Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Festa del Redentore 2014: Seeing, Feeling, Breathing Fireworks

Sandro beholds a fleeting pyrotechnical constellation
I don't think there's a bad place from which to watch the fireworks of the Festa del Redentore, so extensive is the show and so picturesque the backdrops surrounding the basin of San Marco. In fact, I suspect the only possible complaint you might have while watching the show from whichever vantage point you take up is that you can't simultaneously be watching it from at least two others.

I've been lucky enough to watch the fireworks while anchored in the middle of the broad Canale San Marco near the Arsenale (http://veneziablog.blogspot.it/2011/07/festa-del-redentore-4-views-from-boat.html), while standing all alone near the Giglio vaporetto stop on the Grand Canal (http://veneziablog.blogspot.it/2012/07/festa-del-redentore-2012-fireworks.html), and while seated at the edge of Sant'Elena (http://veneziablog.blogspot.it/2013/07/7-views-of-la-festa-del-redentore.html).

This year we had the good fortune to watch them explode almost right above our heads from a boat in the middle of the bacino di San Marco. Not our own boat, I should quickly add, for as sweet as the thought may be of toodling into the basin in one's own small sanpierota to take up one's place amid hundreds of other boats, the reality of maneuvering through such a festive bobbing armada is beyond my piloting skill after only about six weeks of boat ownership. We were lucky to be with a friend who handled his boat as deftly as if it were small shopping cart, advancing, pivoting, retreating with ease.

In the center of the bacino you not only see the show, you feel it and breathe it. In the lit smokey sky after the brightest explosions you see large ashes of the exploded rockets drift slowly down, like insubstantial maple leafs. And the smaller ashes you can't see you feel: little things barely there brushing your arms, settling in your hair, almost in your eyes.

I somehow managed to forget to bring the one lens I most needed--a wide angle--but it would hardly have mattered. When viewed from the middle of the bacino, the field of fireworks exploding overhead is so vast as to exceed the limits of one's own vision, much less the frame of a camera. The images in this post are of the lower and even lesser fireworks: the grandest most dramatic bursts occurred higher up in the sky. A reminder, I suppose, that as sophisticated as our electronics are, and as dependent as we may be upon them, our intensest lived experiences still--thankfully--resist reproduction and representation.

A local friend told me there were used to be far more decorated boats a decade ago than there are now, but as you can see, above and below, some people still keep up the tradition
Bright colored lanterns in the dark crowded waters of the bacino of San Marco

Beneath the almost mid-day brightness of the spectacular grand finale


  1. That is one of the things I miss the most, i fuochi. I used to go the end of the Giudecca, where my friend Piero would set up a table early morning, spend hours talking and eating, spit watermelon seeds in the water and then enjoy the incredible display. No fireworks I have seen since moving to the US compare to that experience.

    When I was a teenager we used to go to the Lido and spend the night there. I wonder whether it is still a tradition for some.

    I am so glad you got to see this, and love the picture of Sandro in the gran finale glow.


    1. I've always heard (or read) of people going to Lido after the fireworks, Laura, and I think it's still done, but I'm not sure. I've found it to be a great show in previous years, but seated right beneath the fireworks somehow made it seem even more so this year. Thanks.

  2. I really liked your description of being in the midst of this festa. A while back, I read that the fireworks would be somewhat reduced this year, because of financial reasons. Do you think that was correct?

    (This almost makes me want to be in Venice in July. Almost.)

    1. Thanks, Yvonne. The fireworks went for about 45 minutes this year, I think, which seems about what I recall from the the last previous 3 years, but I can't be positive. They certainly didn't seem in any way reduced. As for coming in July: I think your "almost" shows a wise hesitation.

  3. I was standing in Piazza San Marco for the 2014 Redentore fireworks display on day one of my very first trip to Venice. What a treat is was to witness such a spectacle. The crowds buzzed with excitement reserved for such an occasion and the fireworks lit up the basin and the ancient city with an almost magical kaleidoscope of colors. An eclectic flotilla blanketed the water with revelers covering land, sea and the pontoon bridge spanning to Redentore Church. The vast fireworks display covered the night sky and reflected off of the water for around 45 minutes and when it ended the crowd roared in approval for what seemed like several minutes. I have been thinking about my trip to Venice for some time now. So much so that I am going back for Redentore 2017. I am quite sure it will be just as great the second time around. I may have to get out on the water this time. I can't wait for July 15!!!

    1. I've been to a number of Redentore celebrations and you've been to only one (so far) and yet your description makes it amply clear that you really didn't miss a thing--in spite of how many things there are to take in. Given how present your first experience is with you, it should be really interesting to discover the ways your second one differs or is similar. Each time you view it from a different location you see different things, have a different experience, get a different sense of all of it. Or at least that's been my experience. I hope you'll get a chance to be out on the water this year--and that high surprisingly cold wind doesn't make the water as rough as it was last year (the only time I've experienced anything like that in 6 years). But no matter where you choose to take it in from, I don't think you'll go wrong.