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the Historical Regatta

(Photo © VeniceWord - De Calò).

The Historical Regatta (Regata Storica in Italian) is the most typically Venetian rowing race, along the scenic Canal Grande.
It dates back to to the second half of the XIII century. It is a spectacular competition whose origins are the rowing races which were popular in Venice: it was considered vital for the city to have expert oarsmen.
Regata Storica (raced every year on the first Sunday of September in Venice, in the afternoon) is the most important row race, and is precedeed by a beautiful cortege of hystorical boats, with crews dressed in historical and traditional costumes.
During the year there are other races in Venice and its province (Burano, Caorle, Riviera del Brenta).
Fans are very passionate: every neighborhood has its team, and the Venetian fans are an attraction in itself to tourists. In ancient times, before each race, it was necessary to have a fleet of bissone (typical long boats) to preceed the race and keep order. These boats take still part to the parade, but they do not perform any more a "police" function.
The traditional reference points of the regata are: the spagheto, a rope stretched across the starting point in front of the Castello public gardens; the paleto, a pole driven inbto the centre of the Grand Canal in front of the Church of Sant'Andrea de la Zirada, around which the boats must turn before going back up to the course (the first boats round the paleto are traditionally those which take the pennants awarded to the winners); and the machina, a construction erected on a wooden raft richly carved, painted and gilded, which marks the finish of the race and on which the prize-giving ceremonies are held.
It seems that regattas have been held on the lagoon waters since the XIII century with boats that could hold up to 20 oarsmen. These regattas, which were gradually transformed, are still held today with all the enthusiasm of past times, the Historical Regatta being the most important of all. Held every year on the first Sunday in September, this is the regatta of excellence, enthralling the Venetians and attracting a crowd of enthusiastic tourists. It starts with the Historical Procession with its parade of XVI century costumes that reenact the unforgettable arrival in Venice of Caterina Cornar, the Queen of Cyprus. Then come the "bissioni" (8-oared gondolas), the "balotine" (6-oared gondolas), the magnificent and lavish ceremonial gondolas and the multi-oared boats belonging to the various rowing clubs. Then the regattas start: the one for the young, one for the women, one for the boats called "caorline" and finally, the most enthralling of all, the one for 2-oared gondolas that are numbered and differently coloured. The finish line for these regattas is at the bend in the Grand Canal, between Palazzo Balbi and Ca' Foscari. Here stands the so-called "Macchina", a wooden construction in Baroque style decorated with statues and allegories, where the VIPs sit and where the winners receive their prizes. Once the regattas are over, all the canals come to life with boats, in a loud and merry confusion and various artistic displays start in the squares, irrespective of size.
A regatta is made up by various races using different kinds of boats; women and very young rowers race in their own categories. Regata di Sant'Erasmo, the last of the season, is instead a mix regata (one woman and one man racing on the same boat).

The calendar:
Regata Storica: 1st Sunday of September

Regata Storica is opened by the historical boats cortege, a gorgeous costumed procession, celebrating the history of the old Serenissima Republic of Venice. Every year, on the first Sunday of September, the first to race are usually the young oarsmen.
Regata dei Giovanissimi- Youngest Rowers' Race route: Giardini di Castello (Castello public gardens), Bacino di S.Marco (St.Mark's wharf), Grand Canal; finishing post at Ca' Foscari.
Regata delle Donne - Womens Race route: Giardini di Castello (Castello public gardens), Bacino di S.Marco (St.Mark's wharf), Grand Canal, Riva di Biasio; finishing post at Ca' Foscari.
Regata delle Caorline route: Giardini di Castello (Castello public gardens), Bacino di S.Marco (St.Mark's wharf), Grand Canal, S.Lucia railway station; finishing post at Ca' Foscari.
Regata dei Gondolini route: Giardini di Castello (Castello public gardens), Bacino di S.Marco (St.Mark's wharf), Grand Canal, S.Lucia railway station; finishing post at Ca' Foscari.
On the day of Regata Storica, a special postmark of the Italian Postal Services can be provided (usually in Campo San Salvador).

Other regattas: click here

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