Dating back to the second half of the 13th Century, the Venice Historical Regatta, that takes place on the first Sunday of September, is a spectacular competition whose origins are firmly entrenched in the history of Venice. Although the other islands and communities of the Venetian lagoon also hold their own regatta’s The Venice historical regatta is the main regatta of the year.
It begins with a ceremonial parade along the Grand Canal of historical boats manned by Venetians in period costume.
Like the celebrated Palio of Siena, the most important races are between the various neighborhoods of the city centre. The fans and followers of each neighborhood boat and crew encourage and incite their rowers from the streets next to the Grand Canal. The traditional points of reference for the Venice historical regata are the *spagheto, a rope stretched across the starting point in front of the public gardens (Sant’Elena Area) in the Castello sestiere of Venice; the Paleto, a pole driven into 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 the Grand Canal to cross the finishing line. The finishing line is indicated by the Machina, a construction erected on a wooden raft richly carved, painted and gilded, and where the prize-giving ceremony is held.
The Historical Regatta is one of the most important event of the Serenissima’s recent history, but the origins of the procession are unknown.
According to some historians, the first testimony of the Historical Regatta is dated 10th January 1315, during the government of the Doge Giovanni Soranzo. This event was organized to celebrate the war victories of the Serenissima Republic.
According to other historians, the water procession re-evokes the triumphant welcome accorded by the Serenissima yo the Queen of Cyprus, Caterina Cornaro, who had donated her kingdom to Venice in 1489. of the 16th Century when Caterina Cornaro, a native Venetian who was later crowned Queen of Cyprus returned to Venice to deliver the island of Cyprus into the hands of the Venetians.
The Venice Regatta was also immortalized in one of the masterpieces of the famous Venetian painter Canaletto who painted the Regatta’s processions in honour of the visit of the King of Denmark ,Friederich IX ,in 1709.
In other circumstances, foreign dignitaries were honoured in this way during the Historical Regatta included Beatrice d’Este in 1493, Anna de Foix, Queen of Hungary in 1502, Henry III of France in 1574, and the Crown Prince and Princess of Russia in 1782.Not infrequently they were also organized and financed by foreign princes, like the regata of 1686, arranged at the wish of Duke Ernest August of Brunswick, a general who had fought bravely in the service of the Serenissima.