The Historical Regatta in Venice: A Spectacle on the Grand Canal with Fascinating Facts and Dates
Introduction to the Historical Regatta in Venice: A Journey Through Time and Tradition
According to ancient tradition, the Historical Regatta of Venice takes place on the first Sunday of September.
Get ready for this magical moment on September 3rd!
There is a long lasting tradition in boat racing in Venice, a city proud of the rowing ability, art in which venetians excelled to survive and adapt their lives in this lagoon landscape.
The art of rowing is linked to the very foundation of the city.
The historical reference of the type of event we attend nowadays, is the first formal request of the Venetian Municipality to the Austrian authorities to organize a race at the expense of the municipality in 1841. After the annex to the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, the race became an opportunity to celebrate the past magnificence of the Serenissima Republic of Venice.
Venice experiences the historical re-enactment of the parade that in 1489 welcomed Caterina Cornèr, last Queen of Cyprus.
This has also become a beloved event for sportsmen and lovers of regattas in the lagoon. The most important from a sport point of view because the winners of the Historical Regatta in the gondolini category will be greeted in the city in a reverential way all year round… until the next edition of this ancient competition!
For History addicted, the Regatta is definitely an important annual appointment.
The historical procession along the Gran Canal recreates the arrival of the Queen of Cyprus Caterina Cornaro or Cornèr (Αικατερίνη Κορνάρο) in Venice. Traditional boats parade with figures in elegant period costumes faithful to those of the sixteenth century, sewn with precious fabrics and according to the fashion and textile craftsmanship of Venice.
A celebration of the glorious past of a Republic that was able to preserve peace and maintain political balances in the Mediterranean to defend its commercial interests.
"Venice pays homage to Caterina Cornaro", Johann Ferdinand Apollonius Makart
On board the Bucintoro, the Doge’s vessel, Caterina Cornèr was triumphantly welcomed in Venice.
One of the most emblematic woman in Venice’s golden age, she was only fourteen years old when she had to marry James II King of Cyprus Jerusalem and Armenia, to guarantee Venice profitable commercial traffic in the Mediterranean. In Cyprus, in fact, the noble Cornèr family owned plantations of the precious sugar.
She became regent and then Queen, despite conspiracies and difficolties due to the conflicting political interests in the geographical area targeted by Genoan Republic and Ottoman Empire.
She ruled Cyprus from 1474 to 1489 as the island passed from the hands of the Lusignan dynasty to the Republic of Venice. She had to abdicate in favor of the Serenissima Republic, and this is why Venice recognized her the value of the renunciation.
The water parade, sumptuous and pompous, wanted to be a tribute to this gesture of political importance.
Considered The Last Queen: a resilient woman who was able to turn with honor her life’s reverses into personal grow opportunities.
She surrounded herself with artists and humanists at her court in Asolo, forever entering history as an enlightened figure of the Venetian Renaissance.
After her death she continued living in the imagination for centuries thanks to the many works of art in which she is portrayed by great masters such as Albrecht Dürer and Tiziano Vecellio who depicts her as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, with the wheel of martyrdom in the background.
The date, Event and the Route of the Historical Regatta
Friday, September 1st
Campo della Salute, at 6.00 pm: Blessing of the ‘gondolini’
Presentation of the crews, blessing of the boats. The ceremony is preceded at 5.30 pm by a water procession in the Grand Canal from Rialto to the Church “Santa Maria della Salute”.
Sunday, September 3rd
Historical parade and sporting event starting at 4.00 pm:
The route starts from St. Mark’s Basin, along the Grand Canal crosses Rialto, arrives at the Railway where there is the tour of the ‘Paletto’ to return along the Grand Canal to Ca’Foscari where there is the “Machina”, the floating grandstand from where the authorities follow the Regatta and on which the winners are awarded.
Don’t miss the exciting Venetian Rowing Competiions
After the exciting passage of the Historical Parade that creates a reverential silence along the Grand Canal, it’s time for the Venetian rowing competitions.
Silent people will become loudy cheering supporters!!!
The Venetians were masters of navigation in the lagoon and needed maneuverable boats without a deep keel. They produced war and transport boats at the Arsenal, an industrial system that made the Serenissima an impregnable bulwark and Venice “triumphant”, a dominant republic over the seas.
In the painting "Women regatta in Canal Grande" (1790) by Gabriel Bella, the women of Pellestrina and Sant'Erasmo can be seen competing while the unwary spectators, who approach the regatta field, are made to retreat with shots of "balote", the terracotta balls used for hunting in the lagoon.
Some key words to get into the spirit of the race:
Regatta: etymologically this term derives from the verb used in the sixteenth century “regatar” which means “to compete with rowboat”.
Gondolini: The ‘gondolìn’ is a Venetian racing boat that owes its shape to the gondola but differs for proportions and performance. In fact, the gondolino for its speed and lightness is mainly used as a racing boat. In the Historical Regatta they are colorful and every year the colors of the gondolini on which to compete is decided by draw after elimination phase between the competitors.
Since the 1892 regatta the colors have remained unchanged: white for gondolino n.1, yellow (‘canarin’) for n.2, purple for n.3, light blue for n.4, red for n.5, green for n. 6, orange for n.7, pink for n. 8, brown for n.9, the two-tone green/red for the reserve gondolino. The only color always present since 1843 is light blue
Machina: floating ‘building’ resting on a barge anchored ‘in volta de canal’ (where the canal bends to turn), in front of Cà Foscari University Palace, a place appointed for the conclusion of the races and for the assignment of prizes consisting of money and flags.
Caorlina: originally from Caorle, has a flat bottom and simmetrical stern and bow; in the past it was used as a transport boat and for fishing.
Sandolo: it is similar to the gondola has a flat bottom and is not asymmetrical.
Mascareta: a very light sandolo used for women’s regattas.
Pupparin: it was once the boat used by noble families; It is asymmetrical like the gondola.
Bollard: the pole around which the boats make the race round.
King of the Oar: The champion who wins the Historical Regatta five times in a row.
Respect: “Respect each other”, indicates the obligation not to perform incorrect maneuvers at the turn of the pole.
Gondolini al 'cordin' di partenza
The presence of the youngsters is certainly a sign that Venetian rowing perpetrates the sense of identification of a community that recognizes itself in its traditions and defends them in spite of the comforts of a ‘motorized’ life.
The program includes different rowing competitions divided by categories of boats and age groups.
4.30 pm – Regatta of the ‘maciarelle’ and the ‘schie’: regatta on mascarete with two oars reserved for children.
4.50 pm – Regatta of the very young on two-oared pupparini.
5.10 pm – Regatta of the caorline with six oars.
5.40 pm – Women’s regatta on mascareta with two oars.
6.10 pm – Regatta of gondolini with two oars.
Absolutely exciting, the International Rowing Challenge of the Universities on 8-oared galleons between the crew of the Ca’Foscari Universities of Venice and the teams of other prestigious European Universities.
Conviviality and interest in venetian rowing will be the propulsive energy up to the “paleto”, the turning point of the Historical Regatta that will catapult us back in time, to the day when Caterina Cornèr made her triumphal entry into Venice
September Events in Venice that go beyond the Historical Regatta
Venice teems with interesting activities.
Officially the appointment is on the first Sunday of September, but some events start from the previous week.
On August 25th, “Disnar for the Historical”: the ancient custom of meeting the rowers and spending time together sharing the pleasure of good food and wine.
Among the important events not to be missed in the city in September:
Venice Film Festival: 80th edition that will take place from 30 August to 9 September.
The Venice Glass Week: the International Festival that the city of Venice dedicates to glass art, an artistic and economic activity for which the lagoon city has been known all over the world for over 1,000 years. The seventh edition of the festival will be held from 9 to 17 September.
Antiques Market of Campo San Maurizio from 15 to 17 September.