Lavish religious and political festivals still enliven the city and excite locals and visitors.
In centuries gone by, there were many celebrations that enlivened the city over the course of the year, ranging from religious anniversaries, to keep faith with vows made by the Doge and the Senate for deliverance from terrible plagues, to the feasts of the Redeemer and the Madonna of Good Health which are still living witness of the same, to those of a mainly political character to celebrate the greatness of the Serenissima, the feast of the Sensa, the Ascension, when the Doge on board the Bucintoro (the state galley of the Doges) celebrated Venice’s marriage with the sea, and to the popular festivals that took place in the various squares of the city with acrobatic performances or the bull hunt and other similar events.
Then there were the famous contests in which Castellani and Nicolotti, inhabitants of two of the city’s districts, challenged each other in feats of strength on the various ponti dei pugni, bridges without parapets where the loser of wrestling and boxing matches ended up in the water in the canal below.
Many of these anniversaries and festivals have been immortalised by various painters over the centuries and can be admired in many paintings. Then there are the drawings exhibited in the Correr Museum.
Some of these have survived through the centuries to the present day and Venetians still enjoy taking part in the anniversaries.
The best-known festival is the Historic Regatta which takes place annually on the first Sunday of September over a course that goes from the waters of the lagoon facing St Mark’s and continues along the Grand Canal.
This is an event that attracts many Venetians and tourists in the city, on the banks of the canals or on boats moored along the way to witness the regatta, or the lucky ones on the balconies of their houses overlooking the route that the boats follow.
The regatta is divided into two parts. It opens with the historic procession where the glory of the Serenissima shines once again in the parade of the bissone, the richly-decorated stately barges, propelled by oarsmen dressed in costumes of the past and carrying people dressed as the Doge and the Dogaressa, notables and the striking Queen of Cyprus, Caterina Cornaro who remained a widow, abdicating and granting her island to Venice.
Then comes the competitive part of the day, with a multitude of spectators, in a series of races for all categories of rowers and over courses of various lengths, boys rowing pupparini, women on mascarete, the caorline with six rowers and a crescendo of noisy fans encouraging their favourites and rivalling the intensity of a football game, and lastly the rowing champions on their gondolini ending the day.
A unique spectacle of colours and lights, September is one of the best months for the climate in Venice, granting us another unforgettable memory of this city.