This year Venice will host the annual Festa della Sensa on May 27th and 28th to commemorate the age-old history of the Serenissima Republic and its inextricable link to the sea. When one thinks of Venice, it’s impossible not to conjure up images of seaside living, be it in regard to the canals that wind their way right through the heart of the ancient city, or of the Venice port, which has been an integral part of the city’s very development. Festa della Sensa, meaning Feast of the Ascension is held annually in order to pay homage to the city’s customs and traditions of Venetian Rowing. A good way to get an authentic taste of Venice’s maritime traditions is by taking a private Gondola Ride on the exact same canals that have acted as the veins of the city for centuries.
This day has always been a day of feasting for the people of the Republic of Venice and reminds Venetians of the time of the Ascension of Christ. This weekend-long celebration commemorates two very important events in Venetian history: the 9th May 1000AD, when Doge Pietro II Orseolo aided Dalmatian inhabitants threatened by the Slavs. It is also connected to a second historical event in 1177AD, in which Venice was ruled by Doge Sebastiano Ziani. While in Venice make sure to visit the Doge’s Palace, which is still one of the most incredible architectural feats in the world and is aesthetically unsurpassed. At that time, Pope Alexander III and Emperor Federico Barbarossa arranged a meeting in Venice to stipulate a peace treaty, ending a century-old diatribe between the papacy and the Imperial Reign. This second event initiated a time of peace for people throughout Italy. If you’re a history buff and are excited to learn more about the colorful Venetian history, try a history tour through the city.
On the last weekend of May Venice will celebrate the Festa della Sensa with a water parade of traditional rowing boats, which are decorated ornately, showcasing the artistic tradition of the Venetian people. At the head of the parade is the “Serenissima,” a boat carrying the Mayor and other city dignitaries. Still today, on board this boat, the marriage rites with the sea are celebrated through an evocative ceremony, of a ring being launched into the water, and the religious ceremony afterward, at the church of San Nicolò on the Lido.
The program concludes with the Venetian rowing competition and other aquatic challenges. If you’re looking for a more intimate relationship with the Venetian waters yourself, opt for a romantic dinner aboard a Venetian vessel. The Venetian people have effectively been raised on the water and their skills are among the best in the world. These days, the “Sensa” is an opportunity for getting together with family and friends as well as revelry and feasting alongside fellow Venetians, and remembering the lengthy Venetian history, traditions, and its relationship with the sea.
Would you ever participate in a Venetian boating competition? If you have before, tell our readers about your experience.
What types of cuisine do you think would partner well with an Italian day on the water?