Regate del Redentore

Traditional Festival in Venice

It is one of the oldest popular celebrations of Venice. It takes place every year on the third Sunday of July and it is the Venetians’ favourite celebration. Following a 400-year-old tradition, they gather in the San Marco Basin to watch and await the midnight fireworks. According to history, after a terrible plague lasted three years, the Doge Sebastiano Venier kept the vow made by his predecessor Alvise Mocenigo to build on the Giudecca island a thanksgiving temple to the “Redentore” (the Redeemer). The job was entrusted to Palladio who laid the first stone in 1579. The church was consecrated in 1592. On the 21st of July 1578, an open-air altar with ciborium was built where the temple was to be erected and in four days a bridge made of eighty galleys was created through the Giudecca Canal. A huge crowd of Venetians who had escaped the terrible epidemic crossed it aware that all mourning and misfortunes were over at last.

When the temple was built, the Doge decided that the third Sunday of July would be devoted to the pilgrimage. Soon people, lest they wouldn’t find a place from which to watch the ceremony, started to arrive there the night before, spend there the whole night and wait for the rise to rise in Lido. Although more than four centuries have passed since the celebration was first introduced, it continues to take place in the same places and in the same way. Indeed the city is still connected to Giudecca by a bridge built on modern floating platforms.

Its character of popular celebration has remained unaltered: Venetians are the real protagonists, with their exquisitely prepared boats, rooftop loggias, terraces and small squares (campielli) lit up by thousands of lights. Every year about 1500 boats gather in the San Marco basin, and about 30,000 people (both from the water and from the banks) attend the celebration which reaches its climax at about midnight with the fireworks being launched from various points on barges scattered along a 400-meter front between the San Marco basin and the Giudecca Canal Since 1978 fireworks are accompanied by music and are unanimously considered to be among the best in the world. When the show is over, the boats head towards Lido where, following the tradition, they wait for the sun to rise. The following Sunday is dedicated to the religious celebrations of thanksgiving and to sports competitions consisting in a regatta of young rowers on pupparini (fast boats that used to be employed for maritime surveillance) and a regatta of champion rowers on tworow gondolas.

Visiting Regate del Redentore

Duration: 20 minutes

Regata Storica

Traditional Festival in Venice

One of the most important events in Venice is, undoubtedly, the Regata Storica: a sumptuous historic procession of boats precedes competitions among boats of the same kind (the gondolini race, etc.).

The first records regarding rowing competitions date back to mid-13th century although they are likely to have more ancient origins because in a city like Venice, for which conquering the sea has always been so important, they stemmed from the need to train the crews to row. Women too were trained to row. Indeed, as back as 1493, they were already taking part in competitions. Originally the regatta was preceded by the “bissone”, parade boats with order service functions and from whose stems some nobles equipped with bows threw “ballotte” (clay balls usually employed to hunt marshy birds in the lagoon) to the most undisciplined boats. Nowadays the bissone have the only function of opening the historical parade. Although the Republic fell in 1797, the regattas did not cease. On the contrary, that year the Venetian government announced two competitions. The regatta as we know it today was born in 1841, when the Town hall asked the permission to organise yearly boat competitions whose expenses would no longer be met by private
citizens but by the public. When Venice was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, the regattas acquired the new purpose of celebrating the glorious past of the Venetian Republic.

In 1899, on the Venice’s mayor (Earl Filippo Grimani) proposal, the regatta acquired the “historical” appellation. The regatta was one of the view painters’ favourite subjects as it allowed them to paint a celebrating Venice and it is still one of the main events. Indeed, on this occasion the San Marco Basin and the Grand Canal teem with all sorts of boats
from which people can watch the competitions and root noisily. At present the most important and exciting competition is the gondolini race

Visiting Regata Storica

Duration: 20 minutes

Venice Carnevale

Traditional Festival in Venice

This celebration boasts very ancient origins in Venice: it seems to have been existed since the 10th century. Under the Venetian Republic (Repubblica Serenissima) celebrations lasted six weeks: from the 26th of December to Mardi Gras, until the bells announced the beginning of Lent. In this period people made merry all day long and all sorts of actions were permitted. Everybody wore a mask, which temporarily abolished social differences. Piazza San Marco and the other squares (“campi”) of the town were turned into huge stages where all sorts of entertainments were organized.

The most important and spectacular shows would take place in the Piazzetta on the Thursday before Lent: on a stage Castellani and Nicolotti would try and outdo each other in the labours of Hercules, and at the end of the celebration, a myriad of fireworks was launched from a grand three-store wooden building. The most theatrical and spectacular show was the “Volo dell’angelo” (Angel flight), today’s “Volo della Colombina” (flight of the little dove), whereby a man was secured with ropes around his waist and raised, through a series of pulleys, from the quay to the belfry of San Marco and then lowered to the Doge’s palace loggia in order to offer flower bunches and poems to the Doge who watched the performance from there.

The carnival was abolished by Napoleon at the end of the 18th century.

It was in 1979 that it was resumed and taken back to its original splendour. Today, masks from all over the world crowd the Venetian squares, especially Piazza San Marco and its cafés. Traditional masks mingle with fanciful and extravagant costumes. Balls, parties, concerts and theatrical performances are organized and, out of respect for tradition, on the last day the effigy of carnival is burnt in Piazza San Marco

Visiting Venice Carnevale

Address: St. Mark's Square San Marco 30100 Venezia VE Italy
Duration: 20 minutes

Festa della Sensa

Traditional Festival in Venice

The Festa della Sensa (Feast of the Ascension), which takes place in Venice on May every year makes tourists relive the age-old history of the Serenissima Republic and its intimate relationship with the Sea, as well as the customs and traditions of Venetian Rowing.

This celebration takes place every year on Ascension Day, in May, and boasts ancient origins. It celebrates two Venetian victories occurred at a distance of centuries one from the other. The first victory dates from year 1000 when Doge Pietro Orseolo II decided to leave, precisely on Ascension Day, to defend Dalmatian towns which, a few years before, had asked Venice for help against the repeated Croat and Narentan invasions. In return they promised they would join the Republic. Once the enemies were defeated, the Adriatic became free and safer to the Venetians. For this reason the Council decreed that this event would be celebrated every year on Ascension Day (“il giorno della Sensa” in the Venetian dialect).

It started as a simple and modest celebration until, in 1177, the Doge Sebastiano Ziani hosted in the Basilica di San Marco the highest authorities of the time: Pope Alexander III e Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and managed to make them sign a peace agreement. This event gave new prestige and solemnity to the celebration. In return for its services, the Pope confirmed Venice’s control of the sea through the solemn yearly “Sposalizio” (marriage) on Ascension Day. On that occasion, the Doge would board the state barge Bucintoro and, followed by a fleet of galleys (“galere”), “peatoni” and many other boats, he left the Bacino di San Marco (St Mark’s Basin), sailed the Canale di S.Marco, and reached S. Elena up to San Pietro di Castello where he was awaited by the Bishop, ready to bless him from a boat with a golden parapet. In order to underline Venice’s dominion over the sea, the celebration would reach its climax with a sort of propitiatory rite: once the Doge reached the harbour mouth, he would throw a gold ring into the water. The ceremony ended in the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) with a solemn banquet which saw the presence of Admirals, Taskmasters, Magistrates and Ambassadors. On occasion of this celebration, a fair took place in Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square). It lasted 15 days and wood porches were built to accommodate shops. This celebration is still celebrated although, admittedly, with much less magnificence. On Ascension Day, the mayor still reaches the harbour mouth on board of the Small Bucintoro used during the Regata Storica flanked by the Venetian oar societies and throws into the lagoon the gold ring that stands for the alliance between Venice and the Sea.

Visiting Festa della Sensa

Address: Colonna di San Todaro San Marco 30124 Venezia VE Italy
Duration: 20 minutes

Tamborrada / St. Sebastian’s Day

Music, Religious and Traditional Festival in San Sebastián

The 20th January is St. Sebastian’s Day and locals take that very seriously as  at midnight (19th – 20th) crowds pack Constitution Square, where the mayor raises the city’s flag to start 24 hours of non-stop drumming.  The drumming opens with the Sociedad Gaztelubide and representatives of other drum outfits who play to melodies by Sarriegui. Around 125 drum lines participate in the event every year, each bringing their own unique style and touch to the festivities.

Visiting Tamborrada / St. Sebastian’s Day

Address: Constitución Plaza, 143, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Duration: 24 hours

Fiesta de los Reyes

Religious and Traditional Festival in San Sebastián

Fiesta de los Reyes or Three Kings Festival is two day annual event held on the 5th and 6th of January to celebrate the Three Kings or Wise Men who followed the a star to the birthplace of Jesus Christ and brought gifts to him: gold, incense and myrrh.

Each city and town hosts its own parade on the eve of Three Kings’ Day, called the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos, to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings into Spain from their long journey. The Kings Melchior (Arabia), Caspar (the Orient) and Balthazar (Africa) march down the main street of the city, either on their camels or on elaborate floats. In some coastal cities, like Palma and Barcelona, they arrive by boat and then continue on to the parade. In others, they’ve arrived by helicopter.  The Three Kings come bearing gifts for all the children and parade throughout the local city, throwing sweets into the crowd.

The children leave a letter they have written out to the Wise Men to ask for what they would like to receive and then they leave shoes on windowsills or under the Christmas tree to be filled with their gifts. That night the children  leave three glasses of warm milk and sweets for each of the kings, plus some hay or grass for their hungry camels, so that they can rest for a while before continuing their travels.

The next morning, the previously empty shoe is hopefully filled with and surrounded by gifts, although naughty children may be left a lump of coal.

On the 6th, after the gift opening, traditionally people have breakfast with the Roscón de Reyes, a delicious round cake decorated with candied fruit, a symbol of the gems which adorned the Wise Men clothes. But careful, the cake contains two plastic wrapped figurines, a small king and a broad bean: if you find the king in your piece of cake you will have good luck for the rest of the year, if you find the bean you have to pay the cake!


Visiting Fiesta de los Reyes

Duration: 3 hours

Feria de Abril de Sevilla

Traditional Festival in Seville

The Feria de Abril de Sevilla or Seville Fair is held Seville, Spain and usually begins two weeks after the Semana Santa, or Easter Holy Week. It is held on El Real de la Feria, in the Los Remedios area. The festival has it all – dancing, carnival rides, sherry, Sevillanas, toros, flamenco dresses and horses!

The Festival area is broken up into the fair zone called the Real de la Fería algon which hold the casetas and the Calle del Infierno (Hell Road) an amusement park or fun fair.

History of the Feria de Abril de Sevilla

The April Fair is one of the most international and popular of Seville’s fiestas.  The origins of the Fair can be traced back to a cattle fair which took place on the grounds of the Prado de Sebastian in 1847. To serve farmers trading at the cattle market and to provide those visiting with a drink and a bite to eat, three marquees were set up in 1848.  The number of ‘casetas’ grew year after year until the 1920s when the Feria de Abril had grown into the city’s biggest annual fiesta. In 1973 the event moved venue to its current location opposite the Parque de María Luisa in Barrio de los Remedios.

La noche del pescaíto

On the Saturday before the opening ceremony, friends and family with casetas will gather with to have a dinner called El Pescaíto or small fish. The night is also referred to as la noche del pescaíto or night of the fish.

The Alumbrao of Feria de Abril de Sevilla

The opening Ceremony of the Fair begins at midnight on the Monday which falls two weeks after Semana Santa. At midnight on Monday, the opening of the fair is marked by a traditional lighting ceremony at the fairground in an event known as the Alumbrao. People gather in front of the Portada, which is the,  50 meters wide and over 37 meters high, entrance way to the fair, lit with 20,000 and 25,000 of  multi-colored light bulbs and having a different motif each year. At midnight the lights go on and the party begins.

The Paseo De Caballos

Tueday is the first official day of the festival, and this is when the horseback parades begin.  The carriages roam through the fairground, the women wearing beautiful flamenco dresses called trajes de gitano or gypsy suits and the men in their traditional suits known as el traje corto.

The carriages are the only vehicles allowed inside the fairground which is a tradition dates back from the 1850s when people used to arrive and return from the Feria de Sevilla – a livestock fair then, to deal with breeders that used their own carriage.

Fortunately, this custom remains and you’ll have the chance to see the most beautiful horse carriages in Spain as there is rivalry between their owners on this. Don’t miss the carriages themselves as well as the horses’ ornaments and the costumes of the drivers and passengers. Everyone is dressed with the traditional gala clothing and it’s absolutely spectacular.

Closing Ceremony of the Feria de Abril de Sevilla

The festival ends the Sunday after it started, at midnight with a spectacular firework display over the Guadadalquivir River.

The Bullfights of the Feria de Abril de Sevilla

Each day the fiesta begins with the parade of carriages and riders, at midday, carrying Seville’s leading citizens to the bullring, where the bullfighters and breeders meet. During the fair there are afternoon bullfights each day. The fair draws top-name bullfighters from all around Spain and the bullfights here are considered some of the best of the year. They usually take place at 5:30 pm in the Plaza de Toros de Maestranza. The bullring in Seville is known as one of the most beautiful in Spain and is commonly known by the locals as “the cathedral”. You can purchase tickets directly from the bullring, however, due to the huge draw of the event, tickets can be quite expensive.

Casetas of the Feria de Abril de Sevilla

The Real de la Fería algon hold the casetas or striped tents of varying sizes.  Much of the site is taken up by private areas for local families, groups of friends, businesses, clubs, trade associations and political parties. There are more than 1000 of these ‘casetas’ in the showground which are fully equipped with a bar, kitchen and usually a large sound system. From early afternoon the drinking starts, the tapas appear, the music gets louder and by the evening there will be plenty impromptu flamenco dancing going on. But these are privately owned tents so unless you have a sevillano friend who invites you along you won’t be able to go into them.

You do have the option to enter a number of open casetas – the information office at the entrance to the fair will tell you which they are. The fiesta mayores, each of six districts of seville, political parties’ ones; the trades unions; one called la marimorena which serves vegan food  offer them open casetas.

The Festival area is illuminated the length of its streets by thousands of covered light bulbs called farolillos which is a kind of Chinese lantern.

The ground of the streets is covered with albero which is a  type of yellow colored clay which comes from the neighboring town of Alcalá de Guadair, used traditionally in Seville in the gardens and the famous Bullring.

Calle del Infierno at the Feria de Abril de Sevilla

The amusement park of the Feria is located in an area called La Calle del Infierno, which can be translated as Hell’s Road. This huge area which holds more than 500 activities. If you like big wheels go for it because the aerial views of the Feria that you have from the top are spectacular.

In addition to the traditional rides such as the big wheel, bumper cars and a roller coaster (sometimes even more than one!) there are tombolas, a bingo hall, the camel race, the water pistols and many more attractions. Actually, believe it or not there’s even a circus with clowns, trapeze artists, tamers and lots of animals!
There are also food areas and food stalls where you can eat hamburgers, hot dogs, sweets, churros with chocolate!

Tips for Visiting Feria de Abril de Sevilla

  • Choose your footware with care – the shoes will get dirty with the “albero”, which is the soil on the ground which is the the same as used in the bullring.
  • It may be worth eating before you go, the public casetas are usually quite busy so you will have a hard time reaching the counter and ordering any any of the relatively expensive food or drink.
  • The Day is better than the night – most locals gather inside the casetas at night and nothing really happens outside them, except for seeing people walking from one caseta to another. After 8pm the sides of the casetas are allowed to be put down – so there is not much to see!
  • Don’t drink too much ‘rebujito‘ a mix of  Manzanilla – a  Spanish sherry wine which is mixed with lemonade.
  • Just inside the entrance to the fairground, you’ll find an information booth where you can pick up a map and information. The also offer a daily free walking tour around the fairgrounds with a local guide.

Visiting Feria de Abril de Sevilla

Other names: Feria de Abril de Sevilla, Seville Fair
Duration: 2 hours