Festa della Sensa: Venice marries the sea

The Festa della Sensa is one of the oldest events in Venice with more than a thousand years of history behind it. It celebrates the Serenissima’s relationship with the sea: domination of and homage to the element that made it one of the commercial and political powers of the Mediterranean from the 14th to the 18th century.

Still today it is one of the most heartfelt Venetian traditions in which the entire population participates: hundreds of rowing boats take part in the naval procession, followed from the shore by those who do not feel up to rowing. In short, the important thing is to participate!

The climax of the celebrations is on the Lido with the ceremony of the Marriage of the Sea: in the presence of the bishop, the mayor (but once it was the doge) throws a ring (in the past it was made of gold) into the sea as a symbol of the union between Venice and the sea.

Today, the procession is held on the Sunday following Ascension Day (sensa in Venetian dialect), which according to the Catholic Church calendar is 40 days after Easter.

In addition to the non-competitive procession, during the morning, on the same course also hold the Regattas of Sensa: men on gondolas with 4 oars, women on mascarete with 2 oars, very young on pupparini with 2 oars. Venetian rowing is really for everyone!

Below you have the opportunity to book your place on the boat to experience the Festa della Sensa in an authentic way, like a Venetian; we will also tell you how our experience was (unforgettable!) and the origins of this ancient event in the city.

Festa della Sensa 2023: book your place on the boat!

On Sunday 21st May 2023 you will board one of our boats: Bragozzo 16-seater, Caorlina 6-seater, ‘Batea da Fresco’ 8-seater.

We will embark in St. Mark’s Basin at 10.00 a.m. and from 10.30 a.m. we will attend the “Marriage of the Sea” celebration with the traditional ceremony of the throwing of the blessed ring into the waters in front of the church of San Nicolò del Lido. We will depart at 11.00 am to disembark after half an hour in St Mark’s Basin.

Once purchased, the experience is non-refundable. The experience is confirmed when the minimum number of participants per boat is reached; if it is not reached, the full amount paid will be refunded. The allocation of the boat is an exclusive choice of the organiser.

The Feast of the Sensa today: the story of who was there!

We were looking forward to telling you about this event:festa della sensa, to which we participate each year ! An incredible and unforgettable emotion and you know, the first time you dod it, you never forget!

Festa della Sensa. Canal Grande - Venice

At the start of the construction site at 8.30 a.m., on these occasions, there is always a bit of excitement: you can’t be late! And so, in yellow and blue uniform and white skirt (the colors of our rower), we started off enthusiastically for a truly amazing experience. How strange it was to be this time on the other side and see how many people from the shore were waiting for our passage along the Grand Canal … our sandal among hundreds of colorful boats!

At Piazza San Marco around 10.00 a.m., the right “lifter” waiting in the basin of St. Mark for the start of the water parade with the Serenissima and the authorities at the head. Destination: San Nicolò al Lido.

At the height of San Nicolò, always staying on board of our beloved sandoleto, we witnessed:

  • the ceremony of the Marriage of the sea;
  • the sailor’s prayer;
  • laurel wreath for those who have fallen into the sea;

At the end of the official celebrations, oars in hand and sales in pope … we continued the day with a picnic with the members of our rower (but that’s another story).

Now, I may be a bit of a party, but if you are in Venice you shouldn’t miss the spectacle of this procession: when will you ever happen to see all these boats? Take a seat in time in Riva degli Schiavoni or Riva dei sette martiri together with hundreds of Venetians to see a parade of unparalleled traditional boats!

If, on the other hand, you want to experience it from the inside, as we did, then it’s very simple, book your place on the boat from the box above … but be quick, places sell out fast.

The Feast of the Sensa: the ancient origins

Already in the past, this political-religious ritual was accompanied by a real city festival. On this day, the Fiera della Sensa (Sensa Fair) began, which included shows, parties and a large market in St Mark’s Square with goods from all over the world.

There are two great events of the past that have shaped the event, which has remained almost unchanged until today:

  • On the day of the Sensa of 1000 AD, Doge Pietro Orseolo II left for Dalmatia with a deployment of ships never seen before with the aim of putting an end to the piracy that threatened the trade routes of Venetian merchants. This triumphal campaign decreed not only the defeat of piracy, but above all sanctioned the supremacy of the Republic of Venice throughout the Upper Adriatic. It was this Doge who instituted the tradition of the marriage of the sea on the day of the sensa.
  • The peace of Venice in 1177 AD that put an end to the hostilities between the papacy and the empire. The truce agreement is due to the diplomatic skill of Doge Sebastiano Ziani: Pope Alexander III and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa signed the peace treaty in Venice (traces of their secret passage still remains in a plaque inscribed in the church of San Giacometto in Rialto). As recognition, the pope gave the doge a golden ring to throw into the sea during the celebrations of the sensa, giving the event a note of sacredness.

The La Fenice theatre was inaugurated on the very day of the sensa of 1792: a further confirmation that this was one of the fundamental dates of the calendar of the Serenissima!

Feast of the Sensa Venice

In addition to the Sensa, the other major events that involve the world of Venetian rowing are the Redeemer, the Historical Regatta and Vogalonga: discover with us these spectacular events!

But not only events on the water, discover with us also: