Taking place on the first Sunday of September, this is the event where everyone becomes water-bound for the day. However, to truly appreciate this event, you must know the history. The historical Regatta celebrates Caterina Cornaro, wife of the King of Cyprus who in 1489 renounced her throne in favour of Venice. As such, Venetians now honour Caterina with the annual Regatta, as her return to Venice heralded the birth of the Serenissima.
The Regatta boats depart from the Riva degli Schiavoni only once the first boat enters the Grand Canal. This is usually the Bucintoro, which represents the Serenissima and is the first to sail. The Doge and his wife, along with the current Caterina and the Venetian dignitaries from the Magistracy, then follow in multi-coloured 16th century boats after. Most of the oarsmen also follow suit dressed in period costumes.
The types of boats themselves are of interest just in point of variety. They include Gondola, Gondolino, Caorlina, Mascareta, Pupparin and The Oar. The gondola is of course the most well known as quintessential Venetian despite much debate over its origin. It is thought that the anterior “pettini” represents the six areas of the city, the posterior the island of Guidecca, the double “s” the Grand Canal and the Doge’s cap the Rialto Bridge.
The Gondolino is created with the Regatta in mind as it was first used in 1825 and is lighter than the gondola meaning more competitive for racing. The Caorlina was originally used for fishing and transportation, the Mascareta for fishing, racing and excursions across the lagoon. The Pupparin is reserved for the aristocracy for maritime surveillance, and lastly The Oar which having a flat, unfixed blade means it can be removed quickly for travelling down thin canals.
The boats sail north to the train Station, before looping back to the Ca’ Foscari, which serves as the finishing line. The prizes are then given out to the winners of the race – red flags for first place, white, green and blue flags for those after.
A definite date for the diary!