The Burchiello and the Brenta Riviera

Canal Il Canaletto - I Molini e la Chiusa di Dolo 1730-1735

The Veneto region has always been rich in natural water courses; here an extensive network of artificial navigable waterways was dug to form true water highways that connect rivers one to the other, and have made transportation, irrigation or electric power production easier or shorter. This huge network of rivers and navigable canals was a primary source of wealth for the people of the Veneto, since the towns of this geographical area were connected one to the other by this branched waterway network, ultimately taking to the Venice lagoon and to the sea that represented the major trading points.
Of course navigation was not an easy task, and when navigation was in slightly sloping canals or upstream, boats were pulled by horses led, in their turn, by horse owners (cavalanti) or by the boat drivers who walked on the towpaths (alzaia) on the river banks.
Navigation Locks, known as Chiuse or Porte in Italian, were created to make navigation easier. These resemble true water lifts that join the water courses running at different heights and allow boats to navigate waterways upstream or downstream.
The waterways that connected Venice with Padua were skimmed by boats of various sorts, which carried people and merchandise along the river branches where residences were built. At first these served the purpose of controlling agricultural holdings, but were turned into wonderful Villas later.

The Brenta Riviera was a branch connecting Venice to Padua; it was a trendy canal, a place of delight and the ideal extension of the Grand Canal of Venice, where over seventy luxury villas flourished.
The wealthiest aristocrats spent their holidays not far from the city: they left Venice on comfortable boats called Burchiello that navigated upstream the Brenta navigable canal. These boats were forcibly pushed by oars from St. Mark’s Square, across the Venetian lagoon to Fusina, wherefrom they were pulled by horses to Padua, along the Brenta Riviera.
The Burchiello was a typical Venetian boat for the transport of passengers, with a large wooden cabin and three or four balconies, finely worked and decorated.
On the Burchiello, the Venetian aristocrats took with them also the elegance, the refinement and the luxury that were peculiar of the city of Venice.
The Burchiello became one with the Brenta Riviera; patronized and used for centuries by important persons, poets, painters, and musicians who described and portrayed it in their works, the Burchiello became the symbol of the epic of the civilization of the Villas, quoted and represented in countless works of art.