The Festa del Redentore is one of Venice’s most important festivals. On Saturday, 16th of July 2016, Venetians, young and old, will party to the early hours of the morning as an arsenal of fireworks explodes in the sky. It’s a lot of fun. So much so, that you’d never believe its dark origins… nor that everyone will be crawling to church on the next day.
Started in 1577, the tradition of the Festa del Redentore hasn’t lost an ounce of its appeal throughout its 440 year history.
The atmosphere during the festival weekend is infectious.
Everywhere you go, people are busy preparing. They rush to and fro in the summer heat, buying this and that, barking orders to each other from their terraces and swarming the bacari (local bar) for a pick me up before getting back to it. It’s hard work.
But as a tourist it’s also one of the best times to visit.
Unique to the city, the festival period is a collection of scents, sights and sounds which you’ll discover as you explore the narrow streets.
Local cuisine is at the heart of it all. Through the open rafters, the scents of traditional recipes creep out of the kitchens to tease the passers by below; the cheesy aromas of grilled scamorza, the sizzling garlic, white wine and clams of a spaghetti alle vongole and all sorts of cooked sausages and meats turn the air into a mouth watering perfume. You can practically taste it.
On the terraces and rooftops you’ll catch Venetians busy decorating with colored garlands and lanterns. Others on the docks, do the same with their boats; rushing to and from from their houses to load them with enough food and drink to last them the night. The faster the better, come sunset, it’ll be a scramble to occupy St. Mark’s Basin and the Giudecca Canal, for the perfect viewing spot for the fireworks.
One by one they head out until the water is covered in a canvas of gondolas and merry Venetians shouting “salute!” to each other as they down copious amounts of wines and Spritz’s. The origins of the celebrations however, are much more somber.
From 1575 to 1576 the Black Death had a devastating effect on Venice.
Numbers vary, but it’s estimated that 25 – 30% of the population fell victim to the plague, destroying the city’s prosperous economy and leaving its mark on the collective psyche of the people. When the city was finally freed from the plague’s grip in 1557, the Doge ordered the Il Redendtore (the redeemer) to be built as thanksgiving for the deliverance and the tradition of feasting and remembrance held back then carries on today.
The stigma of the plague now long gone, the fireworks display (which lasts upwards of 40 minutes) is of course, the main attraction and possibly one of the best in the world.
It’s a vibrant and colorful celebration of life and an unmissable event in Italy’s cultural calendar… but being out there on the boats isn’t necessarily the best way to experience it.
The waters of the bay are simply packed and waiting for the traffic to disperse to get back home can take a while… at least long enough to put a downer on the night’s celebrations. And, if partying all night long isn’t really your thing, you may want to consider watching the fireworks from a safe distance.
The best viewing spot then, is none other than the Gritti Palace.
The luxury hotel offers the best views for the fireworks from its Restaurant Club del Doge, and the Bar Longhi where a special dinner will be organised for this event. But for those who’ll settle for nothing less than perfection; the hotel’s Terrazza Redentore Suite, is hands down the best option in the city.
This two storey suite gives you the privilege of a 250sqm private rooftop terrace with direct views onto the Il Redentore and the Venetian lagoon. The suite, is a thing of beauty which many consider to be among the best in the world and in the summer months, the rooftop’s plunge pool and day beds are absolute joy. As you’ve got a direct view of the Il Redentore church, you can enjoy the fireworks in the complete privacy of your terrace… just don’t forget to ask room service for a bottle of Champagne.