On the third Saturday and Sunday of each July, Venice celebrates the Redentore Festival, or Festa del Redentore. Venetians also refer to the festival as “The Famous Night of Fireworks.” Still another reference to the festival is known as Redeemer Day.
Whatever one would call it, this wonderful Venetian festival signifies the end of the plague which besotted Venice in 1557 and is deemed as one of the most disastrous plagues in Venice history. Unfortunately, 50,000 Venetians died from this plague, including the beloved Italian painter, Tiziano Vecellio. It is also the oldest, most consistently celebrated festival in the Venetian history.
Any July travel to Venice, Italy must include this spectacular festival honoring long-ago plague survivors. The Festa del Redentore, or Redeemer Day, features vivid pyrotechnics displayed over the water. As far as things to do in Venice, Festa del Redentore should not be overlooked! The fireworks take place the night prior to the Redentore Festival amidst decorated Venetian boats where visitors and residents can dine. Venetians also admire the fireworks from their decorated wooden terraces and on rooftops.
By sunset, thousands anxiously await the fireworks while Saint Mark’s basin swarms with visitors and Venetians alike. Onlookers appreciate the vast amount of brightly colored balloons and garlands which seem endless during the eve of the Redentore Festival. The fireworks commence at 10 p.m. from pontoons floating near the Island of San Giorgio. The show goes on for nearly an hour while it illuminates the night much to the delight of Venetians and its tourists.
There is no other place in the world where the lights of the fireworks color a mirror of water like that of reflections from the Ducal Palace, St. George and the Columns of Mark and Todaro. After the fireworks, young Venetians celebrate by heading to the Lido and they stay up partying until dawn on the beach. Feel free to do so yourself if you’re not young—just as long as you feel young!
The Zattere, which denotes “raft” in Italian, dates back to 1519 (before the plague) when it was first constructed as a landing dock for timber delivery and ship and building construction. The spacious waterfront walkway is adjacent to the southern shore from the Marittima and San Basilio on to the Punta della Dogana. The Island of Giudeca is directly south. The splendid Redentore Church and Giudeca Island are clearly visible while walking along the Zattere. Picture-taking time!
So the plague was believed to have been introduced to Venice by flea-infested mice that arrived from the Orient on Venetian trading ships. Cats were urgently shipped from Somalia and they quickly fed on the mice, which were only infectious to humans. The mice were beloved pets from then on, not only to Venetian residents who survived the plague, but for Venetians many centuries long.
Plague survivors practiced solemn and sincere public devotions. Combined with the ferocious appetites of the cats, these were considered the salvation of Venice. The survivors’ public devotions culminated in a vote made by the Doge in the name of Venice to build a marvelous temple. Famed Italian architect
Andrea Palladio was commissioned to build the majestic church on the Island of Giudecca.
Whilst the first stone of the church was laid, a temporary wooden church was erected on the third Sunday of July. A long, floating walkway united San Marco Square and the Giudecca Island (from the Zattere) which was built on hundreds of pontoons. In the 16th Century, the Doge and local dignitaries led survivors along the walkway to give thanks to the end of the plague at the temporary church.
Each year (and for centuries—in fact, to present day), army barge bridges have been built between Guidecca Island and the Zattere for the Redentore Festival. The centuries-old solemn yet majestic Venetian church built in honor of the end of the horrific plague is known as the II Redentore.
As time went on, the processions to the Redentore Church lessened and they were replaced by less somber activities like the Festa del Redentore. Typical with all popular Venice festivals, the traditional activities of the Redentore include street markets which sell local Venetian foods and fresh produce, and a charity raffle run by the Redentore Church patronage. These take place beginning on the third Sunday morning on Giudecca Island near the famed church.
And any traditional Venice festival would not be a true celebration without a regatta, which is comprised of Venetian rowing races that are held along the Giudecca Canal, also on that third Sunday morning of July. Last but not least, religious celebrations are held throughout the day during the Redentore Festival in Venice. Perhaps you have been a survivor of a memorable event and are ready to celebrate in true style! Even if not, join in on the Redentore Festival with Venetians and other travelers. Your trip to Venice will be all the more worthwhile and inspiring!