In Venice, 25 April usually starts out sunny, and our first walk in the morning leads us to the Piazza to buy a few rosebuds called el boccolo at the stall in front of the Basilica run by various Onlus associations. When you arrive here around 8:30 am, there’s already a little crowd waiting next to the Basilica, on Piazzetta dei Leoncini, and you can notice that they also have unusual flags, showing the golden Lion of Saint Mark on a blue background: This is because on 25 April, the Venetian color code of the past is valid for the day. During the times of the Serenissima Republic (421-1797), the color blue was exclusively used or worn on important occasions. The flags are here to celebrate San Marco, the patron saint of our city, but in a way, they also recall the former National Day of the Republic celebrated on 25 April.
So it’s a very festive day here, and there’s a number of mass services taking place in the Basilica, the first being celebrated by the Patriarch at 9:00 am. The video below shows the festive atmosphere embellishing the Basilica: Both Pala d’Oro and the tomb of Saint Marks are visible to the audience to honor this special day.
Why is La Festa di San Marco so important for Venice?
La Festa di San Marco is one of the four official national feasts celebrated during the times of the Republic, during official banquets organized by the Doge and Signoria. The other three feasts were La Festa della Sensa (Ascension Day, celebrated to this day in Venice, forty days after Easter Sunday), plus two feasts only few of us recall (Santi Vito e Modesto, celebrated with a fish banquet on 15 June and San Girolamo, a day honoring the noble families of Venice with a lush late-summer banquet, on 30 September). In addition, two official feasts were celebrated as remembrance of difficult periods in the life of Venice (Festa del Redentore, Festa della Madonna della Salute).
Where to eat lunch on 25 April
After listening to the Marangona bell of the Campanile at noon, and in case it’s still sunny and warm, you could eat lunch in a corte (courtyard) or garden restaurant. On this day, I love (and recommend) eating lunch at Ristorante La Caravella, as they have a little courtyard open for lunch, in which they offer delicious seasonal dishes, including spring vegetable risotti. Of course, Ristorante Gran Canal is always a good choice for both lunch and dinner on a special occasion, as they also use ingredients from the Rialto Market and re-create historical recipes with local herbs and vegetables. And as always, Il Ridotto, owned by the Bonaccorsi family, will offer dishes made from garden vegetables, such as risotto with salicornia herb and garden pea risotti. I love their desserts like panna cotta al miele di barena (Lagoon honey). So when it comes to tasting Lagoon herbs, the Bonaccorsi family are amongst the expert chefs in Venice.
Where to eat dinner on 25 April in Venice
Perhaps you would like to watch the flag parades taking place in the Piazza in the afternoon at 3:00 pm? Afterwards, as Rosa Salva, a well-known pastry store is open in the afternoon, I love to go there for coffee, freshly pressed orange juice and one of their tiny chocolate rolls. Sounds like breakfast :) but it’s a treat I’ve come to love on a particularly crowded 25 April, when everyone else is away and the pastry store is almost empty, at least for ten minutes or so. And it’s on my way to the Rialto where I love to take a walk before eating dinner, in a restaurant practically round the corner.
This is one of the historical restaurants in Venice, but almost never mentioned in the reviews. So I’m mentioning it now, because it really offers the best spring vegetable and fish cuisine in town that I know of. They are great – and generous! at all things sea food. This restaurant looks like a rustic osteria, and it is, but it’s fun and a favorite here in Venice. Antico Calice‘s origins go back to the year 1537, and it was mentioned in the famous book Osterie veneziane by Elio Zorzi. Antico Calice has been my father’s favorite, and it became a habit for us to eat dinner here on 25 April. Expect it to be full (it’s full almost every night), and if you are lucky, you’ll get the table overlooking their kitchen. And – their sea food and pea risotti are incredibly good, and the portions are huge! I love their vegetable buffet, which now in April includes very special garden peas: i bisi di Peseggia.
Risi e Bisi: A historical menu for 25 April, and its special story
Of course, the menu on 25 April reflects the exuberant spring! We eat bisi, garden peas that grow in abundance in the estuary around Venice: Bisi di Peseggia, a village of Scorzè and thus a part of the Greater Venice area. Since 1993, La Sagra dei Piselli has been celebrated here in April and May, to recall Risi e Bisi, the national dish of Venice, offered by the Doge during a dinner banquet on 25 April. Originally, it’s a liquid rice soup flavored with the first garden peas (from the estuary), spring onions and other greens.
EL Risoto del Dose: Did you know that there are two variants of Risi e Bisi? During the times of the Serenissima Republic, two variants of the same dish were prepared in Venice. One was made specifically for the Doge and his entourage, eaten at the spring banquet in the Doge’s private apartment. (the second variant, is more rustic, using chicken stock to cook the rice). El Risoto del Dose looked lush green, as it contained two kinds of peas: The big garden peas were cooked and pureed. The smaller, succulent and fine peas were used in whole and carefully stirred in without crushing.
The Doge’s spring banquet would also include dishes made from wild herbs and aromatics growing on the salt-encrusted barene islands, on the Lidi and velme (mud islands). Amongst them are salicornia, but also carletti and agresti, available at the markets in Venice from mid-April.
To wrap up this special time-out in Venice :) Do you recall the wonderful initiative organized by Venezia Rivelata in 2014, when a red rose consisting of one thousand people was staged on Piazza San Marco? This is how I love that we celebrate Venice, each of us in their own way.