The Regata Storica on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy
© Alexander Duffner/Alam
Venice’s grand regatta
Every year, on the first Sunday of September, Venice celebrates the Regata Storica along the city’s most famous canal. The event is the highlight of the Venetian rowing calendar and consists of two parts – a historical boat parade and a series of rowing races. Festivities begin with a regal water pageant comprising a flotilla of colourful boats from the 16th century. Gondoliers are dressed in period costume as they ferry the Doge, his wife, and other high-ranking Venetian officials up the Grand Canal in a faithful recreation of Venice’s storied maritime past. The regatta commemorates the welcome given in 1489 to Caterina Cornaro, the wife of the King of Cyprus, who renounced her throne in favour of Venice.
After the parade, it’s time for the racing. Competitions are divided by age categories and feature different types of historical boats. The last and most popular race is the gondolini regatta. A lighter and faster version of the gondola from which it takes its shape, the gondolino is rowed by two oarsmen – standing as per Venetian tradition – who power their way up the Grand Canal toward the finish line at the famous 'machina,' the spectacular floating stage in front of the Ca’ Foscari palace on the city’s waterfront.