The "bissone", so-called because of their long shape and their enormous manoevrability, were decorated by the patrician families and were used to keep the course along the Grand Canal clear during the ace. The regatta of 1868 ordered by the Duke of Brunswich : The "bissone" represented mythological divinities and the rowers, sea beasts. At the "Machina", near the Foscari Palace, an mythological divinities and the rowers, sea beasts. At the "Machina", near the Foscari Palace, an outsize whale opened immense jaws from which emerged a man dressed as a sea monster who presented the rowers with their prizes. After the races, the "fresco" took place, a parade of boats, gondolasand "bissone", which moved down the Grand Canal among the palaces draped in precious materials, while exquisite women in gorgeous clothes sat at the windows ; numerous orchestras were scattered along the course and a particularly magnificent one was situated next to the "Machina", while the crowd filled every corner in order to watch the races and the parades. Excitement began in the city several days before the race : fairs, games, betting, arguments and fights between the opposing factions and religious cerimonies filled the so-called "settimana de passion", the week before the regatta. The heroes of the moment were obviously the gondoliers who dedicated themselves entirely to the races, leaving aside all other activities, aided and encouraged by their masters : "From that time on, the gondolier was no longer a servant, but an adopted son, whose good fortune was to be hoped for". The day before the race, the gondoliers went to the churc of the Madonna della Salute, offering oil and candles and requesting assistance and protection for themselves and for their boats which held pictures of the Virgin or of other saints ; they were then blessed by the curate of the parish to which they belonged.
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