Dragon Boats are Invading the Arno River

Ready. Set. and Pink Paddles Up!

A hearty welcome is extended to the 129 Dragon Boat teams from 17 different countries who are descending upon the city from July 6 – 7 & 8 for the Florence 2018 Festival.  For the first time since its inauguration festival in 2005, this international non-competitive event powered by breast cancer survivors teams will be held in Europe … right here in Florence!

Dragon Boat: The Florence 2018 Festival

At this major international event, organized and promoted by Firenze in Rosa Onlus, the participants vary between the ages of 20 and 80. The main distinction: these women – and men – are breast cancer survivors who engage in Dragon Boat activities as post-operative rehabilitation. This year they are taking on the challenge of paddling together on the Arno.

The epicenter of the events is the Arno River as it glides right by the Cascine Park, the largest green expanse on the western corner of Florence. The athletes’ village in the Cascine Park is closed to the general public, but all are encouraged to watch the Dragon Boat races along the Arno. Insider tip: The best way to arrive to the park is by using public transport (tram 17C starting at the Santa Maria Novella station).

Dragon Boat: The Florence 2018 Festival

What to expect?

Besides fun, colorful celebrations and enthusiasm?

Teams are normally composed of 18-20 people plus the steersperson (helm) and the drummer who command a shallow, stable canoe-shaped boat. Traditionally, the boats are dressed with a dragon-shaped head and tail adding color to the spectacle. The paddlers sit facing the drummer and push to cross the finish line before the opposing teams. They use a specific type of paddle which is not rigged to the boat hence, Dragon boaters are paddlers and not rowers or oarswomen.

Dragon Boat: The Florence 2018 Festival

The events are fun and games, however for the women (and men) rowing, this is also a celebration of survival – and it should be emphasized that the underlying cause is always breast cancer awareness.

How did this all come about?

The widespread notion before 1996 was that any type of exercise or physical exertion would aggravate the lymph system after breast surgery and radiation treatments. It was traditionally thought that this activity would cause lymphedema, a chronic and sometimes painful buildup of fluid under the skin of the arm or shoulder.

Thanks to some innovative thinkers – the new emphasis is not on what physical activity breast cancer survivors should avoid, “but on how to deliver an individualized exercise program that can restore upper body function and a vigorous life.”

Dragon Boat: The Florence 2018 Festival

Mark your Calendar

Join the enthusiasm and support a good cause! Find the entire program at the official website. And be sure to have something pink to bander about on the 6th of July when the Pink Parade of Nations makes its way from Piazza Pitti at 5:30 pm to Piazza della Signoria for the opening ceremony around 6.30pm.

Open : 6 – 8 July (races are on Saturday & Sunday 9 am – 5:30pm)

Where: Cascine Park, Florence

Website & Program