In the Venice of end-August and the first part of September, you’ll notice there’s a palpable change in colors. Usually around 15 August, thunderstorms alleviate the hottest days of summer. This summer was hot like the ones I remember when I was a child. A striking difference to the past is, though, how acqua alta now hits Venice a few times even in July and August.
I call this period of soft bright light the fifth season – la quinta stagione. It’s summer time with a bonus, and this glorious climate should be with us until the first week of October. Only then will summer be finally over. You’ll notice that colors get even brighter and nights a little bit cooler. That’s why September is also the best time for the Film Festival and the Regata Storica to take place. You can even sense this soft kind of summer in one of my favorite videos, showing what preparations for the Regata were like in 1948:
The Fifth Season is acknowledged in Traditional Chinese Medicine as the season between summer and autumn. I think the concept is also useful to describe what Venice is like during harvest season. At the markets, note how the main colors shift from the red-blue of summer berries to all sorts of sunny colors, the glowing yellow, olive and red brown of local tomatoes.
The following ten observations shall convey to you what it FEELS like in Venice now.
#1 Days, if they start cloudless, are enveloped in shining azure. There’s no word for that, just look at the pictures above. Everything glows in a blue flooding the scene. The azure is even reflected by the black-painted wood of the gondolas moored at the Piazzetta.
#2 The air is very still and you hear the birds chirping vividly in the morning. No wind, just calm weather with a hint of refreshing cool. Often, there are little white clouds in the sky. These are a sign that the hottest days are over, says my grandmother.
#3 The boats arriving from Punta Sabbioni and Iesolo at Riva degli Schiavoni are not as full as they used to be around Ferragosto. That means you can sometimes have the wide quays to yourselves – breathing in the refreshing morning air.
#4 You can eat your breakfast in your favorite coffee store in the sun without getting a sun stroke. In the summer, mine happens to be here – Pasticceria alla Bragora. One can enjoy a cappuccino in the balmy morning light and need not escape under the sunshade.
#5 There must be a reason why the Venice Film Festival takes place every year in the first part of September. You can take advantage of the season’s balmy nights and sit outside until past midnight without noticing so much of a drop in temperature.
#6 Venetians are coming back from their Ferragosto holiday. One store after the other re-opens. By now, we can take advantage of our favorite bar-caffés and their delicious snacks and the spice stores.
#7 Taking advantage of the fourth summer month are associations offering courses and open days.
#8 With the hottest time of the year over, flowers come back to normal. Unusual trees – the centennial botanical heritage of town – start blossoming now. Such a great time to take pictures of these trees and enlarge one’s botanical knowledge.
#9 It’s the high season for pre-autumn, sun-colored vegetables at the markets. Squash and tomatoes look wonderful and squash is a little more tender than later in autumn and easier to make soup with. Below you can see the crimson red cuore di bue tomatoes, and there are little olive-green colored tomatoes I love making risotto with. There’s actually a “second spring time” coming to Italy in autumn. More than in Venice you can notice it further south, for example in Positano where November is called the month of le primizie dell’autunno.
#10 Harvest time for urban gardening … there are a few half-private-half-public vegetable gardens located on campi all over town. Below you can see the vegetable plot on Campo San Giacomo dall’Orio. In the shade of poplar trees, small vegetable plots have been created where herbs, zucchini and tomatoes grow well. You can see that the leaves of the poplars start turning yellow because of the long dry summer we’ve had this year.
If you asked me when to come to Venice to enjoy days full of clear bright colors, it’s now that I suggest you visit. Otherwise come in spring in the second part of April when Venice smells of wisteria.