This is an archived version of
Freccia Azzurra: Back to the future | Civic Europe
Arts and cultural activities

Freccia Azzurra: Back to the future

The transformation of a traditional boat into a community’s cultural hub to engage people and open up debates about the present and future of Venetian lagoon, starting from past as a shared resource.


Who is behind this?

Tommaso De Michiel

Associazione Culturale Batipai



Idea pitch

The project aims to transform Freccia Azzurra, one of the last traditional lagoon boats, into a multipurpose community's cultural hub. A place of cultural regeneration where past is connected to present and future, a shared home encouraging comparison and common planning. We aim to achieve this through the restoration of an ancient boat, conservation of memories and pass on of boatbuilding skills (workshops, 10 craftsmen + 50 students), awareness raising and involvement activities (500 people).

Where will your project idea take place?

Venice and the surrounding lagoon eaves area, Veneto Region, north east Italy.

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

Venetian lagoon eaves is a complex ecological system mainly formed by water (lagoon, rivers, channels) and the insular city of Venice. But it is also a lived-in space, especially by means of boats. They were the fulcrum of hundreds-year-old knowledge and traditions that today are disappearing. Not surprisingly, many local conflicts between different stakeholders and ways of living the area and imagining its future involve water spaces and boats (e.g., gondolas' commodification, large cruise ships, motor vs. traditional boats).
Freccia Azzurra is one of the last traditional lagoon boats and a powerful icon of the community’s collective memory. Its restoration and creative reuse as a community cultural hub aim to actively engage people with past and open up debates about present and future.

Who are you doing it for?

The primary project's target groups are:
- 50 school and university students involved in nautical workshops (age 12-25);
- 500 people involved in dissemination + activities on board Freccia Azzurra (60% women, age 22-70);
- 10 local craftsmen to pass of memories and their knowledge of traditional shipbuilding methods and materials, either during restoration, dissemination and workshop activities.
More in general (and with big ambition!), we would like to take on board Freccia Azzurra: 1. sensitive inhabitants, 2. habitual users of the area (such as commuter workers and off-site students) [1. + 2. = ca. 470K], 3. aware tourists and hikers, 4. the virtually planetary community of those who love Venice and care about its traditions, heritage and destiny.

How do you plan to get there?

More than 20m long and 5m wide (walkable area: 160 sqm), in 2017 Freccia Azzurra was laid up for demolition. Given its great historical value, we acquired it starting a challenging restoration path divided into different phases, involving community in the process from is very beginning.
Phase 1 (completed) aimed to make the boat safe and avoid the risk of sinking.
Phase 2 (oct21-apr22) aims to complete hull and deck restoration and make the boat fully operative as a multipurpose community's cultural hub usable on-site at the Giudecca Island (Venice), i.e., as a meeting space, training ship, living museum, floating cinema/theater (from May 2021).
Phase 3 (2022-23): predisposition for navigation.
The project aims to stimulate cultural co-creation, sharing of ideas, aggregation and active participation through the organization of:
- voluntary participation to restoration activities;
- workshops with youngsters on traditional boatbuilding techniques and skills such as sail making, rope making (objective: practice and passing on of memories and traditional knowledge, nurturing curiosity; target: 10 craftsmen + 50 students)
- 12 public events throughout the year and especially at the time of Freccia Azzurra's launch – lectures, round tables, social events – to draw attention to the project and actively involve people (objective: awareness raising; target: 500)

What are the expected results?

- Freccia Azzurra restored and fully operative as a community cultural hub;
- increased social cohesion and awareness of the value of heritage as a shared resource people can re-design and develop to shape future and address today's challenges;
- transgenerational passing on and development of old boatbuilding skills on traditional boats restoration, maintenance, construction;
- provision of fresh inputs into local cultural and tourism strategies, potentially laying the ground for attracting sustainable investment.
Results align with UN's SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, sustainable (target 11.4: protect cultural and natural heritage), SDG 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development, SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

- By bringing together diverse individuals, groups and social actors, enabling also marginalized ones (citizens, youngsters) to take part in participatory and ethical production of solutions and in sharing benefits;
- by empowering them: from mere beneficiaries/users of cultural heritage to actors able to take care of and creatively use/adapt it (awareness, practical skills);
- by engaging them, fueling the power of community enthusiasm in supporting and carrying a project from early stages of development through to operations. This also tackles those attitudes of disengagement/alienation present in some sectors of the Venetian community. When people get together doing something for the long-term benefit of all, they develop the feeling that "if we’ve done it once, we can do it again".

Why is this idea important to you?

Batipai was set up in 2018 by a group of youngsters keen to explore and preserve Venetian histories, traditions, memories and heritage connected to water beyond the standard tourist tale. Batipai believes that memories produce futures, so to create a sustainable, inclusive and democratic future we need to take an inclusive and democratic approach to history, heritage-making and its preservation. This gives people a way into talking about Venice now and how it should be in the future: a city living not only on water (or despite it), but with it. All the team members live in the lagoon eaves area (but with EU-wide working experiences): Tommaso De Michiel, team leader, PR & event organizer; Alessandra Varotto, communication, sustainability & project managing expert; Enrico Sandon, shipwright.

€ 60000,-

Total budget

€ 35000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Materials for workshops with youngsters (e.g., timber, ropes, sails): 15000€
Equipments (including individual protection devices to safely work on board and during workshops): 4000€
Honoraries (local craftsmen teaching at workshops): 5000€
Public events (12 x 150 € each): 1800€
Communication and PR activities: 3000€
Restoration activities (securing Freccia Azzurra to accommodate people and activities on board): 6000€
Unforeseen: 200€
* 25000€ own contribution for restoration activities.

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

We would like to: 1. Establish connection with other groups that use participation in heritage conservation processes to allow wider positive social change. Your location in coastal/river areas is a plus: in future, we could reach you with our boat! 2. Receive useful feedback to improve our project.





Idea created on April 26, 2021
Last edit on April 26, 2021

Write comment