Regatta recalls glory of Venetian Republic

Grand Canal transports locals to the 16th Century

MILAN – To borrow an old phrase: When in Venice, do as the Venetians do. While those in the industry associate Venice in September with the busy and frantic atmosphere of its international film festival, for the locals, the Historical Regatta, which commences Sept. 5, takes precedence and is perhaps Venice’s most evocative holiday.

From 4 p.m. until about 8, the Grand Canal will come alive with 16th-century splendor as gondolas and other traditional vessels race and parade, their occupants dressed in period costumes.

The parade, which departs from the Salute Church to arrive at the Station Square, brings harkens the splendor of the Venetian Republic and always has exerted considerable more appeal for Venetians than visitors.

A bridge with a view

To enjoy the view, the best locations, Venetians would say, are bridges on the Grand Canal. Or, if one is lucky enough to know the owner of a palace on the canal, a window seat atop one of these ornate buildings might be the equivalent of sitting front-row center at a Pavarotti concert. Short of these, any fondamenta (platform) along the canal will do.

After the parade, four regattas are held: regatta of the young, the women’s regatta, regatta of the caorline (traditional working boats used for fishing and transporting vegetables) and regatta of the gondolini (lighter and swifter than gondolas).

All four regattas, or rowing races will depart, one after the other, from St. Elena, ultimately arriving at St. Toma in front of Venice’s prestigious Ca Foscari University.

The regatta, or rowing race, is the most uniquely Venetian of local events. The Venetian term regatta entered the main European languages to denote a competitive event raced in boats and was depicted for the first time in Jacopo de’Barbari’s famous “Map of 1500.” In later centuries, artists such as Canaletto, Francesca and Giacomo Guardi made the spectacle of racing boats synonymous with the city on the water.

Music: the universal language

Besides the regatta, other events will occur during the film festival, although the formal artistic and cultural season in Venice will start after the fest ends.

On Sept. 1 and 2, opera fans can reach Campo Pisani, near the Accademia Bridge, and enjoy a soiree under the stars, watching and listening to “La Dirindina,” an opera by 18th century Neapolitan musician Domenico Scarlatti under the artistic direction of Mario Berigo.

At the same location on Sept. 3-4, a second opera will be performed, this one based on a script by famous Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni: “Il Filosofo di Campagna” (The Country Philosopher), with music written by Baldassarre Galuppi.

On Sept. 11 on the beautiful island of Murano (famed for its glassblowers), a concert of religious music will take place.

For modern dance aficionados, world-renowned dancer-choreographer Carolyn Carlson will unveil her show “Parabola” on Sept. 2 and 3 at Teatro Verdi on St. Giorgio Island.

Among the more anticipated art exhibitions are “Open,” a sculpture and video installations show bowing Sept. 1 in Lido di Venezia, and the classic art exhibition “Italy’s Renaissance” at Palazzo Grassi on Sept. 5.

Hidden treasures

For those looking to relax and quietly discover an enchanted world, a stroll around the canals, the calli (the narrow alleys) and the campi (squares) reveals hidden treasures. From the Old Jewish Ghetto to the Arsenal, one can find hundreds of quiet and deserted alcoves.

And if you want to behave like a real Venetian, find a bacaro (tavern) and order an ombra (literally “a shadow,” but it is a glass of wine) or a spriz (a Venetian aperitif: white wine with Campari, Select or Aperol and seltzer). To complete the ritual, add some aciugheta (anchovies) and folpeti (small octopus). Buon appetito!

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