Christmas in Venice arrives unexpectedly. It almost sneaks in, in a very unobtrusive way. There’s a Christmas Food Village opening in Dorsoduro (My Christmas Venice), light bulb chains and other luminous decorations lighting up December nights, and the number of seasonal events is growing in town. On the other hand, just a few steps away, it’s all up to the Venetians to decide whether and when to dress their facades and windows up for Christmas.
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Dal 2 dicembre potrai ammirare le artiste di Truccioliinarte mentre realizzano la meravigliosa INFIORATA VENEZIANA all’interno della Basilica della Madonna della Salute a Dorsoduro.�Cos’è l’infiorata? È una manifestazione nella quale viene realizzato un tappeto decorativo con fiori, piante o parti di esse. È una tradizione che risale al XVII secolo in occasione di alcune festivitàERE cattoliche. Quella che My Christmas Venice realizza all’interno della Basilica della Salute è un’opera d’arte di 100 mq che rappresenta la Madonna. E’ un’esperienza unica da non perdere!�
And if they do, it happens in a subdued manner. Expect simple decorations, real fir twigs wrapped with red silk ribbons. Now and then, the red coat of a Santa Claus climbing up a wall catches the eye of the passer-by. But then, it’s too early now during the first days of a cold December, and the city, away from the lights and events, is wrapped in deep silence.
Another tell-tale sign that December is upon us is the calm and slow life Venetians enjoy during one of the seven weeks or so when the city is not overflowing with tourists. It was like that all the time from mid-November only ten years ago. Today, you could say that just a tiny window of time – after La Festa della Salute and before December 8, and then again for 3 weeks in January, is really quiet here in Venice.
For now, we are enjoying the translucent winter colors and the odd Christmas decoration popping up here and there over night. It’s dawning late, only after 7:30 am, and it takes another two hours to clear up the skies in case we are lucky. December is a twofold month. It’s the month when all light is drained on a rainy day. But then, when the sun is shining, we can enjoy Venice wearing the most improbable colors. In case acqua alta hits Venice, a mild wind is waking up your face while you are walking towards the Piazza. And the first sight one gets is gabbiani (sea gulls) swimming right on Piazza San Marco.
Imagine leaving home on a Saturday morning, walk towards the Piazza because you are curious to see what it’s like here without the crowds (you might find it flooded and the passerelle all set up, you can see it in the picture above). You turn away and retrace your steps back into the Mercerie, turn left and via a few shortcuts reach Calle dei Fabbri in five minutes. This is the place where one of the favorite chocolate stores is located. Cioccolateria Venchi is based in Torino, to be sure, but still, it’s a favorite shop here selling a few varieties of chocolate that so remind me of ancient Venetian recipes.
The town is almost empty and so I’m arriving in Campo San Luca in a moment. This is a favorite meeting point perhaps because there are a few gourmet stores, cafes, the Colussi Bakery and above all, Pasticceria Marchini Time. A favorite “haunt” to drink cappuccino in the morning. Looking at their windows, I can see that they are selling Christmas Balls …
Another ten minutes, while I’m walking towards the market and the sun is appearing hesitantly behind the fog. By the time I reach the Naranzaria and Erbaria markets, a pale, silver-lined sun is just winning its fight against the fog.
The first days of December are the season of winter greens and green vegetables. Many of these weren’t grown in hothouses. Leeks, broccoli, bietola leaves and green cabbage. Rape rosse (red turnips), cavolo rosso (red cabbage, a favorite of my grandparents’) and cavolo riccio, collard. Creazzo in the picture means that these bietola leaves come from Creazzo, near Vicenza.
Weather like this asks for more substantial and warming food than usual. And the Rialto is now offering the perfect ingredients, wearing green, red and orange. The orange color is represented by the vanilla-flavored persimmons, bergamot, lemons, grapefruit and sweet oranges. And the last of the blue grapes …
On the one side of La Pescaria (Fish Market), a little flower market has been arranged. Next to the ever-present seasonal flowers, you can make out silver fir twigs, purple-colored decorative cabbage, and even tulip buds! Yes, it seems, decorating your home with spring blossoms is becoming a Christmas trend in Venice …
So this is the quiet Christmas in Venice, arriving step by step, one each day. To show you how that happens, we have set up a Christmas in Venice Page on our Blog and an Advent Calendar. This year, we dedicate it to a former strength the Venetians have always had. I mean, setting up the most beautiful shops and selling high-quality merchandise. I call the Advent Calendar 600 Shops on 10 Islands – the Unknown Story of the Merceria Shopping Mall in Venice.
The idea of writing about such a topic on an Advent Calendar came to me when I heard from friends that a landmark shop in town is in danger of closing on 28 February next year. You can read more on La Nuova Venezia here. Can you imagine what the city will lose when Coin would really be closed? Coin Venezia opened in 1947 and has become THE reference department store in town. An essential part of everyday life. So we’d like to point out how important a healthy urban tissue is, of which stores offering services to the Venetians are an essential part. Just imagine, there were 600 shops selling high-quality products to Venetians in the Mercerie alone in former times …