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"The desire to work with wood and build boats was very strong. I said to myself "I'm going to Venice and try it, if it doesn't work out I'm going to be a teacher.""
Matteo Tamassia is one of the last shipwrights, a builder of traditional Venetian boats. His love for wood comes from afar and has deep roots. Born in Florence where he obtained his high school diploma, at the end of the eighties Matteo moved to Venice, a city where he believed that boats still had a great function. After a few years of experience in a boatyard in the province of Grosseto, he began his apprenticeship with Franco Crea, a great gondola builder on Giudecca where he remained for almost ten years. The experience in the shipyard was fundamental for him to acquire the art of building and using traditional boats with the Venetian rowing technique: a continuous and complete training indispensable to experiment in the field and reflect on the transformations related to techniques and materials. Then came the opportunity to become a shipwright, and so Matteo studied to take the theory and practice exam at the Port Authority. Since then the "maremmano in laguna" has not stopped studying and working with small and large boat builders (including the squero Tramontin) creating over the course of his career a large number of traditional boats. From his hands come batelas with shrimp tails (not seen in Venice for decades), sanpierotes, gondolinos, and of course gondolas, without forgetting the mascherete and the restoration of old and fascinating "lance". Matteo builds rowing boats but also sailboats. He also makes scale models. He has worked in Holland where he participated in the construction of a galleon, and in Germany where he coordinated students in building three small sailing boats. He has been called upon by the Cini Foundation for rowing oars, salvaged a mascareta destroyed by a tornado, and taught an 800-hour course on how to rebuild a historic 17th century gondola. Although he didn't become a school teacher, Matteo does in fact teach: he is very committed to passing on maritime traditions and construction techniques to new generations. Because in the past there were many types of boats in the lagoon, each for a particular use. Now it's impossible to find a gondola, the queen of Venetian boats, that doesn't have a marine plywood bottom. At one time they were made entirely from planking, just as taxis in Venice were made of wood, perfect and beautiful in their classicism. Although nowadays not many wooden boats are built anymore, there is a lot of restoration and maintenance work. Matteo is confident that some Venetian boats will always be built from wood.
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