Restoring Ships and Boats



Restoring Ships and Boats
Restoring Museum Exhibits
Replicas of Historic Boats



Arrival of the Mariner's Museum gondola at the Tramontin boatyard.

The restoration of a boat, like that of any other historical artefact, is an operation that should be conducted with delicacy and craftsmanship, and requires - above all - a profound knowledge of history.

In the marine sector there is a situation of general backwardness: boats in Italy are hardly ever repaired and the concept of 'restoration' - returning a boat to its original conditions, removing the additions and non-original materials. In most cases, simple repair work is carried out, or worse, an attempt is made to 'improve' the boats that by their very nature were basic and spartan with the minimum amount of finishing necessary. Example of this kind of 'improvement' are the use of teak on decks and the mirror finish obtained with excessive amounts of varnish.

Below is a brief account of a few of the operations that we supervised, that were challenging and forced us to confront a number of absolutely new problems, trying out solutions and compromises between the requirements of the client and the craftsmen involved. Each restoration was completed by a precise technical report, and - whenever possible - by a survey and drawing of the vessel; we hope to put all this material together in a manual for the restoration of boats.



Gondola della Casa Savoia

Assignment: survey of the royal gondola .

Client: Museo Nazionale delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari Roma.

Date: 1991

Picture taken from the book: La gondola

See also the book: Le marinerie adriatiche tra '800 e '900, edited by Pasqua Izzo,  De Luca, Roma, 1990

Parecio, movable parts, for the gondola. Squero Casal, coll. Peretti






The gondola with his felze. Squero Casal, coll. Peretti


The gondolin da fresco when it was still in use.

Gondolin da fresco

Assignment: Restoration of a Gondolin da fresco 

Client: Associazione Arzanà, Save Venice Inc.

Date: 1994, 1995

This is the only remaining example of a gondolìn da fresco: a small gondola used as a pleasure craft as opposed to similar boats used for regattas. In fact it is equipped with the parécio: all the accessories used for the comfortable transport of seated passengers. 

10.165 m long, 1.185 wide, it is an elegant example of light construction made between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century

It was in a poor state of conservation mainly due its being kept for a long time out of the water supported on two tranverse supports that had deformed the hull and broken many of the frames.

Because the gondlìn was destined for static display in a museum, the first operation was to return it to its original shape using a specially constructed support, while the broken frames were fixed using removable metal plates. It was then cleaned, without painting it or substituting any of its parts, in order to conserve it as much as possible in its original state. The parts that had been attacked by woodworm were treated.

Following our standard procedure, an accurate survey was made of the boat and the technical drawings are available on request (catalogue numbers  P273-274-275-276).

Survey of the gondolin.

Ferro di prua.

Piero and Guido Amadi.

Peata 'Tronchetto'

Assignment: Restoration and survey of the peata Tronchetto

Client: Associazione Arzanà

Date: 1995

The peata in question named “Tronchetto” was built by the Antonio Amadi boatyard in Burano, it was then registered by the Cooperativa Carico e Scarico e Trasporti Fluviali Tronchetto di Venezia at the Port Inspectorate with the number 6V3747 on the 13th February 1958. The registered dimensions were: overall length 15.35 m, maximum width 3.65 m, moulded depth 1.09, mean draft when fully loaded 0.60 m, tonnage 37 tonnes. For the restoration we contacted Guido and Pietro Amadi in Burano, who taught us the construction methods and showed us the original notes.

The boat was in good condition, so much so that only a few braghete (small portions of the planking) on the hull and deck needed to be replaced. The typical black livery was restored complete with the two white discs on either side of the bow stem.

The boat was surveyed and the technical drawings P286-287-288-289-290-407 are available on request.

Structural plan of the peata.

Model of the peata Tronchetto.


The  peata Tronchetto being rowed...




Before the restoration

Bragagna Annamaria

Assignment: Restoration of the bragagna Annamaria

Client: Associazione Arzanà, Venice

Date: 1996

The bragagna Annamaria was built by the Olindo Ranzato boatyard in Chioggia for the fisherman Raimondo Lanza in June 1951. The length between the stem posts is 9.45 m, width 2.52 m. The restoration was carried out at the Antonio Amadi boatyard in Burano. The motor was taken out to reveal the original mast step and all the other superfluous additions were removed. The rudder and masts were rebuilt and it was repainted based on old photographs and advice from the owner.

It was not possible to survey this boat.

The bragagna Annamaria sailing. Photo M. Marzari.

Annamaria after the restoration.

Arrival of the Newport gondola.

Nineteenth century gondola

Assignment: To act as consultant for the restoration of a nineteenth century gondola

Client: Mariner’s Museum Newport News, USA

Date: 1998 - 1999

According to information given to us by the Mariner's Museum, the gondola displayed there was bought by the poet Robert Browning during his stay in Venice in 1846, who then passed it on to his gondolier, Giovanni Hitzi, in 1861.

In 1890, the American landscape painter Thomas Moran bought it and took it to America. After other changes of ownership it arrived at the museum where it is still kept.

This gondola, together with the one kept at the Larian Boat Museum is therefore in all probability  the oldest gondola in existence. It may seem incredible, but in Venice there are no gondolas older than these because the gondola is still considered a means of transport; when it is old it is broken up and substituted with a new one.

It is a splendid boat, complete with the accessories, the pareci, including the felze, the cabin that protected the passengers during the night or in bad weather.

It still has the frames a brassada (consisting of only two elements rather than the three used nowadays) cut from elm roots so as to be stronger and more elastic.  


After transporting the boat by canal to the boatyard, the hull was reinforced, the cracks were closed and - as with any other boat - the parts that had rotted were replaced. The final result is beautiful, but considering its destination (a museum) we would have preferred a less invasive restoration without repainting and without regilding; unfortunately it was impossible to convince the craftsmen involved to carry out a restoration that was less 'beautiful' and more philological. 

See the video

Yacht Digest n° 95, 1999, A Venezia una gondola d’epoca “americana”, di Michela Naccari

Mariner's Museum website:

Brassada frames.

The gondola after restoration. Photo Sutto.

The Giorgia arriving at the boatyard.

Caorlina Giorgia

Assignment: Restoration of the caorlina Giorgia

Client: Museo della Navigazione Fluviale di Battaglia Terme

Date: 2003 - 2004

The caorlina Giorgia, built on the island of Murano in the 1970s, is an imposing transport vessel 11.5 m long and 2.5 m wide that, after a life of hard work, was abandoned and left to sink. It was salvaged by the Museo della Navigazione Fluviale di Battaglia Terme (Padua).

After obtaining funding from the Fondazione della Cassa di Risparmio di Padova, the Museum assigned us the task of finding a boatyard that could carryout the difficult restoration work. The boat was in an extremely poor condition: many parts were rotten or attacked by hylophagous animals; also the boat had lost its original sheer.

The restoration was carried out at the Crea boatyard, owned by Gianfranco Vianello, on the Giudecca with the invaluable work of Giuseppe Scaduto. Firstly, with Antonio Rosada, every part of the boat was photographed and accurately measured, and then rendered in 3D by Andrea Bocchin.

Next the line of the hull was restored and only the timber that was beyond repair replaced piece-by-piece so as not to alter the original lines of the boat. The old motor was removed, keeping the after deadwood so that a new auxiliary motor can be installed in the future.

The boat was surveyed and the technical drawings P492-493- 494-495 are available on request.

Penzo, Crea and the caorlina.

The bow during the restoration

Model of the caorlina Giorgia.

The Giorgia restored....

Survey / rendering of the Giorgia.

Detail of the interior.

The decked end of the stern.

: penzo.gilberto

email Gilberto Penzo