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Modelli di ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Another example of a stylised lion.

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Modelli di ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Image missing
Image missing

Museo Storico Navale della Marina MIlitare - Modelli di ImbarcazioniYouth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

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.
Explore more
Related theme
The Grand Tour of Italy
Celebrate the past. Define the future.
View theme
Google apps