We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Regata Storica 2013

For me, one of the highlights of the year in Venice is the annual Regata Storica, a procession of 16th century style boats down the Grand Canal all filled with rowers and passengers dressed in period garb, including the Doge and the Doge's wife. The procession was to welcome Caterina Cornaro, wife of the King of Cyprus who in 1489 renounced her throne to live in Venice.

It's thrilling to see the Grand Canal void of all the everyday usual traffic as people line its sides waiting for the boat parade to begin. The procession participants begin at the Public Gardens, Giardini, and make their way up the Grand Canal,  turning around in front of the train station  then  ending at  Ca' Foscari  where the machina, the parade reviewing stand, is located.

Earlier in the morning a large pole, called the paleto,  is driven into the middle of the Grand Canal in front of the Santa Lucia train station. The paleto marks the turn around point for the race.  A rope, called the spagheto, is stretched across the starting point in front of the Giardini (the public gardens).

Later in the afternoon the regata is held, beginning with the race for young rowers, followed by the women's race,  the 6-man teams and finally the teams of 2 gondoliers.  A different style traditional rowing boat is used for each different race category:   pupparini for the youth, mascarete for women, caroline for the 6 man teams and gondolini for the 2 man "champions" race.  Excitement mounts as everyone waits for the last race of the day,with local Venetians cheering on their favorites from the sidelines.

Colored pennants are awarded to the winners: Red for first place, white 2nd place, green 3rd place and blue 4th place.

Regata Storica is always held on the first Sunday in September. Tomorrow's activities begin at 4pm with the historic procession. The Grand Canal will be cleared of traffic beginning at 3:00 pm.

The race schedule is as follows:
4:50 - Pupparini (youth)
5:10 - Mascarete (women)
5:40 - Caroline (men)
6:10 - Gondolini  (gondoliers)

I'll be out with my camera somewhere along the Grand Canal tomorrow afternoon. For now, here are some photos from prior Regata Storicas to get you in the mood.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A sad day in Venice

In my last post, I commented on the run of interesting, strange, odd, wacky, weird, almost unthinkable things that have taken place in Venice thus far this summer. Things were definitely going downhill, but today, things just fell off the cliff. Bad went to worse in a hurry this morning with the  news of a tragic accident on the Grand Canal just before noon.

Amidst all the usual traffic at the Rialto bridge, a vaporetto knocked into a gondola, sending a German family of five- mother, father and 3 children-  into the canal. The father unfortunately died at the hospital shortly afterward, having taken in large quantities of water. The small daughter suffered from a serious wound above her eye and was taken to the hospital in Padua for surgery. A tragic day for this vacationing family.

   (photo courtesy La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre)

I'm almost without words.

But believe me, there will be words today, tomorrow, in the near future as blame is bandied about by the police department conducting the investigation, the city government, you name it, everyone will have something to say. We'll talk about all that in the days to come.

Today, a life was lost, a young child seriously injured, a family forever changed, and I suspect one gondolier and one vaporetto captain will suffer nightmares for the rest of their lives. Words won't change those facts.

As small consolation, I strongly believe when your time has come, it's come. While I wish there were a way this day could be rewound and played over, with a different outcome, that isn't possible. We have to deal with the reality as it is.  As thoughts of this tragic event went round and round in my head all afternoon,  I was reminded of a similar event. A few years ago on vacation in the Dominican Republic, while attending the evening entertainment at the resort, we were all up on the dance floor doing the merengue, having a fantastic time.  Not far from me a woman slumped to the floor. The emergency doctor was called, everyone was in a panic. The woman passed away instantly due to a massive heart attack. Just like that, she was gone. Dancing one minute, dead the next. Her family made a statement shortly after the frightening incident- that their mother was having the time of her life, doing exactly what she would have wanted to do- dance.

I want to not forget that life is for living. Let's remind ourselves to get up and dance every day.

I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the family.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ferragosto! Closed for holiday!

For the last few weeks, the closed for holiday signs have sprouted up all over the city.  Everyone is headed to the mountains or the beach for the traditional Italian holiday -Ferragosto. While technically the holiday is only one day, August 15, Italians stretch it for almost the entire month.

This summer is having a run of "stuff" happening, much worse than previous years, in my mind. I cannot recall a year being quite as bad as this one. Not weather-wise, it's routinely hot and humid here. But I think the weather might have contributed to Venice going a bit mad. I think all the summer madness began when the ridiculous ticket booth, il Gabbinotto, was erected at the base of the Campanile in St. Mark's square. That incited quite a bit of indignation amongst the locals, for sure.  

Next was the cruise ship that came too close to the embankment near Via Garibaldi. As if Venice needed any more cruise ship bad news!!!  

There  was an accumulation of record breaking algae in the canals and unprecedented numbers of dead fish. Weird. 

There have been crazy fights between vu compra (the illegal handbag salesmen), the local vendors and gondoliers.  Also weird.

The huge purple inflatable statue has taken up residence on San Giorgio Maggiore until November. Yes, very weird.

Gondoliers have experienced a new run of bad press through the summer months including the poor treatment of a ganser (the guy who helps people get off a gondola), roughing up some passengers at Redentore night, and the reported bad language addressed at a regular passenger at one of the traghetto stations.  The result:  random drug and alcohol testing for gondoliers. 

In the last week we've seen numerous articles in the local newspapers relating to poor tourist behavior- sleeping in the streets, riding bicycles, going shirtless, and swimming in the canals. (By the way, Venice has several rules about proper decorum in the city- one of them is going shirtless.  Riding bicycles is an offense which carries a fine.)   

(photo from Il Gazzettino)

(photo courtesy Sebastiano Scomparin)  

Not to be left out of all the summer chatter is ACTV- the company that operates the vaporettos. The boats have been running behind schedule on numerous days; they have been unbelievably overcrowded; there have been altercations between tourists and the  workers on the boats, instigated undoubtedly by the crankiness due to those late arrivals and all those crowds;  and there have been staff on board boats checking tickets and writing out fines left and right.  The latest from ACTV is the new poster announcing fines for people on the docks without a valid ticket. 

And last but not least, just two days ago, an oil spill on the Giudecca canal near San Basilio that necessitated two days of clean up, probably caused by one or more of the cruise ships in port that day. 

I seriously believe Venice is overdue for a vacation.  I expect to see one of these Ferragosto closed for holiday signs hung on Venice's front door. 

Buon Ferragosto, Tutti!!!