Venetian rowing differs from the usual style in that the oarsman stands, faces forwards and rests his oars in special oarlocks - fórcole. It is a pleasant rowing style not only because it allows you to see where you are going, but because it is extremely efficient. A recent study confirms that to transport three people plus the weight of the boat (half a ton), a gondolier consumes the same amount of energy as he does walking. Another advantage of this style is the manoeuvrability: the gondolier is able to carry out every manoeuvre - starting off, right-angle turns, slow or sudden stops, moving sideways or backwards - without changing his position.
There are three types of Venetian rowing: first and foremost the method with a single rower using a single oar (the oar also acting as rudder), a la valesàna with a single rower using two crossed oars, and the method with two or more rowers - normally an even number - on alternate sides of the boat. In each case, the most important role is played by the oarsman at the stern.
The use of a single oar - with the resulting lateral space-saving - is indispensible in the narrow Venetian canals. In fact, when two gondolas arrive from opposite directions, the oar can be passed under the approaching boat, or - as the oar is not ‘closed’ in a oarlock - it can be lifted from the fórcola and aligned along the length of the hull. It is obvious, though, that if you row from only one side of the boat it will go round in circles, so a technique was developed to keep the boat on a straight course.
The stroke can be divided into two phases: the ‘push’ (premèr
Glossary) during which the oarsman immerses the blade vertically and pushes on the giròn Glossary (the shaft of the oar), and the ‘return’ (stalìr Glossary) in which the oar is moved to its starting point.

After the ‘push’ stroke, the gondolier prepares to straighten the boat with the return stroke stalìa.

While the ‘push’ is fairly intuitive, the ‘return’ is a complex movement in which the oar is kept underwater and is brought to its starting point keeping the forward edge of the blade inclined downwards. This ‘rudder effect’ is used to correct the direction of the boat.
To prevent water resistance from pushing the oar from its resting point - as is often the case with beginners - the grip of the oar is pressed so as to push the oar onto the fórcola and keep it in place. In this way the morso
Glossary(the pivot point for the oar) can be left open leaving just the nasèlo Glossary (the lower point) curved slightly upwards to block the oar.

Return stroke, stalìa. Note how the oar, levering on the water with the blade, bends downwards.

Of course if the return-stroke were the equivalent of a reverse push-stroke, the boat would point in the right direction but would remain more or less motionless. Thus every possible technique is used to reduce the ‘braking’ effect of the return-stroke so as to gain the maximum forward motion. It is no wonder that single-oar regattas are considered the ‘university’ of Venetian rowing: they require strength and stamina, but also technique, style and experience.
As well as the rowing technique, the fact that the boat leans to the right helps to correct the direction. This deviation is obtained by moving the load, or the rowers, to the right, or even - as is the case with the
gondola or the puparìn - by building boats which are ‘bent’. Due to their asymetric form these boats tend to follow a path to the right.
To give the initial ‘push’ to get the boat in motion, the gondolier uses the base of the fórcola as a pivot for the oar (rowing sotomòrso), using a series of rapid side-to-side movements of the oar - which is kept immersed - so as to keep the boat under control with the minimum amount of leeway.

Start-off or rowing sotomòrso.

Once the boat is underway, the oar is placed on the morso for the normal rowing style already described.
A left turn - andàr premàndo - is simple and intuitive: it requires a good push on the oar; for a right turn - andàr stagàndo - the oar is moved as in the return stroke (stalìa), but with greater leverage so as to point the bow to the right. To stop the boat - siàda - the oar is brought onto the sanca
Glossary, with the blade of the oar more or less vertical depending on the urgency of the manouevre; if necessary, to avoid a collision, the oar is pulled frequently and forcefully to create greater water resistance (the fórcola must be firmly blocked in its slot, if not it could slip out, the gondolier risking a backward dive).
There are two types of stopping manouevre: one where the boat turns to the right, where the oar is placed on the lower part of the fórcola for the manouevre siàda bassa,

Stop with a veer to the right - siàda bassa.

and the other - siàda alta - which keeps the boat straight or turns it to the left with the oar placed in the higher part of the fórcola under the protrusion at the top (récia Glossary).

Stop with a veer to the left - siàda alta.

During the siada, as with the other manouevres, the orientation of the blade of the oar should be the same as that for normal rowing, with the angled side pushing the water so as to keep the wood fibres in the same direction. It is also advisable to ‘shorten’ the oar (reducing the length of oar in the water) to avoid a hard backlash on the arms.
To move backwards, the gondolier places the oar in front of the fórcola in the sanca, and steps back rowing with figure-of-eight movements which push the boat backwards and at the same time correct the direction.

Backwards manouevre - indrìo.

To move the boat sideways, the oar is moved forwards along the side of the boat working as a lever with the hull as pivot. This manouevre - dar zò - is carried out using the right hand only.

Lateral manouevre - dar zò - halfway along the boat.

This technique is also used with the oar near the stern to turn the boat to the right without moving forward as if the boat were on a pivot.

Lateral manouevre - dar zò - at the stern.

To move only the stern to the right, the manouevre tiràr acqua is used: the oar is positioned vertically in the water and is pulled towards the gondolier with both hands, making it oscillate sideways.

Moving only the stern to the right - tiràr acqua.

In narrow canals, the gondolier moves forwards over the rear thwart or trastolìni (the transverse boards which connect the left and right sides of the boat) behind the passenger seats, and rows in sanca, with the oar immersed, alternating left and right diagonal movements as in the voga a bratto.

Rowing in narrow canals, on the trastolìni.

Finally, there is a curious manouevre in which the gondolier uses his feet. It is carried out when the gondola is veered to the right in a very narrow canal and risks knocking the stern against the walls. In this case the gondolier stretches his left leg over the side of the boat and pushes against the wall to avoid contact.

Using the left foot to veer right.