The Brenta, formerly called Medoacus, is one of the most important navigable rivers in northern Italy; born in the province of Trento from the union of the emissaries of the lakes of Levico and Caldonazzo, flows for about 174 km and flows into the lagoon of Venice at Fusina.
In the past centuries, the course of the river underwent various changes, mainly due to the numerous and strong floods. Here the Republic of Venice implemented measures to avoid such problems; in particular, in 1495 the "Grande Brenta" was excavated to bring the waters south of the Lagoon, towards Chioggia. Thanks to further works of maintenance and safety, the impetuosity of the Brenta was finally tamed and since the twentieth century the great floods ceased.
The stretch of the Brenta between Stra and Fusina is called the Naviglio del Brenta and along its banks the Riviera del Brenta develops.
Along the stretch that presents an unexpected difference in height of about 8 meters, to avoid the formation of strong currents, the Venetians created some locks, or "conche", based on the principle of the vessels communicating with the Leonardo's hinged system. Also in Fusina since the fifteenth century was put into operation the "lizza", or "carro", a machine that hoisted and lowered the boats between the Brenta and the Lagoon. The system fell into disuse after the construction of the locks that regulated themselves the difference in height between the river and the lagoon.
Along the Naviglio del Brenta, the two banks were connected by numerous ferries; only in the twentieth century were built a series of revolving bridges, some of which are still rotated by hand.
The Burchiello was a large wooden boat with an elegant cabin in the middle with three or four balconies, finely furnished and decorated with mirrors and precious carvings. It carried out a passenger transport service in the stretch between Venice and Stra along the Naviglio del Brenta and then in the Piovego canal to Padua.
The use of these boats spread with the expansion of the mainland possessions of the Venetian nobles who preferred the comfortable Burchiello to uncomfortable carriage rides. The boat rowed or sailed along the stretch of the lagoon to Fusina, where there was the customs and arrived in Padua drawn by horses.
It was a means not particularly expensive, especially in nocturnal journeys, which guaranteed to reach Padua, or Venice on the way back, in almost a day. Numerous famous people employed the Burchiello and praised the service in various poems and writings; among these we remember Carlo Goldoni, Michel de Montaigne, Giacomo Casanova, Lord Byron, Wolfgang Goethe and Gabriele D'Annunzio.
After the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797, the transport service with the Burchiello also declined.