Review of Venice Historical Regatta 2019, Italy

Venice Regata Storica 2019 was open on 1st September. The Historical Regatta is an important sporting event related to a historical re-enactment, which takes place in Venice along the Grand Canal on the first Sunday of September. The Regata Storica is one of the most anticipated annual calendar events in Venice, a unique and exciting way to get in touch with the spirit of this ancient city and one of its best known traditions: Venetian rowing.

The Historical Regatta is the main event of the annual calendar of Venetian rowing competitions, a unique discipline in the world practiced for millennia in the Venice lagoon.The Historical Regatta takes place along the Grand Canal, a series of races between Venetian boats that attracts crowds of Venetians and others on the river banks. The races are preceded by the Historical Parade, which commemorates the entry into Venice of Caterina Corner, queen of Cyprus after the abdication in 1489: gondoliers in costume lead typical boats of the sixteenth century following the Bucintoro, the state galley of the doges.

Today it is made even more spectacular by the famous historical procession that precedes the races: a parade of dozens and dozens of typical sixteenth-century boats, multicolored and with gondoliers in costume, carrying the doge, the dogaressa and all the highest offices of the Venetian magistracy, in a faithful reconstruction of the glorious past of one of the most powerful and influential Maritime Republics in the Mediterranean. Today the four competitions are divided by age categories and by type of boat: the most famous and exciting is the regatta of champions on gondolini, which whiz along the Grand Canal to the finish in front of the famous “machina”,

The Historical Parade goes through the Canal Grande to Venice Santa Lucia railway station, then it reverses its course and goes back to Ca’ Foscari. After entering the Canal Grande, they follow it to the category post, where the boats make a U-turn and then go through a stretch of the Grand Canal up to Cà Foscari. The main competitions of the Regata Storica in Venice 2019 listed above are usually followed by others with different starting points, such as the two-oared regattas on mascarete reserved for children aged 10 to 14 years and the International Rowing Challenge of Universities. Even for these ones, the end point of the Historical Regatta always remains fixed at Ca’ Foscari, near the largest floating stage.

To have a unique experience, the suggest area should between the Rialto Bridge and Ca’ Foscari, where both the Venetian parade and all other rowing competitions pass by. If you just wish to admire the parade on the Grand Canal and watch the most important races, any point along the Grand Canal (from Punta della Dogana to the train station) will be fine. Even the Venetians take part in the Venice Regatta with enthusiasm and participation, and watch the Venetian parade and the races from the canal banks or by the beautiful buildings that overlook the route.

During the historical regatta the Grand Canal is closed to water traffic, therefore times and route of the vaporetto are subject to changes. Do not forget to look for information about these changes in order to avoid delays and any other inconvenience.

The program of the Venice Regatta Storica festival 2019 starts at 4.00 pm with the Historical parade, one of the most anticipated moments of this intense day especially for tourists, eager to take part in a fascinating evocation of the glory and power of the ancient Republic of Venice. The extraordinary water parade formed by traditional colourful boats, some of which are used only in these particular events, with people in costume who interpret the upper echelon of the Venice Judiciary.

The Venice regattas that follow the parade of historic boats are considered the most important event of the entire Venetian rowing season and the winners are held in high regard by the practitioners of this fascinating discipline. The Venetian rowing is a special technique of rowing practices in the lagoon of Venice and the surrounding areas because of the peculiarities of the environment, which requires vessels that can be easily maneuvered and a stroke that allows one to easily monitor the seabed to avoid the numerous shoals and the low sandy coasts.

Among the various competitions scheduled, the regatta storica Venice gondolini is one of the most anticipated: the long route and the experienced rowers who compete for the victory, make it one of the most exciting races, full of twists and surprises from start to finish.

4.00 pm – Historical Parade
Colourful procession of traditional boats with costumed people, boats of the associations of Venetian rowing and gondolas. Course: St. Mark’s Bay, Grand Canal, Rialto; return along the Grand Canal up to Ca’ Foscari.

4.30 pm – Maciarele and Schie regatta: two oared regatta on mascarete dedicated for children
Schie (up to 10 years, course from Rialto to Ca’ Foscari); Regata Storica Maciarele Junior (under 12 years old, course from San Stae to Ca’ Foscari); Maciarele Senior (up to 14 years old, course from Punta della Dogana to Ca’ Foscari).

4.50 pm – Young rowers’ twin-oared pupparini regatta
St. Mark’s Bay, Grand Canal, around the paleto in front of Ca’ Farsetti, Ca’ Foscari.

5.10 pm – Six-oared caorline regatta
St. Mark’s Bay, Grand Canal, Rialto, around the paleto in front of San Marcuola, Ca’ Foscari.

5.40 pm – Women’s twin-oared mascarete regatta
St. Mark’s Bay, Grand Canal, Rialto, around the paleto in front of and San Marcuola, Ca’ Foscari.

6.10 pm – Twin-oared gondolini regatta
St. Mark’s Bay, Grand Canal, Rialto, around the paleto in front of and San Marcuola, Ca’ Foscari.

After the passage of the 3- and 4-seater caorline and gondolini – the International University Rowing Challenge will kick-off on 8-rower galleons (following a route from Rialto to Ca ‘Foscari).

The Historical Regatta takes place mainly along the Grand Canal and is one of the most spectacular, picturesque and engaging moments of city life. It is an event much appreciated by many tourists, but particularly felt by the Venetians, who reserve it considerable importance among the various annual events that take place in the city.

The regatta has always involved citizens and foreigners. The first historical evidence dates back to the mid-thirteenth century and are linked to the Festa delle Marie, but it is likely that, in a city like Venice that has always been projected on the sea, the regatta had more ancient origins, dictated by the need to train the crews to oar. Much later is the first visual image: a group of boats with the words “regata” can be seen in the Plan of Venice by Jacopo dé Barbari from 1500. Since then, the regatta will be one of the favorite themes of landscape painters to represent a celebrating Venice.

In ancient times the regattas were divided into challenges between boatmen or gondoliers and large regattas (the latter motivated by exceptional religious or secular city celebrations). The expenses for setting them up, however, always weighed on private individuals. Not infrequently they were launched by the liberality of foreign princes.

In 1797, after the fall of the Republic, the regattas did not stop. Precisely in that year the Venetian democratic government held two competitions. The modern regatta was born in 1841, since the expenses were no longer attributable to private individuals but to the public. In that year the Municipality of Venice asked the Austrian authorities to annually organize a “boat race along the Grand Canal by the Municipality to encourage gondoliers to keep their vaunted dexterity in honor”. With the annexation of Venice to the Kingdom of Italy (1866), contrary to what happened previously, the regattas had as their purpose the celebration of the glorious past of the Venetian Republic. But it is only since 1899, on the occasion of the III International Biennial of Art, that – on the proposal of the Mayor of Venice, Count Filippo Grimani – the regatta will take the name of “historic”.

The historical procession
It recalls the welcome given in 1489 to Caterina Cornaro, wife of the King of Cyprus, who renounced the throne in favor of Venice. It is a parade of dozens and dozens of typical sixteenth-century boats, multicolored and with gondoliers in costume, carrying the doge, the dogaressa, Caterina Cornaro and all the highest offices of the Venetian Magistracy, in a faithful reconstruction of the glorious past of one of the Republics Most powerful and influential seafaring in the Mediterranean.

Starting from the 1950s, the water procession that opens the event recalls the triumphal welcome that was reserved for the queen of Cyprus, Caterina Cornaro on her arrival in the city in 1489, after the abdication of her throne in favor of Venice.

The procession is made up of dozens of typical Venetian rowing boats, including the bissone that are used only on this type of occasion, with rowers and figures in period costume, including the Doge and Caterina Cornaro. The boats parade in a procession that starts from the San Marco Basin and runs along the entire Grand Canal to the Ponte della Costituzione, and then retraces its journey back to the point of arrival of the rowing competitions, the Machina, a floating stage built by in front of Ca ‘Foscari, amid the applause of Venetians and tourists, who watch the show from the banks and from the private residences that overlook the procession.

Regatta of the gondolini
The regatta consists of various races on particular types of boats (in ancient times it was also disputed on galleys, peatons, burchi, as well as on agile boats with two or more oars). Currently the most popular and exciting is the gondolini regatta. On the occasion of the “Historical Regatta” Venice sees the San Marco basin and the Grand Canal teeming with boats of all kinds, from which citizens watch the competition with partisan animosity. To confront and contain the unrest once the race was preceded – with – from service order function peote and bissone (parade boats), from which some patricians in the bow seat, armed with bows, throwing the most undisciplined boats balls terracotta (balote), usually used for hunting marsh birds in the lagoon. Currently the bissone have the sole function of opening the historical procession.

Nowaday, the competitive part of the event consists of the regattas that follow the historical procession and still represents the most important and prestigious rowing event of the entire season. The winners, awarded by the most important city authorities, are considered true champions of the city and held in great esteem among all rowers.

Each regatta is attended by nine crews plus one reserve, ready to take over the start in the event of a last-minute forfeit, with the exception of the caorline regatta for which there is no reserve crew. The regulation of the regattas foresees, for all categories, the departure of the boats from a point of the San Marco Basin, aligned and blocked up to the start by a cord tied to the stern of the boats called spagheto. After the departure, the crews face the delicate and fundamental entrance into the Grand Canal, which they travel up to the turning point or the pole of the category. In the case of the gondolini regatta, the pole is placed at the height of the Constitution Bridge, so the route covers practically the entire Grand Canal. From this point the same stretch of the Grand Canal is retraced to the arrival, set for all categories at Ca ‘Foscari, at the stage of the machine.

The boats

Pupparin boat
Fast boat once used for maritime surveillance or as a casada boat. Very developed in the stern from which it takes its name. Rowing with one oar up to a maximum of 4, its length varies from 9 to over 10 m. The slim and sharp profile of the hull and the bold slanting of the bow make the pupparin an elegant and refined boat.

Mascareta boat
Type of light sandolo used for fishing, for regattas and for lagoon pleasure. Its length (6-8 m) varies in relation to the number of rowers (1-4 oars). It seems that the name derives from the frequent use that masked prostitutes made of it.

Caorlina boat
Work boat, retains the original forms. It can be seen reproduced the same in the 16th century prints. Used for fishing (caorlina da seragia) and above all for the transport of the first fruits and vegetables from the islands to the city market. The main feature is the shape of the stern and the bow which, elongated and without shaft, are the same. The name suggests the origin from Caorle.

Gondolino boat
Born and used exclusively for the Historical Regatta, the gondolino made its first appearance in the race in 1825 with the aim of making the regatta more competitive and more exciting. Lighter and faster boat than the gondola from which it takes its shape, it currently measures 10.50 m long, 1.10 m wide and 0.65 m wide at the bottom.

Other traditional boats

Gondola boat
Venetian boat par excellence. Despite the efforts of scholars, the etymology is still unknown. The black color was imposed by an order of the Magistrato alle Pompe to limit the excessive pomp with which the nobles and the rich decorated their boats. The construction rules are very strict: the right half must be 24 mm narrower than the left (asymmetry called lai), the length must be 10.75 m and the internal width of 1.38 m. The gondola is used exclusively for the transport of people and for regattas.

Balotina boat
Boat similar to the gondola from which it differs for the slightly narrower and rounded hull. Usually with four or six oars. The name derives from clay balote used both for hunting and during regattas, by the race directors to maintain discipline and clear the course of the regatta. Today it is used as a representative boat.

Sandolo boat
It was the most popular boat due to its extreme flexibility (transporting things, people, fishing). The etymology is not known: it is supposed to derive from sandalium, a type of flat shoe like the bottom of the boat. The term sandolo can be read in a document dated 1292. Its length varies from 7 to 9 m and the name also changes according to use: sandolo barcariol, buranello, sampieroro, from fossina, etc.

Disdotona, Dodesona, Quatordesona, etc.
Parade boats belonging to the most important rowing companies. The oldest is the Dodesona della Bucintoro. In the last century the same specimen opened the procession of the Historical Regatta. The Disdotona, on the other hand, with its 24 m is the longest rowing boat in the lagoon and represents the Querini Company. The Quatordesona is a recently built boat and represents the city of Mestre.

The colors of the racing boats
The boats used for the regatta are distinguished not only by a number but also by hulls entirely painted in different colors, which in ancient times distinguished the various areas of Venice and the lagoon. The number also identifies the position that the boat must hold in the alignment at the start and is assigned to each crew by drawing lots. The reserve boat is distinguished by a two-tone red and green hull and the letter “R” (for “reserve”) in place of the number.