Piero Dri:

Venice — Rowing through time

16 November 2022 | 38 minutes

Piero Dri, 2022

Piero Dri is the fourth and youngest remer in Venice, making oars and oarlocks, or in Italian ‘forcolai’. Piero learned how to row aged just four. It’s been his passion ever since.

I came to Venice with sound specialist Mike Axinn in April 2022, during the Homo Faber celebration of artisans, for a special Venice series of Materially Speaking. We met three young artisans who are now bringing a fresh energy to the community with a particular eye on repair, re-use and sustainability.

Venice is an extraordinary island city with a rich history, magnificent art and great beauty. However there are no cars and a frail infrastructure. And of course there are the tourists. So we were keen to discover what these artisans bring to Venice and why they like to call it home.

Piero outside his workshop

A forcolai on a gondola

Piero’s vibrant personality has earned him the name of the ‘mad forcolai maker’ and so his workshop is called ‘Il Forcolaio Matto.’ As we arrive, Piero is opening up his shop – hooking flower boxes onto his window sill, and leaning a striped oar against the wall.

He tells us about growing up in Venice, and how he escaped to the lagoon when he needed peace and to be with nature. He describes studying to become an astronomer before changing course to take up the life of an artisan.

Piero’s workshops have painted and varnished oars suspended from the ceiling. He speaks about the different woods he uses and the boat community in Venice.

Workshop with oars

Piero using the clamp

In one window is a display of decorative forcolai, which hold their own as art objects in a variety of gorgeous woods. He speaks of a competition where he created a forcolai to express the natural beauty of the lagoon (see green and yellow forcolai below).


Sound recording, edit and design: Mike Axinn

Music: courtesy of Audio Network

  • Flying Colours 3703/4, Christopher Slaski

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