The Regata Storica – Where tradition and history come together
A special day for every Venetian’s diary is the first Sunday of September when, with the last days of summer and the countdown on, the city readies itself for a final big party – the Regata Storica.
The Bucintoro, long ago gift of Caterina Cornaro, flows through the water in all its magnificence. Its late 14th century glory, the pride of the Serenissima, the ancient Venetian Republic, cuts a marvellous silhouette against contemporary Venice. On the day, against the colourful array of ribbons, faces and folklore, it is a symbol of a social identity - unique, recognisable and precious.
Between water and the small, flat outcrops of land, called ‘barene’, boats of every type are rowed by experts in the very particular Venetian style. It is a glorious sight for tourists, an everyday one for Venetians.
But something changes during this most regal of regattas. It is a bow to tradition that every Venetian takes, a spark of excitement and a ‘patriotic’ running to fill the crowds, to support the borough, where you were born.
The regatta begins on the waterfront called the Schiavoni near St Mark’s square. The flag appears at Sant’Andrea della Zirada il paleto where the rowers are tense, waiting to make it first this time.
The roar of the crowd grows as the first boat shows its bow in the Grand Canal and finally explodes as they near the ‘machina’.The Canal is like a green lawn from the Penzo, the waterfronts are the stands, and finally the race begins.
At the Schiavoni the flag appears to signal the beginning, on to St Andrea della Zirada, the rowers race around the pole that marks the course, vying for first place. Applause grows till the much awaited first sighting of boat rounding the Grand Canal and it finally esplodes when it reaches the Machina. The winners achieve what they are here for, the desired red ‘labaro.’
Everywhere there are a feast of colours, flags, boats. In the main event there are many types of boats from pupparini for the young, mascarete and solid caorline similar to those of the 1500s.
The race reaches its high point when the gondolini race. It is a type of light, small gondola that were created first back in 1825 especially for the Regata Storica because of the speed at which they went and the excitement they created. Once, the prizes included a piglet, awarded to the city’s governing body and that was also used to indicate the public’s favourites.
The older generations who still remember the piglet raised high, smile from their photos above the hearth, they remember the irony with which the people shouted: “Here he is! Long live the Mayor!” The piglet was abolished thanks to animal rights activists (and not only!).
by Alessandra Frontini | :venews