Date: first Sunday in September. 1 Sep 2013; 7 Sep 2014; 6 Sep 2015.
Level of participation: 2 - watch the Venetians row like it’s 1489
These rowing races on the Grand Canal commemorate the welcome given to Caterina Cornaro, wife of the King of Cyprus, in 1489 after she renounced her throne in favour of Venice. The most famous regatta out of 120-plus that take place in the watery city between April and September, the event begins with a parade of boats decorated in 16th-century style and powered by crews in period costume. At its head towers the Bucintoro, historically a galley for the doge (duke) and now an emblem of the city.
Aiming, perhaps, to liven things up in a state known as La Serenissima (the Most Serene Republic of Venice), locals first organised a rowing race in 1274. Out of the Regata Storica’s four races in different categories, the main event is the men’s caorline (broad, snub-nosed lagoon vessels) contest. The men need all their muscles to make these seaborne beasts surge ahead.
The races start in the Castello area and proceed west up the canal to the former convent of Santa Chiara, where the boats turn around a paleto (pylon) to pound back to the finishing line at Ca’ Foscari, cheered on by the locals.
Local attractions: for a bird’s-eye view of the warren of canals, climb the campanile (bell tower) on St Mark’s Square.
More info: Venice Tourist Board
See other top festivals in September here.