The Festa del Redentore: An ancient Italian tradition

The is a must-see for travelers who are planning a summer trip to Venice, Italy. This year, the festival will take place on July 16 and 17. For visitors who think that the city’s tranquil canals are enchanting during the day, the sights during this celebration will be even more breathtaking. As the many small boats covered in balloons and lanterns inch into St. Mark’s Bay and the Giudecca Canal, the waters are illuminated, just as they were centuries ago when the festival was first celebrated.

The Festa del Redentore dates back to 1577 when it was first held to honor the terrible plague that had recently left the city. The construction of the Redentore Church on the island of Giudecca was built at the same time and for the same purpose. For this reason, many Venice natives still make a pilgrimage to this large, white church in honor of the festival. This year, the celebration will begin when city officials open the Thanksgiving Bridge that connects the Zattere to the church at 7 p.m. on Saturday. A solemn procession is led to the church, where visitors can participate in a religious ceremony. Then, 24 hours later, a mass will be held at Redentore Church to mark the end of the celebration.

Although the festival does have a religious element, it does not mean that Italians do not have a little bit of fun as well. On Saturday night, locals pile decorations, colorful lanterns and balloons on their small boats and head to St. Mark’s Bay and the Giudecca Canal at dusk. The boats gently bob next to each other as locals begin to feast on traditional Venetian cuisine while they wait for the fireworks to begin at 11:30 p.m. Once this spectacular show starts, the sky is illuminated, showing off the ancient domes, bell towers and buildings that line the city’s horizon.

The fireworks last until well after midnight, but locals are still eager to wake up on Sunday morning for a series of gondola races, which are part of the rowing season, or “Voga alla Veneta.” The rowing season in Venice runs between April and September and features over 120 regattas, or boat races. During the Festa del Redentore, three races will take place in the city between 4 and 5:30 p.m., including a children’s twin-oared regatta.