Most people know that Venice has long been threatened by chronic flooding, but in recent years the Queen of the Adriatic has faced a rising tide of a different sort: advertising. From the Doge's Palace to St. Mark's Square to the bittersweet Bridge of Sighs -- named for the grief its splendid views once inspired in crossing death row prisoners -- immense billboards lit late into the night now mar the city's most treasured places. Allegedly built to cover the cost of restoration work in the face of government cutbacks, the ads have brought in around $600,000 per year since 2008 -- a fraction of the shortfall -- and show no sign of going away any time soon. Their presence prompted a consortium of the world's leading cultural experts led by the Venice in Peril Fund to air an open letter demanding the city government put a stop to the placards that "hit you in the eye and ruin your experience of one of the most beautiful creations of humankind." Mayor Giorgio Orsoni, for one, was not moved, saying last year "If people want to see the building they should go home and look at a picture of it in a book."
Yesterday Venice had its annual Historical Regatta, a traditional rowing competition whose origins date back to the 13th century and is held each year on the first Sunday of September. As it coincided with the Venice Film Festival, photographers were probably busier snapping pictures of George Clooney and fellow stars... so there's not much online about this year's event yet, but for your visual enjoyment here's a quick selection of images from past editions of the regata (more from this gallery of last year's event), showing both the rowers in the actual competition as well as the historical parade in traditional costumes; a few black and white images from the past (sorry, small and not good quality but still interesting): the regata in 1918, in 1956, in 1969, and in the 1970's; and, from the age before photography, famous paintings and engravings.