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The Vogalonga (which is Venetian dialect for “long row”) is a non-competitive amateur paddling/rowing event that takes place every May along a 30km course through the city of Venice and the lagoon to the finish line somewhere near the end of the Grand Canal.
The Vogalonga Regatta originated in 1974 when three friends took part in a regatta using mascarete (a small water craft traditional to the Venetian lagoon) to protest against the growing motor traffic with its noise, fumes and negative effects. They were also motivated by a desire to reinstate Venetian boating traditions and Venetian style rowing, voga alla veneta* with the gentle sound of oars gliding through water.
All who wished to support were invited and in May, 1975, they were joined by over 500 participants! Today over 1500 participants as well as thousands of spectators from all over the world gather here.
There are a few rules. Rowing boats/kayaks of any weight or size can participate and there’s no limit on the number of rowers in each boat. Anyone over 16 years old can participate. Since it’s not competitive, there are no winners. Everyone who reaches the finish line receives a medal and diploma of participation.
During the regata (typically from 10am and 3pm) the Grand Canal is closed to all water transport. NO motorized boats, including vaporetti and water taxis, are allowed.
Enthusiastic onlookers line the canal rooting and cheering encouragement. Whether sitting at a table with a chilled prosecco, on the docks and balconies or hanging out of windows, it’s all in good fun and for a good cause.
*voga alla veneta: The Venetian style of rowing, determined by the particular flat-bottomed, lagoon watercraft used, where the oarsman stands, faces forwards and rests his oar/s in special oarlocks (as the gondoliers still do).
(Note: If you happen to be visiting Venice in May, you may want to check the date of the next Vogalonga. I was able to attend in 2015 and it was a highlight of my time in Venice.
– See a brief video of the Vogalonga. (Mind you, it gets loud!)