On the penultimate weekend in July, Venice celebrates the Festa del Redentore. Venetians also call the Festa del Redentore "The famous night of fireworks". Another name for this Venetian event is the Redentore Day, while the Venetian streets are known as "famosissima".
This festival commemorates the end of the plague that struck Venice in 1575-1577 and is considered one of the most disastrous plagues in the city's history. 50,000 Venetians died as a result of that plague, including the beloved painter, Titian Vecellio simply known as Titian. The Feast of the Redeemer is also the oldest and most celebrated festival in the history of Venice.
Any July trip to Venice must include this spectacular festival in honour of the plague survivors. During the Redentore Festival, Venetians love to delight in fireworks. The colourful fireworks over Venice's canals are a unique sight. The fireworks take place the evening before the Redentore Festival, amidst decorated Venetian boats where you can enjoy dinner. Venetians love to watch the fireworks from their terraces.
At sunset, thousands of people anxiously await the fireworks and St Mark's basin is swarming with visitors and Venetians. Spectators adore the large number of brightly coloured balloons and garlands on the eve of the Festa del Redentore. Fireworks start to appear at 10pm from the floating pontoons near the Island of San Giorgio. The show goes on for almost an hour.
There is no other place in the world where the lights of the fireworks reflect on the water than the Doge's Palace or St George's Island. After the fireworks, young Venetians celebrate by heading to the Lido to party until dawn on the beach. Feel free to join in the celebrations.
The Zattere date back to 1519 (before the plague) when they were first built as a landing place for timber deliveries and the construction of ships and buildings. The wide waterfront walkway runs along the southern shore from the Marittima and San Basilio to the Punta della Dogana. The island of Giudeca lies to the south. The beautiful Redentore Church and Giudeca Island are clearly visible when walking along the Zattere. Here you can enjoy magnificent views for spectacular photos.
It was believed that the plague was introduced to Venice by infected rats arriving from the East on Venetian merchant ships. In an attempt to stem the advance of the infected rats, hundreds of cats were transported from Somalia.
The devotion of the plague survivors, combined with the ferocious appetites of the cats, were considered to be the salvation of Venice. The public demands of the survivors culminated in the Doge's promise to build a new church. The famous Italian architect Andrea Palladio was commissioned to build the new church on the island of Giudecca.
The foundation stone was laid on the third Sunday in July and a temporary wooden church was erected at the same time. A long floating footbridge connected St Mark's Square and the Giudecca Island (from the Zattere) which was built on hundreds of pontoons. In the 16th century the Doge and local authorities led survivors along the walkway to give thanks for the end of the plague at the temporary church.
Every year, for centuries now, bridges of military barges have been built between the Guidecca island and the Zattere for the Redentore Festival. The majestic Venetian church built in honour of the end of the terrible plague is known as II Redentore. As time went by, processions to the Redentore Church diminished and were replaced by more cheerful activities such as today's Redentore Festival. Typical of all popular festivals in Venice, traditional Redentore activities include markets of Venetian food, fresh produce, and a charity raffle. These markets are held from the third Sunday onwards on the island of Giudecca, where the church is located. And like every traditional Venetian festival, a Venetian rowing regatta is held along the Giudecca Canal.
The Feast of the Redeemer is one of those festivities worth experiencing.