Andrew meets our train looking slightly flustered. “We’re in a hurry,” he tells us, taking my suitcase, “the vaporetto service will be suspended in the Grand Canal and the Bacino di San Marco for most of the afternoon.”
Expertly guiding us through the crowds, he ushers us onto one of the last departing vaporetta taxis. We meet up with Jane, who is holding our waterside table at the iconic Ca’Sagredo hotel, further up the canal. The Regata is about to start.
The Regata Storica is one of Venice’s most traditional celebrations. Each year the biggest boat-racing event in the world takes place on the first Sunday in September.
Jane and Andrew have certainly secured ringside seats. The canal is bustling with colourful traditional boats and extravagantly costumed participants, swishing past our table. The air is vibrant with good-natured competitive energy as the regatta gets underway.
Starting during the Renaissance, Venice became home to a historic pageant and gondola race that glides down the city’s main canal. Typically during this brightly colored parade with gondoliers dressed in costumes, 16th century-style boats carry the Doge and the Doge’s wife along with all the highest ranking Venetian officials up the Grand Canal.
Regatas have been part of the Venetian life for a very long time. The first records go back to the 13th century, when a regata was organized for the Festa delle Marie. The origins of the Regata Storica go back to 1841, when the Municipality of Venice asked the Austrian authorities to organize an annual boat race on Canal Grande. This would give the opportunity to encourage the gondoliers and honour their skills. In 1866, when Venice became part of Italy, the focus of the event shifted towards a celebration of the history of the Republic of Venice. In 1899, the name ‘Regata Storica’ was given by Count Filippo Grimani, the mayor of Venice. Each regata is sailed in a different traditional boat, depending on the age and the gender of the rowers. The young rowers use pupparini, which are fast, agile boats with a wider stern. The women use the light and shorter boat mascareta. The men race in a six-oared caorlina and for the main regata in a gondolino. The participating boats do not only have a number, but – since 1843 – they are also painted in bright colors. They are repainted every year to avoid superstition that a certain color would always be winning. The colors make it easy to recognize them from far away and makes the whole event even more festive.The athletes that compete are all fully clothed in historically accurate costumes and the winners walk away with a prestigious title that they will boast about for the rest of their lives.(theveniceinsider.com)
Venice is truly a magical floating city. We checked into a delightful two bedroomed apartment that Jane had secured courtesy of viewsonvenice.com which allowed us to live like locals discovering our favourite panetteria and the best negozio di specialità gastronomiche for our cheeses, hams and veggies. And of course our favourite trattorias!
It’s a very unique experience to have your ‘own home’ in a residential part of a famous city, rather than staying in a hotel or guesthouse. Firstly there are less tourists around and secondly it’s fun to learn your own routes around the city (cross the canal at the second bridge and then first right😊). You also get to know the neighbourhood dogs 🐶 🐕
Our daily routine would be to have yoghurt and fresh fruit for breakfast with fresh pastries, formaggi and prosciutto and then set off, exploring the narrow bridges and labyrinth of canals, stopping to admire shops and of course finding the perfect restaurant for lunch along the way.🍝 Sigh, one of my favourite activities – to wander here and there with no specific destination, simply experiencing the atmosphere of the place.
Venice is located in the north-eastern corner of Italy and is built on over 100 small islands within a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. The islands are connected by bridges. There are no roads at all, only waterways and people have to get around on foot, by bicycle or by boat. It’s intriguing to see that the fire ‘truck’ and the police ‘van’ are both boats. I also never get tired of seeing a gondola romantically slipping through the canals. Venice in Latin means love, so it is dubbed the “city of love”. ❤️
Most of our routes went via the stunning Piazza San Marco. It’s delightful whether you are there in the quiet of an early morning, or when the throngs of tour groups abound. There’s nothing quite like walking between the piazza columns, and gazing upon the multiple domes of St Mark’s Basilica for the first, or the 10th time; the gold leaf glinting in the sunlight, the imposing lion statues keeping guard, and the Campanile towering above you, where Galileo once stood, peering through his telescope. In the evening, the piazza fills with classical melodies as musicians take to the floor and the diners fill the surrounding restaurants.
The Campanile – the bell-tower of St. Mark’s is probably Venice’s most commanding landmark, and stands just opposite St. Mark’s Basilica. The bell-tower of the basilica was originally built as a lighthouse to assist navigation in the lagoon and is the tallest building in Venice, at 99 metres. Constructed originally in the twelfth century, it has had to be repaired and reconstructed on a few occasions due to earthquakes, lightening and fire. It is open to the public, so we decided to take the elevator to the top and enjoyed superb views over the city and lagoon.
On one of the days we decided to take a vaporetto to Burano, which is 7 kilometres from Venice, roughly a 40-minute trip. Burano is an island at the northern end of the Lagoon, known for its lace work and brightly coloured homes. Burano is also known for its small, brightly painted houses. The colours of the houses follow a specific system, originating from the golden age of its development. Apparently, if someone wishes to paint their home, one must send a request to the government, who will respond by advising which of certain colours are permitted for that specific area.
What a charming area with its winding, narrow streets and connecting bridges zig-zagging across the waterways. We loved the charming small houses with their colourful flower boxes, unusual souvenir stores – many with gorgeous masks, colourful packages of pasta, arts and crafts and the oh-so-fragrant smell of pizza! Then there is the people watching. The sophistication of the local people that live their lives on the water’s edge.