While a certain ice-cream jingle may have become synonymous with Venice’s gondola-strewn waterways (for a particular generation, at least), it is barcarolles (or barcaroles) that are the original folk songs of the Venetian boatmen, and would have been heard regularly along the course of the city’s canals.


Characterised by a gentle ‘rocking’ rhythm (reminiscent of the motion of a boat on water) traditional barcarolles have influenced a range of classical composers, and the term now relates to the original songs as well as other pieces of music inspired by the style, mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Examples of barcarolles

Brahms, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Rossini, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Shubert and Strauss are among the composers who have taken barcarolles as their inspiration.


The term can be applied to instrumental and vocal pieces of music, and perhaps one of the most well-known barcarolles is Jacques Offenbach’s Belle Nuit, ô Nuit d’Amour, from the opera The Tales of Hoffman.