For a city where the contemplation of beautiful decadence attracts visitors in droves, the Regata Storica injects every year a polychromatic vigor that, for a few hours, turns Venice into her true self, a former theatre of splendor.
Every first Sunday of September, proud Venetians celebrate their covenant with the lagoon waters. The procession, headed by the boat parade with costumed gondoliers, is a festival that reflects the pride and loyalty of the locals to their traditions. The crowds, looking out on the water from all building recesses, fervently applaud the passage of the Venetian Doges and officials. The gold figureheads of the vessels gracefully glide on the canal as the rowers descend rhythmically their oars into the waters. Barges make headway and colors explode. It is an unforgettable experience. The most exciting moments come when the “gondolini”, nimble and designed exclusively for the regatta race, enter the Grand Canal in its course from the Giardini Publicci to the finishing line at the “machina”, a floating structure in front of Ca’Foscari.
This pageant has resisted the changes of fortunes of the city. The collapse of the Republic in 1796 did not put an end to the celebration and, during the French and Austrian occupations, the regatta adopted its present form: a procession of historic sumptuousness followed by a competitive race.
Canaletto,a meticulous documentarian of the Venetian cityscape, was not unfamiliar with the event. His canvas, “Regata sul Canal Grande”, captures the intense traffic and the joyful animation of the crowds. The light bathes the buildings and the colors intensify the movement. The Regatta, almost three hundred years later, is as jubilant as the one he recorded for posterity.