Everyone knows the allure of Venice. The name alone invites visions of romantic alleys, arches, and waterways. If you are not contrary to crowds, there is never a bad time to visit just to people watch from Piazza San Marco, dance around the Doge’s Palace, browse basilicas, or scamper through shops.
In this post, I want to recommend a particularly magical time to spend a weekend in this waterlogged wonder. Every third weekend in July, Venetians celebrate the Festa del Redentore (Festival of the Redeemer) to give thanks for the end of the plague of 1576 which killed over 50k people. The Doge at the time (Alvise I Mocenigo), promised to build a great church if the plague ended. When the plague finally perished, the Doge commissioned the construction of Il Redentore church on Giudecca. Since its construction, every year a temporary bridge is constructed connecting the Zattere waterfront in Venice to this little island.
For over 400 years (wowza!) this festival is celebrated with a pilgrimage to the church and fireworks on the Saturday night. The entire city gets decked out, from wooden tables set out in the street to lovely ladies lounging on party boats.
We went to experience this festival last year and it was something we will never forget. By sunset on Saturday, the streets were lined with rice paper lanterns and all the waterways were filled with party boats. Every free restaurant table along the water was taken with voyeurs wishing to enjoy long fantastic meals leading up to the fireworks.
We opted to sit and enjoy the event with a leisurely meal at a choice table. It felt very much like a new years celebration. Everyone was decked out and ready to party. Boats were constantly whizzing in and out of the ports with party hoppers and when the fireworks finally began (around 11:00 pm) the city was in full swing.
I honestly have to say these were the best fireworks I have ever seen! They are launched off pontoon boats near the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, but you can literally see them from anywhere in the city. The entire skyline lights up for a good hour. I always knew the Italians had a high standard of artistic excellence but this was beyond anything I could have imagined.
Once the fireworks end, boats start zipping around, with young people heading to the island of Lido to hang out on the sand and party until dawn. The next morning definitely had a very quiet and hung over Sunday feel to it, with many finally making the pilgrimage to the Il Redentore church. To top it all off, we also saw a regatta underway!
Here is some helpful info for anyone interested in checking out the festival for 2017. Venice is only a 2.5 hour drive from Ljubljana, Slovenia. I recommend putting Tronchetto into your GPS, parking there, and taking the Vaporetto to wherever you plan on staying. I also recommend packing light. You will be doing a lot of walking and weaving through a lot of crowds!
Redentore Festival in Venice 2017
Saturday 15th July 2017
7.00 p.m. opening of the bridge connecting the Zattere waterfront with the island of Giudecca; presentation of the Venetian regatta boat crews.
11.30 p.m. Festa del Redentore fireworks 2017.
Sunday 17th July 2017
4.00 p.m. Regatta of the Redeemer – Giudecca canal
7.00 p.m. Votive Mass of the Redeemer Festival in Venice 2017 at the Chiesa del Redentore on the island of Giudecca
Look for hotels, restaurants, and boat owners to offer special viewing experiences of the fireworks.