January’s the perfect time to start making travel plans for the year ahead, so why not beat those winter blues and book your next trip to Venice? If you’re wondering when to visit, consider coinciding your stay with one of the city’s spectacular historic festivals that take place over the course of the year. To inspire you, here are five of our favourites:
Carnevale (27 January – 13 February): Kicking off the 2018 calendar is Venice’s world-famous Carnival, an event that’s been officially celebrated in the city since 1296. Spread over eighteen days, it’s an exhilarating whirlwind of costumed parades, masquerade balls and public performances, with highlights including an illuminated nighttime water pageant on the Cannareggio canals, and the dramatic “Flight of the Angel” zip-wire descent in St Mark’s Square.
Festa della Sensa (12, 13 May): Taking place the weekend after Ascension Day, this ancient event commemorates Venice’s marriage to the sea; during the time of the Venetian Republic, the doge was rowed out to the island of Sant’Andrea where he would toss a golden ring overboard to symbolize the city’s union with the water. Today the ritual is reenacted with a fleet of ornate boats carrying Venetian officials to the Lido, followed by a picturesque gondola regatta.
Festa della Redentore (14, 15 July): Commemorating the end of a plague epidemic in 1576, this much-loved summer festival takes place during the third weekend in July. During the festival a wooden bridge is floated on barges across the Giudecca canal, providing easy access to Palladio’s church of the Redeemer, which was commissioned to celebrate Venice’s deliverance from the epidemic. On the Saturday night, boats of every size and shape gather in the lagoon, and picnics take place all along the waterfront, before a dazzling firework finale from 11.30pm.
Regata Storica (2 September): Held on the first Sunday in September, the Regata Storica is an annual display of strength and skill for the city’s gondoliers and rowers. Reenacting the arrival of the Queen of Cyprus in 1489, it begins with a procession of ornate boats down the Grand Canal, rowed by locals dressed in 16th century costumes. The floating parade is followed by a series of thrilling races, concluding with a much-anticipated prize-giving ceremony by Ca’ Foscari.
Festa della Madonna della Salute (21 November): Every year since 1631, citizens of Venice have observed a feast day on 21st November to mark the end of another great plague which claimed almost 100,000 lives. On this day, Venetians process across a pontoon bridge to visit the church of the Madonna della Salute (literally, “good health”), where they light candles for loved ones. Inside the basilica, a solemn mass is held every hour; outside, the nearby streets are thronged with crowds enjoying lively street markets.