July is a very special month for Venetians and the reason is quickly revealed: the Festa del Redentore (Feast of the Redeemer) – the most heartfelt of traditional festivals, celebrated on the third Sunday of July on Giudecca island – is coming. This tradition, combining religion with entertainment in a mix of sacred and profane, has existed for almost five centuries and is lived with great participation by Venetians, who await the eve of the party – the notte famosissima – to decorate the boats with lights and colorful festoons and reach St. Mark’s basin, where they have dinner together and watch the firework show until midnight.
On Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st July, the festival will celebrate the liberation of Venice from the great plague of 1575-1577 with the setting up of the spectacular votive bridge that connects Fondamenta delle Zattere to the Church of the Redentore on the Giudecca island. The party continues on Sunday with the Redentore’s Regattas – fierce rowing competitions on traditional boats along the Giudecca Canal – and the Votive Mass at the Church of the Redentore.
The whole Venetian summer is full of events, as every island in the lagoon revives its local traditions. The appearance of the Virgin Mary – who saved Venice from the Turks – on the island of Pellestrina in 1716, is still celebrated today from 28th July to 4th August with the pilgrimage to the sanctuary and with rowing regattas, concerts, dancing and fireworks, as well as with open air tables where typical dishes such as pasta with peòci (mussels) and other fish specialties are served.
Another popular summer festival is the Sagra di Santo Stefano in Portosecco, which takes place in a small village on the island of Pellestrina from 10th to 18th August and is a good occasion to discover unusual places in the lagoon, both for Venetians and visitors. During the festival, also the islanders take part to the religious procession accompanied by the musical band, and then enjoy regattas, live music and local food, including the renowned spaghetti with peòci, the peòci saltai, the sardines in saòr, and the fried seafood.