Once upon a time the “renaioli”: men who used to gather the “rena” from the Arno river, moving with a small boat with a flat bottom, along the river, between Pontassieve and Signa, using a long climbing pole to make the boat moving (yes, a similar way used by gondoliers of Venice!!).
As often happens, the tradition went lost, until a day has been decided to give another chance to this custom. In 1995 has been decide to create an Association with the aim of recover some old boats sank in the river in the past, restore them and bring back the tradition of the Renaioli. This has been possible with the assistance provided by some aged men, who used to do this job back in the past when they were young. Nowadays the boats are used mainly for touristic reasons. In fact it’s possible sail along the river with this kind of boat and admire Florence from the bottom, form the river, passing below the bridges. Just think to look at Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi from the bottom! It’s a completely different point of view. The starting point is close to Piazza Mentana, not far away from Uffizi, and you will continue sailing along the river for a historical and natural itinerary of 50 min about. In the night time is definitely captivating, with dark water around you and Florence monuments and artworks shining. You can book a personalized tour, but there are few days with scheduled fixed tour: for example during San Giovanni day (24th of June) patron saint’s festival, special itinerary have been designed to better look at fireworks, form a different prospective: from the water! (this day all the Florentine gather along the roads beside the river to admire the San Giovanni’s fireworks) During summer time (June, July and August) a theatrical performance comes together with the tour: it could be something tied to history of Florence otherwise a piece of Divina Commedia.
It’s very impressive especially at the sunset. Indeed you can ask to use the boat of Renaioli even for personal scope, such as wedding, anniversary, birthday and other parties. Courses are available to learn to paddle! The Renaioli have even an ecological aim, taking care of the state of the river: you can’t image how rich is the fauna and flora of the Arno river.