As part of the Redentore festival here in Venice, they have a round of boat races on Sunday afternoon on the island of Giudecca. The city builds a temporary bridge from Venice (Zattere) to Giudecca, in front of the church of the Redentore. So I walked over to catch the action.
First the juniors raced–teen boys, two rowers per boat, on a pupparin (though you’ll see spelling variations), which is a rather flat boat, technically a type of sandalo. Right at the start, one of the rowers got his oar caught under his neighbor’s boat, and they sort of did an awkward dance as they tried to untangle. What a shame. They raced down to the end of the island, disappearing from view for a while, and then returned to the cheering crowds. The second race was pupparini a due remi–two rowers also in a pupparin, but they are full grown men with more experience and speed. I missed much of this race because I was visiting a friend (forthcoming post on that visit).
But the big action, and the finale to the summer series of races, is the gondola a due remi–two rowers in a gondola. For as long as I’ve been coming to Venice, (18 years) the same guy always wins: Giampaolo D’Este with his partner Ivo Redolfi Tezzat. They call Giampaolo “Super D’Este.” He also works as a gondolier near San Marco (or at least he used to; I haven’t checked recently to see if he’s still there). (Actually, I think D’Este might have come in second at least once. I don’t follow all the finals, I just know that he’s a superstar of almost mythic proportions. Maybe one of my readers can provide the details.)
The race had a false start, with the marrone boat taking off before the gun. But then they shot off across the lagoon with beautiful speed. See the videos of both starts.
False start to the gondola race: http://youtu.be/mUrXnFQf0uM
The real start: http://youtu.be/sc3vH0mQP5g
While they disappeared from view, I had a drink and listened to the band playing and chatted with some locals about Super D’Este. Just like last week at the regatta di Malamocco, there was a boat decorated with leaves and oranges, with a band playing cover songs like “Hit the Road, Jack” or “No Woman No Cry.” Last week, the Aperol folks (it’s a kind of bitter liquor) had set up a van with a guy in back preparing spritz drinks and handing them out as fast as he could. Well, he was back, but you can’t have a van on Giudecca, so he was in the boat instead. I don’t know how he managed to mix drinks in the crazy rocking boat, but he did it with a smile. His name is Alberto, and he remembered me from last week. (You know, I had to get in line for a free spritz just so I could say hello.)
Then as I stood listening to the music, they broke into this song called “Mama, Looka Booboo” that my brother and I had on an old 45 we got from our parents. (The other side is “Zombie Jamboree.”) I’ve never heard anyone else sing this song, but then here was a band on a boat in Giudecca doing it. Here’s a video of their rendition. (Sorry for a little wonky camera action; the woman next to me spilled her drink on my leg while I was filming.)
The Aperol boat: http://youtu.be/5MK3JPPrOwU
Once the boats come back into sight, it feels like no time at all before they’re passing in front of you, the way they fly. Far ahead of the others came the indomitable Super D’Este. The guy’s a hunky machine. Everyone cheered and clapped and woohooed. The press took many photos of the winners with their red pennants for first, and second with their white pennants.
End of the race:
This is such a very Venetian festival and event. Old and young come out, all discussing strategies or predicting who will win. Everyone’s family is out cheering, and the racers pose with their wives for photos, or their nonnas are hugging them. Winners often display their pennants in their favorite local restaurant. (Watch for these when you’re out in Venice; I passed a place yesterday in Dorsoduro that had three flags displayed on their bar.) I think the next race is in September, as part of the Regata Storica.