Waterways with traditional gondolas, pigeons at the Piazza San Marco, narrow lanes and a one of a kind atmosphere is what traveller experience when coming to Venice. The Italian city is worth travelling anyway, but during the entire year there are many festivals you should definitely consider to go for. Here is a hand-picked selection of five top events in Venice.
Befane the witch
The first festival already starts at the beginning of the year. On the 6th January many festivals are taking place in honour of epiphany. The lagoon island Sant’Erasmo is one of the spots which celebrates the day especially with kids. The legend tells that in the night from 5th to 6th January Befane the witch was out on her flying broomstick in order to see the Jesus child. Unfortunately she missed the star of Bethlehem so she never found the crib and the baby. Still – every year she brings gifts for the kids. Or- if a child caused a lot of trouble- a punishment.
If you are travelling without kids you should choose to go to the Canal Grande. The ‘Regata delle Befane’ is a race to the bottom between five women dressed like wicked witches. Each of them must be at least 55 years old. With small boats, named Mascareta, the race takes place between San Tomà and the Rialto Bridge. The hustle and bustle is a great entertainment and definitely worth going. Traveller who are into sports should consider to attend the community run at the Venice Lido.
Carnival in Venice
It is the highlight of the year when carnival in Venice is on. Since 1979 the carnival in Venice is a huge event nobody can escape. 14 days before Ash Wednesday the party is on. The opening party itself is one of the biggest attractions during the celebration of carnival: the Volo dell’Angelo (‘flight of the angel’) takes place and the lucky winner of a beauty pageant rides a zip wire from the campanile in St. Mark’s Square. During Carnival Venice might be intensely crowded and rates in hotels or restaurants are increasingly high, but it is a unique occasion and a great chance to see the city of Venice in new light.
The main spot during the Carnival is St. Mark’s Square. People come here in extraordinary costumes just to be seen, to get the chance of being in the competition of the best costume or just to enjoy the party.
Su e zo per i ponti
The ‘Su e zo per i ponti’ is a community walk taking place in march. The route of the walk introduces all of the sixth parts of the city Venice to the participants. Above the bridges of Venice, you see all the sightseeing highlights of the city. The final spot is St. Mark’s Square.
It is more a community project than a race to the bottom or a competition, so just any one may attend if interested. The good thing is: It does not matter if you are doing sports on a regular basis or are just into being part of such an event – the community walk provides different routes to the ones who are fit and sportive and others who are not as much.
Festa di San Marco
In honour to the patron saint of Venice, Saint Mark, every year in April (25th) the city organises an event named ‘Festa di San Marco”. The St. Mark’s festival is one of the most important religious observations in town. One of the highlights during the festival of St. Mark’s is the Regata di Traghetti, a gondola race. During the race gondoliers compete while transporting passengers in their boats. The race takes place between the island Sant’ Elena and the Punta della Dogana, along the confluence of the Canal Grande.
The huge event in Venice coincides with the Liberation Day and the Festival of the Blooming Rose. In particular the Festival of the Blooming Rose is a feast which symbolizes love and romance in Venice. People always used to give a rose bud to their loved ones. The custom is still practised today.
Like many other festivals in Venice the the feast of the Regata Storica coincidences with the element that most characterises Venice – water. The historical Regatta takes place on the waters of the Canal Grande and is one of the most spectacular festivity in the city. The feast is a procession of 16th century style boats and many competitions. Some of them are the champions regatta in ‘gondolini’, the regatta in ‘caorline’, the womens’ regatta in ‘mascarete’ or the young rowers’ regatta.
The historical regatta takes place on the 4th september. But whoever likes to attend the festival in order to see the regatta, should come early because the spots are crowded and it is not allowed to stay on the brigdes while the regatta is on.
If you fancy to explore the city during a boat trip afterwards, you should book such a gondola ride in Venice in advance. Just enjoy a relaxing trip on the waterways of Venice and the races and regattas will be left to the others.
Text: Sophie Mueller