Yes, I know the July weather in Venice tends to be hot & sticky. Bo and I walked around in it. Ate outside in it. And even slept in an apartment full of it (no air conditioning).
The humidity was against us in full force 24/7.
Even so...July turned out to be the best time to visit Venice!
Of course, we enjoyed all the usual Venice highlights--strolling through St. Mark’s Square, being serenaded by Maximo on a romantic gondola ride (we took this trip as a couple), and eating gelato upwards of 3 times per day (GROM had THE BEST raspberry gelato).
But the TRUE highlight that makes it worth the July heat…Festa del Redentore!
Festa del Redentore
This festival began when the Venetians celebrated the end of the plague in the 16th century. It has since turned into an annual event on the third weekend of July every year.
Doge Alvise Mocenigo pleaded with God to end the plague. He promised to build a church if it ended. When the plague did end, he upheld his commitment and built a church on the island of Giudecca.
One year later he built a bridge so people could cross the Giudecca Canal on foot and arrive at the Redentore church. Today the tradition is still carried out. One time each year, on the weekend of Festa del Redentore, you can walk on water across the floating bridge from Venice to Giudecca.
Festa del Redentore is a massive celebration that lasts all weekend long! We did not plan to arrive for the festival. Ironically, we just happened to be there that exact weekend. We had no clue that this festival even existed. We lucked out!
When we arrived in Venice, crowds of people were gathering for fireworks as the sun began to set. Little did we know -- the fireworks display that was coming would blow our socks off!
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The entire canal was covered with tons of boats! You could walk across the water simply by stepping from boat to boat (and people did!).
Just like the boats crowded the canal, people filled every walkway on the edges of the island. People stood shoulder to shoulder in each and every spot with a view of the fireworks. It was almost impossible to walk anywhere.
As long as you don’t mind having sweat from 10 different people drip all over you, then it’s totally worth it! It’s just slightly cramped for a couple of hours...you can manage. (We did!)
The fireworks started and we were in awe! We had only been in Venice for a few hours and this was how the city greeted us! It was magical!
Pinch me! I must be dreaming!
But it was real. At that moment, I knew we had picked the best time to visit Venice.
They launched the fireworks so frequently and in such large quantity that the sky never seemed to return to dark. It was perpetually lit up with blues and reds and greens and purples and golds!
What made the fireworks show even more incredible, was how long it lasted. After about 15 minutes, Bo and I kept turning to each other and saying that it must be almost over. We did that several times until it finally ended…one…HOUR…later!
To this day, it was one of the most exciting and stunning (not to mention long-lasting) moments I’ve ever witnessed!
If that doesn’t convince you that this is the best time to visit Venice, then I can’t help you. JK--read on for more convincing!
Bridge to Giudecca
The next day we walked across the 330-meter long pontoon bridge to the island of Giudecca. Venturing across the floating bridge itself was fun--the 360-degree views test your balance as you are walking in one direction while looking in every other possible direction.
July is the only time of year that Giudecca is connected to the rest of Venice. It’s a once a year opportunity. I’d say it is yet another unique experience to make July the best time to visit Venice!
As we made our wobbly way over the bridge, we would see gondolas floating beside us and under us. Yup -- you read that right. The floating bridge is so massive that it even has an elevated bridge, high enough for small boats to pass through it.
Regatta del Redentore
On the other side of the bridge, we stepped onto the island of Giudecca. As we were walking around, we noticed people gathering along the water’s edge. They were all looking out over the canal, waiting for something.
We kept an eye out and after a few minutes, we saw gondolas darting across the water. It was a gondola race--Regata del Redentore!
Each team was steering and paddling as hard as they possibly could. Tons of people were dangling their feet off the edge of the island as they boisterously cheered on their favorite team!
Gondoliers were dawning their traditional attire. Each gondola was painted a different color. So if you didn’t know which team to cheer for, you could just pick your favorite color and roll with it!
We watched the men’s race, but there is another race for youth as well. So you have two opportunities to sit beside a passionate Italian and cheer for your team like your life depended on it.
There are several additional activities that take place around the Redentore church throughout the weekend. But the fireworks display and the Regata del Redentore are definitely two highlights of the festival.
Tips to Avoid Crowds
The Festa del Redentore attracts a large gathering of people. However, even with the crowds, we still think it’s the best time to visit Venice.
The energy of all the people creates excitement felt all over the island. Plus all of their excitement displays a unique flair of their Venetian culture. How often do you get the chance to experience that?!
You don’t have to be engulfed in crowds every moment of the entire weekend though. If you want to escape the large gatherings, follow these tips.
1. Avoid Tourist Attractions
Get away from St. Mark’s square. It is perpetually packed with people (even on other summer weekends). Plan to check it out a day or two after the festival is over and the crowds have dissipated.
Avoid other main tourist attractions and anywhere you see cruise tourists flocking! They tend to travel in droves.
If you venture away from the edges of Venice and into the center, you will find relief. And you’ll discover the quiet beauty of Venice as you begin to stroll around.
2. Wander the Streets
Wander through the streets of Venice without a map or destination in mind. You’ll most likely get lost (it’s SOOOO easy to), and that’s perfect!
Don’t worry, Venice isn’t that big. You’ll eventually find your way.
Climb over bridge after bridge admiring the unique artistry and architecture in each one. They display the beautiful Venetian craftsmanship all over the island.
If bridges aren’t your thing, there are tons of stunning doors to find. Or you can admire the architecture of the buildings themselves that make up the floating city.
Our favorite type of wandering to do is in the hunt for…G E L A T O!!!!
Gelato pretty much makes any time of year the best time to visit Venice if you ask me. But it is extra satisfying after wandering around out in the July heat and humidity. Ahhh…I can taste the cold, raspberry sweetness now!
3. Stay in an Airbnb
When lots of people travel to Venice for special events such as Festa del Redentore, they fill up the hotels. Avoid those large crowds of people and stay in an Airbnb. That’s what we did!
You can easily escape the crowds and have your own private space. Our Airbnb location was relatively quiet, which we loved. But you can opt for a location with a “life of the party” vibe too if you’re afraid of being too isolated.
Consider where you want to stay based on how much noise you want to endure.
If you want to enjoy the lively Festa del Redentore but retreat to accommodations with peace and quiet, then avoid anything on the Grand Canal. Focus on smaller canals nestled away from main areas like St. Mark’s Square.
If you are ready to embrace the crowds and be in the center of the action, then find a place overlooking the Grand Canal or the Giudecca Canal.PRO Tip: If you overlook the Giudecca Canal, you might get lucky with a private view of the fireworks! And bonus -- you can avoid getting smeared with sweat and enjoy the show from the comfort of your own balcony or window.
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I can’t speak to what Venice is like at other times of year since this is the only time we have been. However, it was like we walked into the city of Venice vibrantly displaying all of its best qualities on the third weekend of July!
In my mind, it’s hands down the best time to visit Venice. The Festa del Redentore made our few days there 1,000 times more enjoyable! Plan your trip!
As long as you can take a little heat (remember--medicate with lots of gelato), witnessing the Festa del Redentore will make it Worth Every Trip!