The Regata Storica historic parade, Venice

Beating out a slow steady rhythm the drums are the first sign that the Regata Storica (Historic Regatta) of Venice is on its way. The flotilla slowly enters the Grand Canal from St Marks Basin, glistening in the glorious summer sun. And gradually the ceremonial barges and gondole glide past, revealing their medieval-attired passengers, as we’re treated to the 500-year-old parade. It’s a sight to behold!

Poster for this year's Regata Storica

Poster for this year’s Regata Storica

Regattas (regate in Italian) have always been very popular with Venetians with historic records of the earliest recorded regattas dating back to the mid-1200s. The city’s regatta calendar still includes around a dozen regattas per year with some being international events, such as La Vogalonga, whilst others are more local, such as the Regata di Mestre in early May or the final regata in San Michele at the end of September.

A rainbow of caorline boats being made ready

A rainbow of caorline boats being made ready

Its likely, however, that the idea of the regata goes further back than that as Venice was a renowned sea-faring nation always in need of oarsmen to man their warships. For example, between 1290 and 1540 the standard Venetian trireme (3 oar) warship consisted of 25 to 30 benches on each side and 3 oarsmen pulling a separate oar on each bench. For every warship that the Venetian empire built it had to find and train between 75 and 90 oarsmen. And as warships left the Arsenale shipyard at the rate of one a day, oarsmen were in high demand!

Today’s Regata Storica is actually a parade followed by a series of races over the course of the afternoon. Its a much anticipated date on the Venetian calendar and the locals come out in force to support and cheer on the rowers. The parade and most of the races row the length of the Grande Canal up to the Piazzale della Stazione (Santa Lucia station) so getting a good view of it is pretty easy as you can set up camp almost anywhere along the canal.

Some locals show their support by festooning their palazzi with ribbons and balloons.

Decorated palazzo on the Grand Canal

Decorated palazzo on the Grand Canal

Others take to their boats and barges by the boatload, cheering from their moorings along the banks.

All dressed up!

I think we need more balloons….!

Well dressed yacht at Punta della Dogana

Well dressed yacht at Punta della Dogana

Meanwhile many families stake out their bankside claims from lunchtime, bringing picnics and camping chairs to make the afternoon go with a swing!

San Samuele staked out by picnic-ing families

San Samuele staked out by picnic-ing families

The less well-prepared resort to paper sunhats or even a snooze sunbathing in the September sun waiting for the fleet to arrive!

Here's one I made earlier!

Here’s one I made earlier!

Finally around 4pm the glorious historic parade of 16th century-style boats glides up the Grand Canal headed by the heavily gilded ceremonial state barge, the Bucintoro. The barge takes 18 standing men to row and is also used for the Festa della Sensa celebrations in early June. The Regata Storica parade actually commemorates the visit of Queen Caterina Cornaro, the wife of the King of Cyprus in 1489, and re-enacts the rolling out of the proverbial red carpet for her visitors.

The ceremonial Bucintoro barge rowed by 18 men

The ceremonial Bucintoro barge rowed by 18 men

Following behind are a series of gleaming barges and a rainbow of gondolas carrying the Doge, his wife and the city’s highest-ranking officials.

Mr and Mrs Doge!

Mr and Mrs Doge!

The parade gives a glimpse of what ceremonial life might have looked like for the upper classes back in the 1600s – without the pongs or the plague of course – although spotting one of the officials on his mobile did yank me back to the 21st century reality and make me chuckle rather inappropriately!

The way to travel!

The way to travel!

Venice's lion

Venice’s lion

Who knew medieval captains had mobiles?!

Can you spot the deliberate mistake…..?

And then the racing regate finally get underway. The afternoon schedule has 6 regate with a variety boats and differing numbers of rowers, all using the traditional standing rowing method found only in Venice. This is what the locals are really waiting for.

Pupparin, Mascareta, Caorlina and Gondolino boats

Pupparin, Mascareta, Caorlina and Gondolino boats

Racing starts with the youngsters as pairs of children from 7 or 8 up to 14 years old take to the water. Be aware though, if you want to see the children compete you need to position yourself between the Rialto Bridge and Ca’ Foscari as the course is shorter. You can also listen to the commentary in front of the Church of the Salute, in Campo San Vio or on the radio.

Voga camp (rowing camp) kids getting ready

Voga camp (rowing camp) kids getting ready

Next up are the teenagers who race sleek, agile pupparini boats from Giardini di Castello, up the Grand Canal to Ca’ Foscari. At 10 metres long these are decent sized boats to be manoeuvering but the teenagers seem to manage impressively.

Teenagers racing

Teenagers racing

The women race next, powering their 8m long mascarete boats from the Giardini di Castello, up the Grand Canal to San Marcuola, where they turn to head back down the canal to the finish at Ca’ Foscari. The gondolier profession may be a largely male one, apart from one or two who have broken into their ranks, but many Venetian women compete in the regate each year with great support.

Women's twin-oared mascarete

Women’s twin-oared mascarete

And the winners of the coveted red pennant this year are Valentina Tosi and Debora Scarpa.

And the winners are.....

And the winners are…..

But the grande finale of the regate has got to be the gondoliers race. Each gondola is rowed by 2 oarsmen, one in the usual position at the back and one towards the prow at the front. They row standing up as per Venetian tradition and power their way up the Grand Canal cutting through the water like a knife through butter!

The twin-oared gondolini regata

The twin-oared gondolini regata

Support for the gondoliers is very strong with shouts and cheers of encouragement from the banks all along the canal. Favourites include the legendary team of Giampaolo D’Este and his pal Ivo Redolfi Tezzat in the green gondola. They apparently win everything with Giampaolo nick-named Super D’Este but this year have a hard fight on their hands going past us neck and neck with their nearest rivals and being pushed right to a photo finish by the Vignotti cousins from Sant’Erasmo in the orange gondola.

Super D'Este in action in the green gondola

Neck and neck – Super D’Este in action in the green gondola

Finally, as the sun gently sets behind the Venetian palazzi, the Regata Storica winds down as the Bucintoro, historic barges and boatloads of supporters wend their weary way back down the Grand Canal to return to their boatyards. Its been another historic year for the Regata Storica. Make sure you make a date for next year’s regata to see whether Super D’Este can do it again!

Sunset over the Grand Canal

Sunset over the Grand Canal

Useful Information

Official Regata Storica websitehttp://www.regatastoricavenezia.it/mg.php?pg=2&lang=en

Venice regatta calendarhttp://www.comune.venezia.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/49520

Free viewing spots – you can view the regatta from anywhere along the banks of the Grand Canal but some good spots include in front of the Church of the Salute, in front of the Rialto on the Rivo del Ferro, in front of the Accademia or as near to Ca’ Foscari as you can get so you can see the finish line.

Paid viewing spots – If you want a guaranteed view of the regate (but not the finish), you can buy tickets for the Platea Galleggiante viewing platform at Campo San Vio. Tickets cost €60 but give a clear view from St Mark’s Basin to the Accademia bridge. The platea is shaded for most of the afternoon but you are not protected from bad weather – http://www.veneziaunica.it/en/news/regata-storica-i-biglietti-la-platea-galleggiante-di-san-vio

Map of Regata Storica and race routes

Map of Regata Storica and race routes

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10 Responses to The Regata Storica historic parade, Venice

  1. I enjoyed reading your post and the photos are excellent.

  2. It is beautiful! My mother visited Venice in the 1970’s and now I’m determined to find the color slides she took. Looking at the ancient buildings, I don’t think I’d be able to tear my gaze away, thinking about the history… and who lived where, what their lives were like. Thank you for all the great photos!

    • lizbert1 says:

      Thank you, I hope you find the slides! And I agree, Venice is stuffed with history. I’d love to know who lived in my flat before me back in the day – I like to imagine it might have been Casanova!!! ;o)

  3. suggs69 says:

    That reminds me, the Venice lion adorns the gate of Zadar

  4. Fishink says:

    Must have missed this one, you busy blogger, great pics and research as usual. Nice to see one of my blog followers has ‘jumped ship’ and is also following you now too.. must have been our blog hop.. fab !

    • lizbert1 says:

      There’s just so much going on here that I’m actually struggling to keep up!!! Its a nice problem to have though!!! And thanks for sharing your followers, there’s lots of love to go around and hopefully you might get some followers from me too as your blogs are always beautiful! X

  5. lizbert1 says:

    Indeed! Love and energy make the world go round eh?!! X

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