Hundreds flock to Venice’s ‘Regata Storica’ despite COVID restrictions

Venice has held the first public event since before the Coronavirus lockdown on its famous Grand Canal.

The Regata Storica is the highlight of the Venetian calendar with colourful boats and gondoliers in historical costumes re-enacting carrying the Doge, the elected lord and chief of state of Venice, and his wife along the city’s main waterway.

The Historical Regatta is celebrated every September and attempts to recapitulate the splendour and wealth of Venice, once one of Italy’s major maritime republics.

Four races are held throughout the day with the finish line located in front of the gothic Ca’ Foscari palace, built for a 15th Century doge.

The event normally draws hundreds of people but since the coronavirus lockdown in Italy put a temporary end to mass tourism, Venice has become unusually quiet.

But for some, this is a bonus:

“I came because I’ve wanted to attend the regatta for a long time,” Italian tourist Silvia Sacchi told AFP.

“And I chose this year because unfortunately, because of COVID, there would have been fewer people and I would have enjoyed it more.”

With masks, mandatory distancing and surveillance on the canal banks to avoid crowds it was a different regatta from past years.

“This year there were no organised stages with tickets to follow the races and parade, so fewer people came but there was the same enthusiasm from local people and there was a lot of people in the city.” spokesperson for the festival, Marta Moretti, told Euronews.

“Everybody had to wear mask starting from early afternoon, before the start of the historical parade and then the races. Even the VIP stage welcomed half the number of guests than before. Police could also fine people from 25 to 500 euros if they broke the rules.”

French tourist, Agathe, said although it was crowded “people seem careful” so she felt “rather safe and obviously we’re having a good time.”

Venice resident, Marina, admitted it was ” less joyful this year,” with “already fewer boats than in previous years. But it’s always beautiful. Venice is very beautiful and so is the regatta.”

The Italian city is also holding the first major international film event to take place since the coronavirus pandemic closed down movie theatres.

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