A Venetian gondola is a first for Banbury

Maurizio Ulliana in the Gondola - the Marisa Christiano
Maurizio Ulliana in the Gondola - the Marisa Christiano

Banbury was given a touch of the Italian spirit for the first time on Sunday when the canal became a Venetian scene.

Italian Maurizio Ulliana was passing through town rowing a traditional gondola on a marathon trip from Birmingham to London.

Maurizio Ulliana on his gondola marathon

Maurizio Ulliana on his gondola marathon

Sig Ullliana is sleeping under tarpaulins most of the time but enjoyed a good night’s sleep at the Banbury House Hotel on Sunday before resuming his journey, which will end at Little Venice in London in mid October.

Boat owner Richard Bailey, of Oxford, said: “Maurizio has a passion for restoring Venetian boats and he’s expressing this passion by making this sponsored row from Stratford-upon-Avon London.

“This year is the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare so Maurizio calls his project ‘Shakespeare in Gondola’, SiG.

“The gondola is a slow, beautiful boat and this trip is 210 miles long with many locks. At two miles per hour that’s 105 hours of rowing. Each lock takes 20 minutes to transit and with 176 locks this adds 59 hours to the journey. The total journey is the work of a whole month.”

Sig Ulliana restores classic barges and vessels of the canals in the Veneto region.

His boat restoration group is based in Padua. Venetian rowers can join Maurizio and passengers can hop on and off as it suits.

The gondola Sig Ulliana is using is a traditional one from Venice, used in Venice from 1986 - 2003 for taking visitors through the Venetian canals.

Since then she has performed for four years on Birmingham canals, nine years in Oxford on the rivers Thames and Cherwell and a month in Versailles.

She is called Marisa Cristiano after the wife and the son of the gondolier who had her launched on New Year’s Day in 1986. Cristiano is now a gondolier operating from in front the magnificent Danieli Hotel in Venice.

Maurizio departed from Stratford on Sunday, September 18 and passed through Warwick in his way to Banbury and rows onwards to Oxford, Reading, Windsor, Teddington and Brentford and finally to Little Venice at Paddington.