Regata delle Befane: A Venice Epiphany Tradition

Screen shot 2010-01-04 at 12.58.13 AM.pngAt 11 a.m. on Epiphany, Wednesday, January 6th, the 32nd annual Regata delle Befane will be held on the “Canalazzo,” the Grand Canal. This is not an official Comune sporting event, but rather annual festivity organized by the historic Cannotieri Bucintoro (a rowing club founded in 1882).

Just for the heck of it, five males over 55 will don haggy, witchy costumes to race their single-oared mascarete boats from the Palazzo Bilbo at San Tomà to the Rialto Bridge.

It will be worth bundling up against the cold to see these colorful, hefty befane (traditionally, the good-natured if plug-ugly witch who brings children gifts on Epiphany while sweeping up a bit with her broom) racing frantically up the canal. The mascareta, a small, light craft that unlike the classic gondola, has no bend to help it stay on course when being rowed by single oar. So for every forward stroke which propels the boat forward, a reverse stroke must be employed to hold the boat on course. Che fatica, how exhausting! But great fun.

Here’s the schedule for the regata and the festivities to which everyone is invited:

  • 8:00 At the Magazzini del Sale, the Befane don their costumes
  • 9.30 The rowers head up the Canal Grande.
  • 10.30: Festivities begin on Riva del Vin at the Rialto (the San Polo side, below the bridge), with Venetian music, chocolate and vin brulè for all, and a candy-toss from the giant stocking hanging from the bridge.
  • 11.00: The regata departs from the Palazzo Balbi at San Tomà.
  • 11.15: Estimated finish at the Rialto
  • 11.45: Coronation of winning Befana 2010.

The Epiphany is the Day of the Befana in Italy – and in Venice, a regata is the only way to celebrate!

* photo courtesy e-venise.com

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