Venice is known as the floating city but this festival brings a whole new meaning to the word. On the third Saturday of July, something similar to an Armada of Venetian boats can be seen jostling for space in between San Marco and the Guidecca. The boats come in all shapes and sizes, even some brave solo sailors venture out in kayaks. However, the majority of the boats are decorated with lights and flowers, laden with jostling friends, and with precious cargo, such as prosecco and watermelon, rationed throughout the evening.
A picnic is definitely necessary to prepare ahead of time, because once you have secured your place, there is still quite a wait before the real spectacle begins around 11oclock…the fireworks! Each year they have been getting more and more elaborate, but typically they last an hour and light up the whole sky. Whether you are floating on the water, or watching from them from the banks of the Giudecca or San Elena, it is an unforgettable sight. Partly because of the added reflection of the lights in the water, but mostly because of the shared atmosphere of excitement that is palpable.
Tip: Remember that bathrooms are scarce at the best of times in Venice, but on this evening you are better off not even thinking about it!
The Redentore Festival initially was a celebration of Venice’s recovery from the second plague that struck the city. This time claiming the life of nearly 46,000 people in just over a year, between 1575-76.
Palladio was commissioned by Doge Alvise Mochenigo to construct a monumental church in celebration of this salvation, now known as the II Redentore (1592). The façade is inspired by the Pantheon in Rome and inside are housed many grand masters, including works by Tintoretto, Veronese and Francesco Bassano.
A bridge is constructed between the Ponte Della Dogana and the Redentore. Traditionally this was constructed from boats but now considering the magnatitude of traffic that cross it, the decision was wisely made to create a slightly more solid temporary bridge.
The main mass takes place on Sunday, but the church is open on Saturday as well and is breathtaking inside.
Where to watch it from:
For those of you who are visiting over this period, there are few options.
You can take on the bold decision to rent your own boat (See previous article about renting options)
You can head out to the Guidecca, but be warned people mark out their spaces as early as the week before.
San Elena is also a popular choice, offering a good view, but slightly out of the way of the congestion of the rest of the city.
What to eat:
During this period many specilaities are prepared, including; Sarde in Saor (sardines fried and marinated in onions and raisins), Bovoleti (small snails) just to name a few.
As always the best is made at home, but if you are curious to try these unique flavours, there are bars that sell Sarde in Saor with polenta as a cichetti, and Bovoleti are sold by street vendors.
Once again this is all tied into the size of Venice, a festival like this is felt in every corner days before and after, and so when you are visiting in this time you will exposed to a rare side of Venice that welcomes you!