Feb–Mar, concluding on Shrove Tue, 40 days before Easter
This unmissable 10-day extravaganza takes over the city as a countdown to Lent. The streets mill with costumed and masked local “nobility” or crazily attired visitors. It gets off to a flying start with the Volo dell’Angelo (flight of the angel), when either an acrobat or a cardboard dove is launched from the Campanile in Piazza San Marco, showering onlookers with confetti. The grand finale is the explosive Mardi Gras.
Late Mar/Apr: 4th Sun in Lent
Anyone can join this leisurely non-competitive walk or run “up and down the bridges”. Several official routes can be followed, and all participants receive a medal on finishing.
May: Ascension Day
Head for the Riviera di San Nicolò at the Lido to watch this ancient ceremony of “Venice wedding to the Sea”. A costumed “doge” casts a ring into the sea amid a procession of celebratory boats. Symbolizing Venice’s maritime supremacy, La Sensa has been staged since Venice took Istria and Dalmatia in AD 997.
May: Sun after Ascension
A colourful armada of rowing craft from all over the world embarks on a 32-km (20-mile) non-competitive route around the lagoon’s scattered islands. The “Long Row” is a great experience for both participants and onlookers, who line the Canale di Cannaregio towards midday to cheer on the breathtaking final stretch down the Grand Canal.
The world’s leading international art bonanza is held on a two-yearly basis. The leafy gardens in eastern Castello are the principal venue, supplemented by the Corderie building in the Arsenale.
People crowd on to all available watercraft, decorated with paper lanterns and greenery, for a feast of roast duck and watermelon, followed by a midnight fireworks display. It all takes place near Palladio’s church on Giudecca to commemorate the end of the 1576 plague. For those getting there on foot, a temporary pontoon bridge stretches from the Zattere over the Giudecca canal.
The feast day of St Roch, the French saint adopted by the confraternity for alleviating the 1576–7 plague, is celebrated each year at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
1st Sun in Sep
The word regatta originated in Venice, so what better place to enjoy the year’s most spectacular event. Ornately decorated boats propelled by costumed oarsmen parade down the Grand Canal bearing passengers dressed as historical dignitaries. A series of furiously contested regattas follows.
Runners from all parts of the globe begin this classic – not to mention beautiful – 42-km (26-mile) race at Villa Pisani on the Brenta waterway, cross the causeway to Venice, the Zattere and San Marco, and finish near the public gardens in Castello.
Venetians make a pilgrimage to Longhena’s church (see Santa Maria della Salute) every winter in memory of the devastating plague of 1630–31. The whole area assumes a festive atmosphere with stalls selling candy floss and balloons.
Immensely popular Venetian pastime practised standing up. Join the oldest club, Canottieri Bucintoro.
Gran Viale SM Elisabetta
Illegal in Venice itself, though you’ll see kids zooming around. It is allowed in Lido, where you can rent a bike from a cycle shop on the main street.
Yachtsmen gather at the marina on San Giorgio Maggiore island.
Head for the Lido, or the crowded indoor pools at Sacca Fisola and Sant’Alvise.
There is a small rink at Sant’Elena in Castello, otherwise stick to the Lido pavements.
Strada Vecchia, 1
The well-reputed 18-hole course at the Alberoni is on the south of the Lido.
Lungomare G Marconi 41/D
The Lido has the only courts available to visitors.
The city’s stone paving doesn’t do wonders for your knees, so try the city parks.
Private gyms with state-of-the-art equipment can be found online.
Stadio Pierluigi Penzo
The home team Venezia plays at Sant’Elena stadium on Sundays.