Befana Races Venice
Venice is a city on the water and this means that at every available opportunity the inhabitants love to take to boats to show off their rowing prowess. Venice is also steeped in Catholic mythology and a good chance to see some boat racing early in the year is around Epiphany or 6th January, the Befana Races.
According to legend La Befana was an old woman who travels on the night of the 5th January on her broomstick looking for the baby Jesus to give him gifts. Fortunately for the children of Venice she never finds him and they get the presents instead.
The races are along the Grand Canal from San Toma to the beautiful Rialto Bridge and you will find the atmosphere in the city is relaxed and jovial. Tradition states that five Epiphanies are chosen from older men who dress up in wigs and colourful dresses to prove their strength and endurance by rowing through the city.
Something you may see that will strike you as odd is the enormous stocking of Epiphany that dangles from the usually graceful Rialto Bridge which marks the end of the course. Places to get a good view include along the Riva del Vin or on the Rialto Bridge, although you may find this a squeeze. If you are looking for a little more elbow room try the other side of the canal at Calle Riva Carbon.
Although at 11am it is not an especially early start for the race, you may find it best to get a good spot to watch an hour or so beforehand.
After all the excitement you will probably be looking for some refreshment. There is often hot chocolate and mulled wine served along Fondamenta del Vin. This is a last seasonal flourish for the Venetians so there may well be parties late into the night at some bars.