The race has been in existence since 1975, and is now one of Venice’s biggest events. It takes place around Ascension Day – on 12th June in 2011 – coinciding with the old ceremony of the Doge’s symbolic marriage to the sea.
More than just a race, the Vogalonga has come to represent an exciting celebration of the city and its maritime culture. On this day, oarsmen in all kinds of traditional boats – including dragonboats, kayaks, gondolas and fishermen’s sandoli – have the canals to themselves. Eye-catching fancy dress, rowing club colours and traditional sailors’ outfits all gain applause from the spectators who line the canals and wave the boats on.
Entry to the race is open to anyone, with boats of all shapes and sizes from single rower to boats with twenty or more participants.
The race takes place over a 30km course, and is started by a cannon blast beside the famous St Mark’s Square. Boats then head around the lagoon to Burano before coming back to finish beneath the Rialto Bridge.
Serious competitors in the event can complete the course in around two hours, but those who are there for a bit of fun can take five. Most of Venice’s motor boats stay tethered for the day, and the city is filled with drums, music and spectators’ cheers. It’s a great time to visit the city, even if you’re a more avid spectator than rower!