Last updated on 24 November 2018
Is there a time – a season – that Venetians can really dedicate to themselves. Getting some quiet after a long (mass) tourist season. I think I’ve made out that time, even though it is getting shorter every year .. It’s now, when Venice chiude bottega for ten days, or so. When festive November comes to an (abrupt) end, because it was so lively during La Festa della Salute. Now, you can still find many of its culinary treats, like the San Martino biscuits broken into pieces – San Martino in pezzi – in the bakeries. Or the one bag of the fave biscuits left over in the pastry stores.
Even though you’d love strolling around for hours on end, these days in Venice you simply can’t, because the bora winds will make you change your mind. And if there’s no bora, we are living with acqua alta. So, spending much time outside like you’d have done just three weeks ago, is now out of the question, and you’ll have to make a plan to spend your day inside, at least, partially.
This last week of November in Venice is museum, restaurant, pasticceria time.
After the Festa della Salute I can notice an anti-climax in town, and in the Lagoon. Like Venice was closing herself in, starting a sort of hibernation. She will wake up during the Advent time a little when the lights on Piazza San Marco – le luminarie – will be officially inaugurated, and a little bit more around Christmas and New Year. But then, it’s back to hibernating, during those really quiet weeks of January, until a few days before Carnevale begins ..
In 2015, for example, the morning of the Festa della Salute on 21 November started with acqua alta. The there was rain getting heavier and becoming a nuisance to avoid by noon. So I did something I’ve never done so far on this holiday. I stopped taking pictures (!!) and tried to make it home as quickly as possible. Afterwards, gusts of bora (northerly winds) caused temperatures to plummet even more.
21 November 2015 was a rainy and greyish day. My grandmother told me how it reminded her of 4 November 1966 when the Lagoon was completely flooded, click here to read more. Warm scirocco winds brought in water masses from the south, completely submerging Pellestrina and Lido, so you couldn’t make out a difference between Lagoon and open sea any more. Unexpectedly, like on 21 November 2015, in the afternoon, the wind turned and cold bora started blowing from the north, pressing out the masses of water from the Lagoon. That’s how Venice was saved in the very last minute in 1966!!
In case you were in Venice on that 21 November 2015, or on 29 October 2018 !!, you now know what this 4 November 1966 has felt like, temperature-wise.
Many Venetians attended the mass services during the Festa della Salute, staying in the church for quite a long time. After the patriarch’s mass was over, we were invited to come up to the main altar, remain here for another while and then leave via the sacrestia. So I got a close-up glimpse of the altar and its duality, for there’s a second altar behind the red brocade curtains. You can see how the columns were exceptionally draped with finest velvet, offered by Bevilacqua. All red and golden, the colors of Venice.
This in-between season is a time when Venetians take a retreat in their own town. Getting creative behind the scenes, thinking things over. These grey days, with the sun trying to make its way through the mist are getting shorter now. Still, there are quite a few things to do – inside Venice.
Expand one’s knowledge, for example. (Test-) cooking, studying books on botany and herbs and spices. Mixing a herb tea based on ancient recipes and family cookbooks, with ingredients from Drogheria Mascari. Making a cold-fighting infusione – spice tea. Visit museums you’ve been wanting to go to – or exhibitions .. Below you can see Cibo e Acqua, which I visited back in 2015, an exhibition telling more about food, water, and agriculture in the Lagoon and Estuary.
Discover and re-discover the hidden “retreats” around Piazza San Marco – new perspectives from and of the Piazza. Taking lots of pictures for our Venetian Instagram hashtag #veneziadatoccare, take a look here.
Venezia da toccare literally means “feel Venice”, photos conveying a haptic experience of our town. It means we take close-up pictures of the patterns and reliefs of town, striking ones that will make you feel like you’re touching the stones, flowers, wooden or iron cast rails of Venice.
Now you’ve got all the time to linger and take in the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace without the crowds. Enjoy a close-up view towards the eastern part of Venice, Castello, from the third floor. You might even notice details like the quarrelsome Venetian Lion positioned in the ante-room of Museo Correr, usually hidden behind tourists. I found it was looking even more impressive against his backdrop, a gold-framed mirror.
You could also say that Venice is in maintenance mode. Winter is a time to repair. Tending your garden, planting new shots, weeding, hibernating geranium, or cleaning up when your garden has been soaked by acqua alta … (I’ll need to spray the garden with a hose, carefully..)
Experimenting with scents and perfumes. Spending time in a fashion store or profumeria before the onslaught of Christmas shopping. Anticipating Advent time which on Saturdays can be very crowded. Looking for a cuffia di lana , a woolen bonnet – a must these days in Venice :-) And of course, experimenting with recipes! What about this combination of black squid-flavored with yellow curry-flavored pasta? You’ll need a sugo that works with both varieties. A light variant of the tomato sugo, consisting of tiny pieces of tomatoes, and parsley, all fried in olive oil, and seaoned with nothing else but sea salt and black pepper, would be fine, and we might add a few more pink pepper corns to get a colorful, and light, dish for lunch :-)
Even the Rialto Market looks a bit empty. These days, after the Festa della Salute and before the Christmas season really sets in, one third of the food stalls at the market are closed. But don’t think there’s a shortage! Those stalls open offer colorful food for a belated, Venetian, Thanksgiving soul food menu. There’s castradina as well, and you can still eat a plate of this traditional dish, eaten during La Festa della Salute, at the restaurants, just ask the waiter if it’s not on the menu anymore.
There was yet another new experience for me, being the only passenger in a gondola tragheto crossing the Grand Canal from the Market to Santa Sofia on Strada Nova on a sunny afternoon, just before 2 pm ..