Since its establishment, over 1500 years ago, the city of Venice has been predominantly shaped and influenced by its waterways. Comprised of 117 small islands, Venice has relied on its famed canals for transportation, and it has looked to the surrounding seas for trade and prosperity. It is therefore only appropriate that Venice’s longest-standing tradition commemorates the city’s paramount feature – the water.
Every year, on the first Sunday in September, the Regatta Storica takes place along Venice’s Grand Canal. Initially organized to applaud Venice’s political and military prowess, the event dates back to at least the 14th Century. It is speculated, however, that the Regatta has even deeper roots in Venetian history.
The Regatta Storica’s modern function has little to do with politics, but still remains as a celebration of the “City of Bridges’” cultural history. The event begins with a water parade, as the illustrious Bissone and Bucintoro boats lead a procession of the Venetian rowing clubs, adorned in historic attire, along the Grand Canal. As the ceremonial procession comes to a close, the competitive portion of the Regatta begins. A series of preliminary races takes place, leading up to the climax of the Storica Regatta, the Regata dei Campionissimi su Gondolini.
The event’s most celebrated challenge, the Regata dei Campionissimi su Gondolini, features two gondolini, light bodied boats propelled by oarsmen, in competition for la Machina, the floating stage that represents the finish line. While the Regatta’s previous races are focused on a display of power, the Regata dei Campionissimi su Gondolini is an illustration of technical rowing ability, and is thus, the crowd’s favorite event. The awards ceremony takes place in front of la Machina, in the heart of city, where all winners are rewarded with red flags, and a lasting piece of Venetian history.
Venice’s water-faring tradition extends well beyond the Storica Regatta. Check back on our Blog for the history behind Venice’s most famed vessel, the Gondola. We’ll have details about the boat’s conception as well as information about the trying processes of becoming a Gondolier.