Today, as I look out at the community of Volterra, the cooler air blowing in and the layers of thick fog meandering across the rolling hills and mountainous areas, with the well-predicted rainfall showing itself, I am remembering our hot weather fun we experienced on September 1st. My husband, Bill and I wanted to celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary a little early by going with our family to Venice, known as Venezia in Italian. So, we investigated and discovered that every year, Venezia celebrates the Regatta: Venezia Regata Storica, on the first Sunday in September. This year, it happened to fall on September 1st, seven days before our anniversary. We made plans to travel up to the lovely city of Padova to stay for two nights. Padova, also spelled Padua, a grand city in the Veneto is no slouch in comparison to Venezia. Located between Verona and Vincenza on the map, you can not go wrong!
Padova is filled with gorgeous Roman ruins, Grand Basilicas, architecture, beautiful park systems and is the location of the world's first botanical garden, a Unesco World Heritage site. It is a 30-minute train ride to Venezia. Once we arrived, we were tantalized by the huge variety of foods from around the world. Then we surmised that one of the world's ancient trading centers was the Veneto, inviting the many merchants from around the world to sell and trade their wares and spices. We decided to change our usual Italian meal to Thai for just one night in the spirit of internationalism! We headed to our hotel and had dreams of the Venezian Regatta the next day! We took the train from Padova into Venezia noticing the many canals as we grew closer. What excitement! Once we came to "the end of the line" we headed straight for the canal. It was as breathtaking as I remembered it. It had been 16 years since our last visit.
We checked with various Vaporato (water taxi) operators and private boats discovering we would have to wait and spend a good bit of money. So, we decided instead to save our money for a great meal and that we would walk the many streets and canal bridges to find the Rialto Bridge! What a "feast for the eyes".
We crossed the grand canal and went walking! We saw many tourists and heard many musicians along the paths. We took photos of various shops and views. It was unfolding into a wonderful day!
As we were drawing near the Rialto bridge, we decided to have our well-deserved lunch after all that walking. It had been my habit last time I was here to visit many restaurants in
search of the best zuppa de pesce but a lot has changed including the prices of food since I was here last time on my 28th birthday. So, Liam picked up and carried my torch. He ordered this savored soup to try it! Boy, we wish Grant was with us to enjoy it together once again! The Zuppa de Pesce lived up to my descriptions and Liam loved it immensely!
After Lunch, we continued on our walk. We could feel the excitement building. The kids were just as excited! Then, we found her, the white, beautiful-looking Rialto bridge in the Grand Canal! It was gorgeous and filled with tourists and locals waiting in anticipation for the Regatta to begin in the afternoon! Instead of waiting, we decided to walk the bridge and look for cool masks, a little fantasy of mine! And did we ever find some!
It is hard to believe that this was a hot, hot weather day! Merely a month ago! We waited for the regatta to begin but our kids and we were melting in the heat! Would we last? Then, we got this bright idea…"let's get that long awaited gondola ride!" Yes, it is a typical tourist act but the idea of riding in the shaded canals was so enticing. So we approached the sweet gondolier and asked him for a ride. He motioned absolutely and held out his hand to help us into his beautiful, black gondola!
After riding a bit, we got to talking ! His name was Alberto. He showed us the Casanova family palace, the home of Marco Polo and sailed us beneath some of the prettiest bridges. Later, we came to understand that the cost to purchase a Gondola such as his was $50k. Quite a commitment and a livelihood to perpetuate! Alberto told us that each gondola bears the name of the the gondolier's wife. Our gondola was named Antonella!
As we returned back into the Grand Canal, Alberto instructed the kids to remove their masks as there was a police mandate to keep people unmasked during the event. It was quite funny beforehand seeing people look at Liam wearing his Vendetta mask with surprise, I suppose they saw the movie! Once we docked back in front of the Canal, Alberto said some magic words. " remain seated the regatta is about to start you can watch it from my Gondola!" I thought, "Yes, Front row seats!" Sure enough, an acoustic band rode by on a boat with an accompanying singer. It was decorated beautifully. Then, a small scale model of the Rialto Bridge road by on a gondola, it was time and what a treat! Regal music began to play! everyone along the canal became quiet and had their cameras ready! What a sight! The Regatta procession began. The Venezia Regata Procession dates back to 1498 and it commemorates Caterina Cornaro Queen/wife to the King of Cyprus renouncing her throne in favor of Venezia. It is held the first Sunday of every September and it is said that the event has never experienced a rainfall.
Each sailor would hold up their oars vertically and in unison in salute as approached the Rialto Bridge. So exciting! Then the races began, teams of all children, all women in white, men wearing uniforms paddled in unison through the Grand Canal to show their spirit and dedication to the event! Fabulous! We decided to head for some refreshment not to finish watching the race but the our spirit and excitement remained. We walked the streets and head toward St. Mark's square in need of a vaporato ride to the train back to Padova and prepare for the next day's return to Venice. We returned to see St. Mark's Basilica, and Doges Palace. The kids gained a strong appreciation for the gold mosaic, fresco ceilings, the crusades relics in the side chapel and all the passionate artwork that ordains such gorgeous, ancient churches and secular buildings! Mission accomplished! We could ride the vaporato at sunset and have a strong feeling of love for such a beautiful city, VENEZIA!
Next time in the Veneto: visits to the islands of Murano and Burano- Isles of art glass and lace making.
to see photos check libellulaenitalia.blogspot.com