The bissa, the traditional fishing boat of Lake Garda

A series of rowing regattas, the so-called “Palio delle Bisse” are currently taking place on Lake Garda. The bissa boat race started on June 11th and will end on August 6th. A bissa is the traditional boat of our lake, and in the days when commercial and military vessels crossed the waters of our lakes, bissas were a common sight. These boats are extremely suitable for this kind of waters, which can often be quite rough due to the expanse of the lake and the winds blowing across it. Bissas were originally designed as fishing boats: small, light and flat-bottomed, they were propelled by either human power, using oars, or the wind, by erecting a lugsail. The Veneto word “bissa”, water snake, refers to the vessel’s elongated, slender shape, which allows it to slither anywhere. The so-called “bissone”, i.e. a large bissa, is a longer, heavier and stockier boat, having a symmetrical prow and stern that is powered by four rowers. Other boats that used to be popular on the lake were the sandolo, the spina, the giralda and the falchetta, but sadly, they have now disappeared. Bissas however are still popular and often feature in rowing regattas. The Lega Bisse del Garda is an umbrella organization grouping, supervising and coordinating the bissa boating clubs of Lazise, Garda, Gargnano and Bardolino, the founding members, and those of Cassone di Malcesine, Peschiera del Garda, Sirmione, Torri del Benaco, Portese di San Felice, Gardone Riviera, Salò, Desenzano del Garda, Limone sul Garda, Toscolano Maderno and Clusane d’Iseo, Castelletto di Brenzone, Rivoltella di Desenzano, Paratico and Monte Isola, which are all towns overlooking Lake Garda or Lake Iseo. Every year the Palio, the rowing race where the competitors contend the triangular shaped flag of the lake, carries on a tradition that has its roots back in the times of the Republic of Venice (1405 to 1796), whose territories included this region.

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