During the weeks before Christmas, Venetians have got all the time to treat any visitor as VIP. You will certainly feel like a special guest in our city no longer besieged by tourists like it was a few weeks ago and in summer.
Join me for a dream day to fully savor Advent time in Venice !! You’ll notice that Avvento (Advent) unfolds gradually here, it doesn’t show over night. As the days are passing, the Christmas tree has suddenly arrived in Piazza San Marco. Take a look here, you can see its tip and red Christmas balls !! Even the Christmas lights will be lit one after the other and by 20 December, Venice will finally be decorated and ready for Christmas !!
#1 luxurious breakfast.
In the meantime, you have the city to yourself. There’s nothing you can’t do and visit. Even Caffé Florian is empty in the morning, and that means: Sit down on one of the low red-upholstered chairs facing the bar at the back of the cafe and taste a wonderfully frothy cup of cappucino, or perhaps a hot chocolate? You can see in this picture that I’m pretty much the only client at 10:00 am.
#2 Christmas at the market.
I suggest you take a look at the Rialto Market and its winter produce, so colorful these days! Lush and rich and green, these leafy dream vegetables promise all the vitamins other parts of Europe sorely miss by now. Venetians love their winter greens and look forward to the first days of December every year !!
This is the season of the citrus fruit, arriving at the markets from southern Italy. Bergamots are sold in December, they are my absolute favorites to make home-made Earl Grey tea and flavored almond cakes.
#3 Enjoy a Venetian ombra
No, that’s not the ombra break with wine but with tea or coffee that Venetians love around 11 am. After marveling at the fresh winter produce, just turn a corner and walk into Ruga de li Spezieri. Opposite the famous Drogheria Mascari, a real Venetian breakfast will be waiting for you. I mean the one consisting of tea and tramezzini, cappuccino and cornetto (croissant). Bar Rialto’s tramezzini are incredibly good, I think you’ll enjoy their new restaurant all decked out in beige wood.
#4 Alone in the Doge’s Palace and a special lunch
That’s actually the title of this article I published earlier this year. It can happen to you too, having the Doge’s Palace to yourselves when you visit on a late December morning. After you’ve enjoyed taking in all the particulars without the crowds and in particular, the views (!!), it’s time for lunch. And we’ll stay right here.
For there’s caffetteria – Caffè Culto on the ground floor exactly where the kitchens and pantry used to be during the times of the Republic. Just IMAGINE eating lunch in the doge’s Palace, and you do get that wonderful glimpse of Rio del Palazzo, the canal separating the sestieri (districts) San Marco and Castello.
There’s a glass door leading down to the porta d’acqua (water entrance). In former times, this was a secret back entrance used by suppliers to deliver food just as it is now. It’s a beautiful discreet place maintaining the original brickwalls and brick floor tiles, the white tables and chairs being the only modern touch.
#5 the quiet Basilica
Now that you can FINALLY enjoy Piazza San Marco, why not walk over and enter the Basilica without the crowds and take time to look at the Pala d’Oro …
#6 Merceria shopping time
Time to explore the beautifully decorated shops in the Mercerie (shopping mall) next to the Piazza. This means inspiration for gifts or just imbibing the magical atmosphere of a late December afternoon in Venice. Discover the stores selling beautiful gifts made from carta marmorizzata (marbled paper), or visit the Coin store which was restored last year for Christmas inspiration. Perhaps you would like to see the newly restored Fondaco dei Tedeschi? They’ve also got a luxurious food corner with gift baskets wrapped in rose gold.
#7 don’t forget Venetian Christmas cookies !!
The short winter day is coming to an end and you can now join Venetians taking one more coffee or spritz before dinner, or continue shopping for Christmas cookies !! Our choice is the cookies offered by Pasticceria Bonifacio in Calle degli Albanesi (next to the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop).
#8 Dinner, unusual ?
Since 2012, we’ve had a special culinary guest in Venice. Rosso Pomodoro has brought Neapolitan cuisine to Venice, so why not taste a dinner feast on a humid winter night? This restaurant is located in Calle Larga, not far from the Libreria Studium bookstore and Piazza San Marco. My mother due to her southern origins feels very much at home here 🙂
A typical winter side dish you get in Naples is friarielli, a broccoli variety tasting a bit like spinach. The leaves are braised in olive oil and seasoned with salt, lemon juice and pepper. This is the only place I know in Venice where you can taste it, with a very warming dish of Neapolitan pasta al ragù.
#9 Enjoy the Christmas lights !!
Sometimes we get mild and less humid nights in December, so inviting to discover all the lights in town. Around 8 pm the streets will be almost empty and you’ll get a chance to walk slowly and really enjoy the Christmas lights. Don’t expect them flashy and bright though – in Venice, they are mostly subdued, consisting of a myriad of flimsy light bulb chains.