Tag Archives: Venice events

The Best Moments of Venetian Carnival

Colorful, grandiose, and one-of-a-kind Venetian Carnival of 2017 is over. Let’s remember the most important moments of this celebration of Venice’s beauty, tradition, and history that brings millions of people to Venice every year.

Boat Parade during Venice Carnival

The grand carnival opening ceremony started with Venetian Festival (Festa Veneziana), which took place on the banks of one of the most picturesque Venetian neighborhoods -Cannaregio. This was a magnificent evening show of unique floating structures with music, dancing, local food specialties, and lots of positive emotions. The canal banks were lined with people watching the amazing floats go by and trying local Venetian gastronomic specialties. Festa Veneziana continued on the second day of the Carnival in a typical Venetian fashion with a very impressive boat parade along the Grand Canal. Apart from watching richly decorated gilded boats and even brighter costumes of the boats’ passengers all the guests were treated to wine, the best creations of Venetian and Italian cuisine, and of course various entertainment.

Murano Glass Hearts for Valentine's day

Lido in Love was an event dedicated to Valentine’s Day on February 14th. The island’s main square Gran Viale was decorated for the occasion with thousands of red balloons in the shape of a heart. This special event during the Carnival took place at the Love Market in Piazzala Santan Maria Elisabetta. Special booths with Carnival props such as masks and costumes were set up at the square for adventurous couples to take selfies. The Venetian couple masks parade later in the day brought the true carnival spirit to this celebration of love and romance for those lucky enough to celebrate St. Valentine’s in Venice – the most romantic place in the world.

Venice Carnival Crowds on Piazza San Marco in Venice

Another big event was traditional “Festa delle Marie” dedicated to freeing of beautiful Venetian girls from the pirates. The history of this celebration is obscure and mired in legend but most sources point to the fact that starting some time in the ninth century Venice had a custom of celebrating the catholic day of purification of Mary, February 2nd, by selecting 12 of the poorest girls whose weddings were scheduled for that year and providing them with princely wedding celebrations. Sponsored by the church, this tradition involved dressing the girls into expensive clothes as well as giving them rich dowry along with throwing grand celebrations with the doge. Once around year 943 during such an occasion pirates broke into the church of San Pietro di Castello and kidnapped the girls along with their rich dowry and gifts right before the eyes of shocked Venetians. The Venetian fleet headed by the Doge himself quickly organized the pursuit, caught the pirates, retrieved all the stolen articles, saved the women, and threw the pirates overboard. To commemorate this occasion the Doge instituted the official annual Festa delle Marie, or Feast of the Mary’s. The feast involved finding and choosing 12 most beautiful girls among the poorest inhabitants of Venice, 2 from each Sestiere, and naming each of them Mary. Nobility was invited to sponsor this event and provide girls with beautiful clothing and fine gifts. A boat parade along Venice’s canals was held to celebrate the Feast, special religious cervices were held in churches across the city, and fun celebrations with food and music were organized for Venetians. The celebrations went on for several days, and the occasion was one of the most eagerly awaited, lavish, and expensive celebrations in Venice. Eventually in 1379 Festa delle Marie ceased to exist due to rowdy behavior during the party and inappropriateness of the nature of the celebrations to the solemn spirit of the day of the purification of Mary.

The celebration was reborn in 1999 and became one of the key events of annual Venetian Carnival. Modern-day Festa delle Marie involves the procession of twelve young and beautiful girls selected in advance of the Carnival, surrounded by others in historical costume, which parades from San Pietro di Castello to Piazza San Marco. Eagerly viewers gather on Piazza San Marco to see the introduction of Marie, which concludes the celebration. This girl, the winner of the competition of Mary’s then becomes the “angel” to take the flight of the angel during the next year’s carnivale.

San Marco Campanile in Venice

On Piazza San Marco on February 19th carnival aficionados could witness the traditional “Flight Of An Angel”. The role of the angel was awarded to Claudia Marchiori, the Marie of 2016. The “Flight of the Angel” goes back to the historical Venetian tradition when an incognito guest of Venice would descent on a rope from the Campanile of San Marco down to the piazza, offering homage to the Doge. The angel is always the winner of the previous year’s Festa delle Marie. The winner of the 2017 Festa, Elisa Costantini, will become the Angel for the Carnival 2018.

Masked and Costumed Revelers at Venice Carnival

The beating heart of Venice, Piazza San Marco, became the center of yet another important event of the Venetian Carnival – the Competition for the Best Carnival Costume. The competition judges announced the winners in two categories: the best costume and the best mask. Anybody can take part, all you need to do is just file and submit a special form, deck out in a fabulous carnival costume and show up for the contest. You will then be given a change to walk on stage showing off your costume, but be prepared for the tough fight if you wish to win. The participants costumes are extremely elaborate, featuring gorgeous detail and decorations, complete with plumage, furs, wigs, elaborate hats, and of course gorgeous masks.

It is hard to imagine more grandiose and amazing celebration than Venetian Carnival. It is a mix of the old and the new, born from unique Venetian traditions with roots deep in the centuries past, a mix of romance and adventure, which attracts people of all ages and walks of life. If you never visited this celebration of life, history, and beauty we highly recommend putting it on your bucket list and experiencing these events first-hand.


Christmas Celebrations And Winter Holiday Traditions in Venice, Italy

Just when you were starting to think that Venice couldn’t possibly be more magical, Christmas transforms this city into a perfect winter wonderland. While cities around the world deck their streets with lights and ornaments, Venice disappears into foggy wintry sights worthy of any painting by Canaletto. For those seeking peace and tranquility during the holidays, Venice may turn out to be the perfect venue full of concerts, hot chocolate, mysterious fog and, occasionally, snow.
Venice Winter St. Mark's Square Holiday Lights Lg

The month of December brings serenity and quiet to the city, due to lack of tourist crowds strolling down the streets. This is the time of year when Venice is taken over by fog and mist, turning the island into a hauntingly beautiful scene. Although Venice does not go over the top with Christmas decorations, one can still find fantasy lights and garlands adorning its main streets and gondolas. Locals take advantage of this chilly time to get together and enjoy a cup of cioccolata calda (hot chocolate) or mulled wine inside cozy bars and enotecas. Contrary to the typical hot chocolate we can taste in the United States, cioccolata calda in this region is rich and thick, often it is made by melting an actual dark chocolate bar in a cup.

The weather is mostly humid and cold, with occasional snow and acqua alta Iflooding) in Saint Marc’s Square. It is advisable to be well prepared when it comes to choosing appropriate clothing; the wind and rain that sometimes take over the city do not make it easy for visitors to walk around. However, there is still a chance of getting lucky with sunny days every now and then. When this happens, Venetians will be more than ready to bundle up and go out for some Christmas shopping around the city.

One of Venice’s most charming experiences during this season is visiting the joyful Christmas markets, or mercatini di Natale, as locals call them. Springing up between Rialto and Saint Marc’s Square and starting from mid-December, the Venetian Christmas markets are a cheerful exhibition of Venice’s most exquisite arts and crafts. Some of these markets offer fine handcrafted articles like purses, wallets, stationery, jewelry, and christmas ornaments. Others offer fine Venetian products that range from gorgeous Murano Glass to elegant Burano lace, to hand-embroidered fabrics, to antique and vintage items. Typical food and beverages are also part of this show, sometimes accompanied by live music. It is also common to find a wide selection of Nativity scenes and objects (presepi in Italian), most of them handmade, especially near the Rialto Bridge by the church of San Giovanni Grisostomo. And in spite of it being Christmas-time, the Venice Carnival is never far from people’s minds, as we see colorful hand-made masks being sold at every market. Naturally, the whole city is also adorned with countless Murano Glass decorations, and it is a great idea to visit the island of Murano for the Glass Christmas Celebration (Natale di Vetro), where visitors will be charmed by unique Christmas-themed objects made of Murano Glass.
Venice Winter Giudecca View Snow

While hot chocolate may be the most familiar winter-wonderland drink to Americans, the Christmas markets offer a wide selection of traditional and tasty foods and drinks. Roast chestnuts, chocolates, candied fruit and mulled wine are just some of the yummy treats one can find while browsing the market stalls. The famous panettone, or pandoro (Christmas cake) is found in almost every Venetian home and restaurant around Christmas.

The winter season also brings music and concerts. The churches and opera houses get filled with locals and tourists eager to spend the evening listening to classical music masterpieces. It is easy to find the programs by reading the posters around the city, or by visiting the year’s program online. The church of La Pietà, on Riva degli Schiavoni, usually holds some of the best concerts of Vivaldi music, who was once that church’s composer. Some locations like Ca’ Rezzonico, Palazzo Moncenigo or the Scuola San Rocco hold concerts performing traditional Italian Christmas songs; while at world-famous La Fenice opera theater the winter program ranges from Mozart to Verdi offering wonderful performances. Prices and schedules always vary from place to place, some being free, some charging nominal admission, some requiring the previous booking.
Vivaldi Concert in Venice

While walking around the city with almost no tourist crowds to obstruct the views and waiting for lines, it is also advisable to keep in mind that most tourist attractions are closed on certain days around the holidays. Museums like the Doge’s Palace, the Galleria dell’Accademia, Museo Correr and Ca’ Rezzonico close on both December 26th and January 1st. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, however, is possibly the only museum in Venice to stay open on the New Year’s Day. Schedules for the Vaporetto (water bus) may also vary and should be taken into consideration for moving around the city.

Hanukkah is also celebrated in Venice, in the part of sestiere Cannaregio known as the Ghetto – the site of the first Jewish ghetto in the world, where Judaism and Jewish traditions are kept alive and one can see beautifully illuminated menorahs, unique Murano Glass judaica, and delicious kosher food prepared for this special celebration.
Venice Winter St. Mark's Square

All these joyful celebrations and performances lead Venetians to the very much awaited Christmas Eve dinner (la vigilia). During this evening, Christmas tables all over Venice overflow with traditional Venetian Christmas Eve dishes mainly focused on fish and seafood: Venetian risotto, ravioli in capon broth, eel, mixed fried fish and an assortment of seafood with vegetables and polenta. When it comes to visitors, they should book the restaurant for Christmas Eve dinner quite early, since many of them tend to run out of seats or simply close that day. Nonetheless, many great Venetian restaurants like La Zucca, Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti, Alle Testiere, and Trattoria La Furatola, are always open for this special evening. After the Christmas Eve dinner, many Venetians take a stroll down the streets and canals and head to Saint Mark’s Basilica to attend midnight Mass, starting at 11:30pm. The midnight Christmas mass at San Marco is a unique experience for both Venetians and tourists. This night, the Byzantine basilica is lit with hundreds of candles and incense, the famous golden Murano Glass mosaics set aglow, and the entire experience echoes the celebrations of the centuries past. Families and visitors alike flock to San Marco for grand celebratory experience on this special night. But the celebrations don’t stop here; Italians keep on celebrating with the Feast of Santo Stefano, on December 26th, leading the way to the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari to enjoy a free live concert and choir.

Venice offers a special experience in the winter and around Christmas time, mixing peaceful beauty and the bliss of its wintry canals with ornaments and festive lights, great music, and fine food. Being there around winter holidays brings us closer to those otherworldly visions we recall from ancient paintings. This is what makes Venice possibly the most magical place in the world to spend Christmas and winter holidays.


Best Time To Visit Venice

When you plan a trip to Venice, the first question is “when is the best time to visit Venice?” Venice is always a beautiful place full of infinite charm, yet in different seasons the city can be appreciated in unique ways. Luckily, Venice offers marvelous sights, tourist attractions and joyful festivals throughout the year. As it is well known, the summer months are the most expensive when it comes to accommodation and flights, there are huge crowds, long lines at tourist attractions, and the heat in July and August can be exhausting. On the other hand, the winter months offer a magical experience, if you are up for romantic albeit chilly walks through the deserted alleys of the city. One thing, however, must be remembered when planning a visit to Venice: all moving around is done by foot, or by taking a ride, most often in Vaporetto (Venetian water bus). Continue reading


Venetian Tradition Lives On In Festa del Redentore Or Feast Of The Redeemer

The Festa del Redentore, also known as the Feast of the Redeemer or Redeemer Day, is probably Venice’s most spectacular and cherished celebration. Commemorating the end of the fatal plague that hit Venice during the 1500’s, on the third Sunday of July Venice gets transformed into a magical scene, where boats and gondolas gather in the Venetian Lagoon to take part of the most awaited night spectacle. This is without a doubt the biggest festival in Venice. While Carnevale (the annual Carnival) may be the most popular Venetian festivity among tourists, Redeemer Day remains the most important and authentic of local events. Tourists from every part of the world marvel while Venetians celebrate with gondola races, impressive fireworks and delicious local dishes. This feast is rich in ceremonies, performances and theatricality; it is a jolly reminder of both tragedy and gratitude.

Courtesy of Roberto Trombetta on Flickr

The Feast of the Holy Redeemer takes Venetians back to 1575. Europe had been hit with one of the most deadly of plagues, making Venice lose over 50,000 people in only two years. Belief has it that it spread mainly because of rodents and the poor sanitary conditions in vessels that traveled to the East, which lead people to praise cats as a decisive solution. Others, on the other hand, turned to divine salvation, constantly praying for the plague’s extinction.

The Doge of Venice, Alvise Mocenigo, went as far as promising a magnificent temple dedicated to the Savior for public devotion, should Venice survive the plague. And so it was in 1577, that the city was declared free of the plague, and the Doge commissioned famous architect Andrea Palladio to build a church in the Island of La Giudecca as a sign of humbleness and gratitude. The end of the plague was celebrated with a joyful procession that crossed a temporary bridge towards the small wooden church that would later be known as Il Redentore. The church was consecrated in 1592 by Antonio da Ponte, twelve years after Palladio’s death, but the floating bridge connecting the shores of Zattere and La Giudecca still allows visitors to reach the church during this special celebration every year.

Tourists in Venice during Feast Of The Redeemer

Nowadays, the Feast of the Redeemer is more than just a religious pilgrimage; it is a colorful and joyful celebration, full of fun and extravagance mixed with Venice’s most beautiful sights. The most awaited spectacle of the weekend is the fireworks show. It is the moment that attracts thousands of viewers thanks to the kaleidoscope of colors reflected on the Venetian sky. Preparations for such a spectacle begin quite early on Saturday evening, so one can see people decorating their boats and gondolas with lanterns and garlands, while others arrange their rooftops or balconies to see the show. Others organize dinner including an exquisite aperitivo inside their boats. There’s who cooks for 30 people, there’s who joins only a couple of friends, and there are others who book expensive places in elegant boats. At sunset, however, everyone heads over to Saint Marc’s Bay, eagerly awaiting the night’s show. Starting at 11:30, the sky between the canal of La Giudecca and Saint Marc’s Square is illuminated with dazzling fireworks that last about an hour, flashing bright reflections in every dome and rooftop of the Island. It is a magical spectacle, a magnificent show in which the beauty of Venice is reflected in the waters of Saint Marc’s Bay accompanied by music. Through the charm of the fireworks and the inimitable beauty of the Island, Venice becomes the most fascinating scenery anyone could ever imagine. After the spectacular show of the night, many people head over to the Lido, and peacefully wait for the break of dawn.

The weekend’s festivities end on Sunday, and this day is reserved for religious celebrations. During this last day, a temporary floating bridge of 330 meters connects the church in the Giudecca to the shores of Zattere in the Island of Venice, as it did for the first time hundreds of years ago. People cross this bridge in order to reach the church, Il Redentore, and attend a religious ceremony that commemorates the victims of the plague and the end of the disease. When the religious celebrations are over, it means it is time for the Regatta del Redentore, and people start gathering along the waterfront one more time. It is an ancient tradition that involves several teams of oarsmen racing in gondolas along the canal. It is a competition that attracts many observers who even follow the brightly colored gondolas along the way, while firmly arguing and discussing the match.

Wooden bridge to Redentore church built during Festa del Redentore

As with any Italian festivity, there are many events surrounding the Feast of the Redeemer. Needless to say, the whole city is full of special gastronomical treats. Whether at a wine bar, an ice cream shop, or a market on the street, Venice will surely give you a taste of its finest cuisine. Depending on the municipalities and program, the year’s activities change from time to time. There are classical music concerts in churches, sports activities, races, and spectacles.

Getting around the city during this weekend of celebrations is a rather difficult task. Since most of the activities happen on the water, it’s always safe to assume that most of the vaporetto routes will be closed after 8pm Sunday evening. Try to plan accordingly to be able to reach Saint Marc’s Square much before the fireworks start.

The best place to watch the fireworks is between Saint Marc’s Square and the Island of La Giudecca, which gets crowded very fast due to the Venetians booking preferred places on land for dinner with friends and family. If you are ok with a more distant view of the fireworks, you can go to less busy places like the Lido, the Riva degli Schiavoni or the Rio de Sant’Elena.   Whether on water or on land, one thing is for sure: this Venetian celebration is not to be missed. During Festa del Redentore we see the themes so close to the heart of every Venetian and so frequent in Venetian history: tragedy and divinity, darkness and fantasy, overcoming obstacles, gathering strength, celebrating, and rejoicing.


Venice Carnival – A Chance to See Venice of the Centuries Past

Carnivals are costumed festivities which bring together the traditions of dress-up, masquerades, colorful fairs, and street performances. Many countries, regions and towns traditionally have held carnivals right before Christian Lent. Translated from Latin, the word Carnival itself actually means “farewell to meat”. While the roots of Christian carnivals go back to the pagan traditions of Roman Empire, the first carnivals associated with Christianity appeared in various European towns around the IX century AD.

The first mention of the Carnival in Venice dates to year 1094 AD. Most likely Venetian Carnival became an annual event after 1162, the year when people gathered in Venice’s St. Mark’s square to celebrate victory in the war with Aquilea by dancing, singing, eating and drinking.

The most famous accessory of the Venetian Carnival is, of course, the mask, so you may be surprised to learn that no masks were actually worn during Carnivals until XIII to XIV century. The creation of an authentic Venetian mask is an ancient and complicated process. The gypsum form is filled with a layer of papier-mache made using a special recipe. The resulting form is set aside to dry, then polished and the holes are cut through for the eyes. A layer of paint is then often used to make the masks look antique. The last stage of mask creation is decorating – a slow and elaborate process with use of acrylic paints, real gold and silver foils, enamel, expensive fabrics, Swarovski crystals, plumes, beads and various other elements limited only by the fantasy and talent of the artist who creates the mask. Continue reading


The History and Present of Venice Carnival

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Venetian Carnival, an intriguing mix of gorgeous masquerades, street fairs, high-end balls, and tourist craze set against the beautiful backdrop of Venice, is one of the most famous and highly anticipated events in the world. The Venetian Carnival in its present form has been celebrated since 1979 when Italian government and Venetian civic society decided to revive it as an attempt to re-ignite interest in Venice and its rich traditions. However, the original Venetian Carnival has a long history that dates back to the 12th century, if not earlier, and many of the traditions and glamorous highlights of today’s Carnival come straight from the Middle Ages.

Origins of the Venetian Carnival

Many scholars agree that Venetian Carnival has its roots in Christian tradition and that it has likely evolved as a way for people to indulge in life’s pleasures and have fun in the days before the solemn period of Christian Lent (a time of sorrow and reflection leading up to the Holy Week). One of the theories is that the Italian word “Carnevale” comes from the two Latin words “carne” meaning meat, and “vale” meaning farewell or goodbye, signifying the fact that during Lent people had to fast, avoid temptation, and give up life’s luxuries, in order to concentrate on prayer, reflection, and self-denial.
However, the Carnival’s history likely runs even deeper. Venice was founded by Romans escaping barbarians and built on the remains of crumbling Roman Empire. As such, it has deep roots going all the way back into Roman and even Greek history. Hence, Roman celebration of Saturnalia and Greek Dionysian festival before it are thought to have played a role in Venetians’ desire for a festival that allows people to be free from social norms. Saturnalia in ancient Rome was a time of complete break from normal social order and hierarchical boundaries, when masked slaves and Roman citizens alike celebrated with music, dances, symbolic acts, and orgies. Continue reading


The Carnival of Venice 2014 – Welcome to the Fairy Tale!

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Have you ever thought of visiting Venice in the winter but decided against it for fear of cold weather, potential floods, and worry that there wouldn’t be much to do but hide all day in little osterias? Well, maybe you’ve made a mistake. Actually, Venice in the winter is fascinating, not least because of its annual Carnival that is a gorgeous cascade of colors, festivities, balls, wine and food, turning the city into one magnificent party, fifteenth-century style.  This Carnival that takes its roots in the middle ages is still one of the most beloved events held in Venice each year. For 2014, this exciting event will be held from February 15th through March 4th and will be focused on the kindred spirits that intertwine to connect humankind with mother earth, and with the fairy tales that are part of many different cultures. Represented at the Carnival this year are Oceania and Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Organizers of the festival plan to guide attendees toward rediscovering the rich tapestry that can be so beautifully woven by the fantasies of costume, the global cultural experiences, and the romance of the city itself, creating a fantastic fairy tale world.

This year’s Carnival starts on February 15th, with a festive evening show featuring music, fantasy and fairy tale elements on the banks of Cannaregio. The lineup of titillating Carnival adventures includes Ice Skating on a beautiful oval ice skating rink in the center of ancient Campo San Polo, masked balls, and special events both for the general public, and for exclusive crowd in private palazzo’s. Some visitors will choose to partake in the mysterious Walking Theatre, “Secrets of Venice. ” This Carnival event is in keeping with the fifteenth century tradition when nobles and wealthy Venetian residents would walk down a dark path by lantern light and thrill to the stories and anecdotes told by the legendary, “Codega,” a servant that leads the way. Today’s version includes actors of the Pantakin theatre company, who lead visitors to unique, fun and secret locations in Venice for exciting historically based tall tales.

In March, the Gran Finale of the Best Masked Costume Contest is one of the most popular events of the entire Carnival. Revelers will parade their magnificent costumes before a host of judges that will award them with a number of thrilling and prestigious prizes. Among the prizes there will be gorgeous Murano Glass pieces, representing the art that which has flourished on the nearby island of Murano since 1291. Consorzio Promovetro, the world’s only Murano Glass-makers consortium and the owner of Murano trademark, is one of the official partners of the event, and will offer the Best Costume winners precious Venetian Glass gifts as mementos of the fairy tale spirit of Venice Carnival. And for those who don’t win these gifts, we at GlassOfVenice always offer the widest variety of high quality authentic Murano Glass pieces that are guaranteed to lift your spirits and become your own wonderful mementos of Venice.

by Kevin Grinberg


Venice Guide for Christmas and New Year

Venice is known as the most romantic destination in the world, so it’s only fitting to combine Venice with the most festive time of the year to get the potent cocktail of beauty, spirituality, and magic! Not many people think of Venice as an ideal winter holiday destination, yet Venice is truly enchanting this time of the year with few tourists, the convivial atmosphere, the music of church bells, and the romance of snow falling on water and covering the world’s most beautiful sites. Here we offer you a few tips for discovering Venice at Christmas and having a wonderful time.

Rialto Bridge in Venice at Christmas

1) Nativity Scenes

Venice is a perfect place to escape the commercialization and hoop-la around winter holidays that took the United States and much of Europe by storm in recent years. In tune with Venice’s centuries-old traditions, Christmas trees and crazy amounts of Christmas decor are not favored in Venice, giving place to elaborate nativity scenes or Presepi, which were first invented in Italy by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. The beautiful and elaborate handcrafted Nativity Scenes can be seen in hotel and shop windows, Christmas markets, and in churches, though many Venetian churches do not unveil them until Christmas eve.

2) Churches

No matter what your religion, gorgeous Venetian churches are a must-visit destination around Christmas time when they are hosting concerts, Nativity scenes, and, of course, masses. Some church concerts are free, such as the one at Frari church in sestiere San Polo which is held on December 26th at 4pm. Other concerts are held in historical palazzos and scuolas and require tickets for entry, and there are some that are by-invitation-only, such as the famous Concerto di Natale at the Basilica di San Marco. It is difficult to get invited, but if you would still like to experience the holiday spirit in the Basilica, you can attend the high mass there on Sunday before Christmas or the midnight mass on Christmas eve, which starts at 10:30 p.m. and you should get there early to get a seat (no tickets are needed).

3) Christmas Markets

Christmas markets are a long-time tradition in Europe and Venice is no exception. The biggest and best Christmas market in town is at Campo San Stefano and runs from early December until Christmas. The market features a cheerful atmosphere with special performances, tasty regional food, and hot spiced wine for adults, sweets and entertainment for kids, and local crafts such as Murano Glass Christmas ornaments, jewelry, and figurines, Burano laces, masks, and other artisanal specialties. Italian Babbo Natale (Father Christmas), a Santa Claus-like figure, is loved by kids throughout Italy and makes and arrives into Venice by water (of course) stepping off a gondola and giving out sweets to the delight of children and tourists alike.

4) New Year’s

The most cherished New Year eve tradition in Venice is to gather at Piazza San Marco for a convivial evening of live music and dancing, toasts, a midnight kiss with beautiful St. Mark’s Basilica and water splashing in the distance as a backdrop. The magnificent fireworks follow and then DJ’s continue to light up the night. In other words, if you are in Venice over the New Year’s San Marco is the place to be for the festivities. Of course, we recommend heading there only after you’ve had a delicious dinner at one of Venice’s many great restaurants, which always need to be reserved ahead for New Year’s Eve.

Piazza San Marco from St. Mark’s Campanile courtesy of Shark Attacks on Flickr

5) After New Year’s

In Italy, New Year’s is not the end of holiday festivities. Italians love their holidays and their winter holidays end only on January 6th with Epiphany, when a witch called La Befana flies on the broomstick and leaves gifts for good children all over Italy. La Befana is celebrated in Venice with special races where men over 55 years old dressed as old witches row their boats along the Grand Canal. The rowing club Canotierri Bucintoro, the sponsor of the races, serves hot chocolate and mulled wine for spectators on Fondamenta del Vin. This one-of-a-kind annual Venetian festivity is not to be missed if you are there on Epiphany day.

La Befana courtesy of Simone Zucchelli on Flickr


Venetian Historical Regatta: History and Hype

The first Sunday in September is always a big day in Venice – the day of famous Regata Storica or Historic Regatta, a rowing competition traditionally held in Venice for centuries. Although over 120 different regattas are held in the Veneto region of Italy from April to October, Regata Storica is the most special of them all, a spectacular cultural and sporting event eagerly anticipated and celebrated by Venetians and tourists alike.

“Bucintoro at the Molo on Ascension Day” painting by Canaletto

Venetian Historic Regatta has a rich and colorful history stretching back to the 13th century when historical evidence first points to the boat races in the Venetian Lagoon for the celebration of a Venetian religious festival. In the Middle Ages, Venetian regattas were held to celebrate important events such as the accession of a new Doge and appointments of key political figures, commemorate military victories, or to honor visiting foreign dignitaries. These were always popular events among Venetians and foreign visitors, patriotic, pompous, and hugely entertaining at once.

Today’s Historical Regatta of Venice reenacts the famous Venetian boating parade and rowing competition held in 1489 to honor the arrival of Caterina Cornaro, the queen of Cyprus and Venice native, who renounced her throne in favor of Venice. The spectacular ceremonial parade that precedes the races features gorgeous carved 16th century-style boats manned by Venetians dressed in period costume. At the head of the parade is famous Bucintoro, or Bucentaur, the traditional state galley of the doges of Venice and the symbol of the Venetian republic carrying the Doge and Dogaressa. Then come dozens of colorful traditional boats of different types oared by gondoliers in a rich period dress carrying Caterina Cornaro, and the top figures from Venetian magistrate, in a detailed reconstruction of the glory and might of La Serenissima, which has for centuries been the most revered and powerful naval state in the Mediterranean.

Venice Regatta Storica on Grand Canal

After the parade, the main event starts featuring four races: one for young rowers, followed by women’s race, then one for heavy six-oared caorline or transportation boats, and then finally the most anticipated one for the two-oared gondolini, or slim gondolas. These competitions in Venetian-style rowing are very technically challenging and put to test the skills and strength of Venetian boaters. Venetians love these races and set up teams representing various neighborhoods or “sestieri”, establishments, and rowing clubs, while non-Venetians are barred from participating. Nonetheless, crowds of excited tourists flock to Venice for this annual event and flood the banks and floating platforms of the Grand Canal to watch and encourage the racers. After the races are over, the entire city on the water fills with boats and people celebrating with music, food, and drink, and the feeling of joy permeates the air.

Venetian Historical Regatta is an amazing event and is much more than just a colorful spectacle; it’s a way to experience the unique spirit of Venice, its special relationship with water, its history and culture, and its dedication to commemorating and celebrating the glorious past. As Venice gets overflown with tourists, Venetians, and lovers of Venice alike worry about the city losing its face and its soul amidst commercialization and globalization of the surrounding world. Events like Venice’s Historical Regatta keep the city’s traditions and spirit alive and help us all feel like Venetians, if only for a day.


Venice on Ice – Enjoy at Your Own Risk

Winter weather in Venice ItalyMost people think of Venice as a sunny city that sees its fair share of natural cataclysms, mainly in the form of floods, which make it even more picturesque, if somewhat challenging to navigate. We bet you haven’t really thought of Venice as Winter Wonderland, with snow covering its cute bridges and ice floating in its canals. Yet this is exactly what Venice has become a week ago.

After weeks of frigid weather and record low temperatures, most of Europe (and even Algeria) lay covered in snow. Europe’s famous waterways and channels froze, turning entire cities into picturesque skating rinks and bringing the nostalgia of the much simpler life in centuries past. However, what brings good old-fashioned fun to cities like Amsterdam and Berlin becomes a logistical nightmare in Venice, which is not accessible by land-based transport. As Venetian Lagoon started freezing over and the canals were covered in ice, Venice struggled to keep its water-based traffic operating. Water taxis were not running for fear of ice damaging the motors, many private boats were docked for the same reason, and special ice-breaking boats were working overtime to clear up the canals for vaporetti, commercial and private boats.

In a sign of the seriousness of the situation, the famous regatta opening the Venetian Carnival was postponed a week due to the ice, the chill, and the winds reaching 30 mph. However, this is not the first winter when Venetians had to suffer from extreme cold and challenging ice, and they are dealing with it by dressing up in stylish warm outfits (read furs), flocking to the bars and restaurants, warming up with coffee, hot chocolate, and stronger liquids, and welcoming the Carnival amid the snow. Venetians certainly love a good show, and in Venice Show Must Go On!

And the Glass Making must go on too. Despite the tough weather, we would like to assure all our customers that none of our shipments from Murano have been delayed due to the hard work of the glass artisans braving the freezing temperatures and chilly winds to bring you the beautiful Murano Glass creations, and the efforts of UPS and FedEx braving the ice of the Venetian Lagoon. In these days of snow and ice the fire of Murano furnaces is burning brighter than ever, and you can enjoy the reflections of its glow with our Murano Glass Art right in the comfort of your own home.

Murano Glass Heart PendantDon’t let your heart freeze over! Stay warm and enjoy winter Venetian-style with GlassOfVenice

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