Words by Michelle Fabio

This week we’re off to Venice’s Grand Canal for the famous Regata Storica, a series of spectacular, fiercely competitive gondola races capped off with one of the most spectacular fireworks displays in the world.

Every first Sunday in September, the festivities in Venezia kick off with a parade of 16th century-style gondolas led by Bucintoro, the boat that represents La Serenissima (as Venice is also known). The procession recalls the warm welcome given by the city to the wife of the King of Cyprus in 1489 for renouncing her throne in favour of Venice, and participants all don colourful period costumes.

Then come the finest gondoliers in the land as well as other skilled rowers who compete in four separate races. The youngest race in boats called pupparini, women in mascerete, men in caoline, and expert gondoliers in gondolini, specially made for competition.

Spectators watch and wildly cheer on participants from the banks, the floating stands, or even from boats parked along the Canal—all with the gorgeous backdrop of Venice’s famous salmon-coloured buildings.

After the winners are crowned and the clock nears midnight, fireworks, set to music, are set off from pontoons between St. Mark’s Basin and the Giudecca Canal. As tradition goes, the boats then head down to the Lido and wait for the next morning’s sunrise.

Here is a collection of videos that feature footage of the spirited regatta:

Have you had the pleasure of seeing the Regata Storica?

Be sure to come back next week when we’ll be right on my southern Italian doorstep in Sicily!


The Historical Regatta September 7th, 2008

Pupparini, gondolini, mascarete, gondole: open enrollment.

The competitions:

4.50 pm - Youth rowers' regatta on 2-oar 'pupparini'
Route: Castello public gardens, St. Mark's basin, Grand Canal, Rialto(turning buoy at Banca d'Italia), finishing line at Ca' Foscari

5.05 pm - Women's regatta on 2 - oar 'mascarete'
Route: Route: Castello public gardens, St. Mark's basin, Grand Canal, Rialto ( turning buoy between Riva de Biasio and San Marcuola), finishing line at Ca' Foscari

5.30 pm - Regatta on 6 - oar 'caorline'
Route: Castello public gardens, St. Mark's basin, Grand Canal, Rialto (turning buoy at Santa Lucia Railway
Station), finishing line at Ca' Foscari

5.55 pm - Regatta on 2-oar 'gondolini'
Route: Castello public gardens, St. Mark's basin, Grand Canal, Rialto (turning buoy at Santa Lucia Railway Station), finishing line at Ca' Foscari.

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