Among the Venetians most loved holidays, the Festa della Redentore is celebrated (in borh its sacred and profane sides!) every year on the third Saturday in July. Its origins are twofold; the first stems from the victory of the Venetian Republic over the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571: the Republics hero, Sebastiano Venier, built an altar on the island of the Guidecca, and this was connected to the city by a 331 metre bridge made of 80 ships fastened together and decked with flowers. It was consecrated firstly in 1575. The religious procession, which itself dates back over 400 years, arose as a display of the thanks for the salvation of the city from plague. On Saturday evening a multitude of brightly-lit boats decorated with red and yellow balloons invade the lagoon, while in the streets and alleyways tables are laid for the participants of the festival for a special meal.
The celebrations climax in the grand firework display in the bay of Saint Marks, which illuminates the Venetian skies enhancing the already magic atmosphere. However the party goes on until dawn with music and more on the Lido. The following morning sees a return to the religious side of the festival, with the mass at the Redentore church, built by Palladio. After the mass the boat-bridge which connects the Zattere with the Guidecca is consecrated and the prelate begins his peregrination (which lasts until evening) throughout the city giving his blessing. The two days also see a wealth of events which give added colour to this magnificent weekend. Starts: Saturday 7p.m.