In Venice you can still find the squeri, small boatyards where expert craftsmen build and repair wooden boats. The squeri are just as ancient as Venice itself, everything is still the way it used to be. Just a few steps away from the usual tourist routes, you can meet the last master boatbuilders – you can count them on one hand – that pass on the art of building gondolas and all other typical lagoon boats the sandoli, sanpierote, caorline, topi, cofani.
Traditional squeri are usually built on a courtyard that slopes down towards the water to launch or tow boats, whereas manufacturing is carried out inside a teza, a wooden warehouse built on brick pillars, which can sometimes have another storey where the squerariol (the boatbuilder) lives.
Here are four squeri to visit:
Squero San Trovaso at Dorsoduro 1097 Along the Rio San Trovaso, from before the seventeenth century. The building that houses it is reminiscent of an alpine cabin: both the carpenters and the construction timber came from Cadore; the inclination of the square in front and the roof covering it were useful in case of rain, as well as a deposit for work tools.
Squero Domenico Tramontin & Sons at Dorsoduro 1542 whose boatyard in the Ognissanti area is worth a visit – they have been building gondolas since 1884. Among the many curiosities on display is the collection of blades, tools, oarlocks and other objects which once belonged to famous owners, including the house of Savoy.
Squero Crea Giudecca 212, owned by Gianfranco Vianello (aka Crea), a champion rower; his is the only squero which supplies gondolas complete with all the accessories including oarlocks and oars.
The last one is the squero of Costantini-Dei Rossi in Giudecca, 866 / A, who, although young, is a faithful follower of the traditional methods and the only one, apart from Crea, producing other types of vessels as well as gondolas.