In May 2015, my visit to Venice just happened to coincide with an annual local event, La Vogalonga Regatta. This serendipitous coincidence turned out to be a highlight of my time in La Serenissima especially since I could root for a friend…
When I learned that I would be able to witness La Vogalonga I was thrilled. My hotel and friend suggested arriving early and finding a place at a trattoria adjacent to the Rialto Fish Market. Both recommendations were spot on and I had a perfect front row seat to enjoy a Prosecco (or two) and to watch the festivities.
The Vogalonga (which is Venetian dialect for “long row”) is a non-competitive amateur paddling/rowing event that takes place every May ( this year it is in June) along a 30km course through the city of Venice and the lagoon to the finish line somewhere near the end of the Grand Canal.
La Vogalonga Regatta originated in 1974 when three friends took part in a regatta in ‘mascarete’ boats to protest against the growing motor traffic with its noise, fumes and negative effects. They were also motivated by a desire to reinstate Venetian boating traditions and Venetian style rowing, voga alla veneta* with the gentle sound of oars gliding through water.
All who wished to support were invited and in May, 1975, they were joined by over 500 participants! Today over 1500 participants as well as thousands of spectators from all over the world gather here.
There are a few “rules”. Rowing boats/kayaks of any weight or size can participate and there’s no limit on the number of rowers in each boat. Anyone over 16 years old can participate. Since it’s not competitive, there are no winners. Everyone who reaches the finish line receives a medal and diploma of participation.
During the Regatta (typically from 10am and 3pm) the Grand Canal is closed to all water transport. NO motorized boats, including vaporetti and water taxis, are allowed. The lack of engine noise alone was wonderful to experience!
High spirited onlookers line the canal enthusiastically cheering and rooting encouragement. Whether sitting at a table with a chilled Prosecco, or on the docks and balconies or hanging out of windows, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the festivities. And besides, it’s all in good fun and for a good cause.
*voga alla veneta: where the oarsman stands, faces forwards and rests his oars in special oarlocks (as the gondoliers still do).
–Victoria De Maio
La dolce vita for me sums up Victoria’s passion and love for all things Italian. An American (with deep Italian roots) living in California, her heart is always in Italy. As a travel consultant, blogger, writer, and published author, Victoria loves sharing practical no-nonsense travel tips as well as her own experiences from a personal and light-hearted point-of-view. Victoria has her own travel blog, PostcardZfromVictoria.com and invites you to join her there as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Italian Notebook, and L’Italo-Americano. She now offers unique boutique and personalized experiences in Italy with Victoria! and has published her first book (about Italy, of course!). Victoria’s Travel TipZ Italian Style , available on Amazon.
Concierge tip: This year the Vogalonga regatta will take place on June 4th: take advantage of the Baglioni Smart Deal and book a luxury stay at Baglioni Hotel Luna in Venice. Just a few steps from St. Mark’s Square, our hotel offers the perfect base from which to enjoy this unique Venetian event.