The importance and Venice has always been linked to the lagoon and sea. In fact, there is one event that stands out as a true celebration of the city's maritime heritage: the Vogalonga regatta.
Held annually since 1974, this non competitive race event brings together thousands of participants from around the world to row through the canals of Venice in a show of support for the city's environment and traditions.
Would you like to know more about this historical regatta?
Vogalonga Regatta in Venice: the history of the event
Vogalonga is a Venetian expression that means "long rowing race".
The first Vogalonga regatta was organized as a protest against the increasing motorboat traffic in the Venice lagoon. People organizing this regatta were both professional rowers and people keen on this form of art.
In 1974, they decided to row through the city's canals to draw attention to the damage being caused by motorboats. Lauro Bergamo, former director of the Gazzettino, a local newspaper, was the promoter of the event, together with other people who were dedicated to the safeguard of the city.
The event was a huge success and has since become a beloved tradition in the city, attracting rowers and spectators from all over the world.
Anyhow, the Vogalonga is more than just a rowing event: it is a symbol of the city's commitment to preserving its environment and traditions.
By promoting rowing as an alternative to motor boats, the Vogalonga encourages people to appreciate the beauty of the city's canals and to take action to protect them.
The event also showcases the importance of Venetian rowing, which has a long history of using oars to navigate the city's waterways.
The Itinerary of the Vogalonga
In 1975 the day was chosen for the Sensa, the city's wedding celebration of marriage to water.
It was attended by 500 boats and 1,500 participants, all silently gathered in St. Mark's Basin. The route ran for about 30 km starting from St. Mark's Basin after the traditional cannon shot.
Today there are now more than 1,000 boats, with thousands of rowers from all over the world. What is most striking and moving is the moment of the initial moment when the boats gather, a moment that happens silently. There are no motorized boats but only the gentle lapping of the water.
The itinerary remains the same roughly every year, with a few exceptions.
The route is approximately 30 kilometers long and includes a number of checkpoints where participants must pass through to ensure they are following the correct course. The route is challenging, but also offers stunning views of the city from a unique perspective.
It normally circumnavigates the Island of Sant'Elena, then Burano island skirting several islands (like San Francesco del Deserto) and returning through the Cannaregio Canal. The end point is in front of Punta della Dogana.
When does the rowing competition take place
The Vogalonga regatta is typically held on the day of Pentecost, which falls in late May or early June. Vogalonga 2023, for example, will be held on May 28th.
However, the exact date can vary from year to year, so it's important to check the official website for the most up-to-date information.
The event is usually held on a Sunday to allow as many people as possible to participate and to attract the largest crowds of spectators.
How long is the regatta?
The Vogalonga regatta typically lasts several hours, with rowers setting off in waves throughout the morning.
The event usually starts around 9am and finishes in the early afternoon, with participants and spectators alike celebrating with food, drink, and live music.
The exact duration can vary depending on the number of participants and the weather conditions on the day of the event.
Anyhow, it is not the duration hat really matters, but the enthusiasm of the attenders and of the participants that just want to preserve the beauty of their city.
An enormous crowd enjoys this event and so many rowing enthusiasts come from all over the world to attend this joyful race.
Even though it is a quite recent tradition, it has quickly gained so much importance inside the Venetian calendar.
Would you attend it?
The cover photo is by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr.