Christmas in Venice used to start a little earlier each year. I recall that in the 1990s, there were no luminarie (as the Christmas lights were called in Venice) until a few days before Christmas. And when they finally appeared like overnight, we woke up to simple decorations made from red ribbons and emerald-green firs decorating the top of church doors and only a handful of shops along the Mercerie, the winding street connecting San Marco with the Rialto area. The shop with the brightest Christmas lights was ALWAYSCoin, so it was a must for Venetian children to go there and enjoy it, and the shops along Salizzada San Crisostomo, which leads to Campo SS Apostoli.
And in 2019, you can witness both ways of celebrating the Christmas season: One part of Venice is very quiet, especially if you are away from “beaten paths”. The other areas, especially in San Marco, Strada Nova, and the Rialto Market, are very much alive, and they leave on their Christmas lights even during a sunny day. Just take a look at the Rialto Market decorations below!
In this post, we are sharing gifts for the Venetophile who can’t be in Venice right now, but also gifts from little stores in town for you to explore during your visit. All our gift suggestions have one thing in common: They benefit Venice, Venetian culture and heritage, and the Venetians!
Gifts for Slow Travelers and Gourmets
Gourmet gifts, organic food and tea I recently discovered in Venice. And more about supporting people who need our help.
- Caffé Sospeso, Serra dei Giardini: Let’s start this guide with giving a gift to Venice and the Venetians. At Serra dei Giardini, the cozy coffee house in the midst of a hothouse on Viale Garibaldi, you can buy a second or third coffee for a person who cannot afford buying one. Also possible at the coffee houses of Torrefazione Cannaregio, who recently moved from Strada Nova to Fondamenta degli Ormesini.
- Il Torrone di Drogheria Mascari: As we show you in our ebook The Venetian Christmas Experience, torroni are one of the three kinds of Christmas sweet breads Venetians have eaten for centuries. Torrone means little tower, the very essence of a Venetian Christmas: It consists of roasted almonds and a soft sugary dough, and was originally made from almond flour. Drogheria Mascari at the Rialto Market has probably the finest choice of torroni in town.
- Cardamom Tea, Pastificio Serenissima: This is one of the tiny gourmet stores Venice has been famous for ever since. Lately, I discovered their new choice of teas from all over the world. Now, the cardamom tea fits perfectly into Venetian culinary heritage: Venetians used to flavor drinks with spices, and in particular, their hot winter drinks.
- Sweet December tea, Caffé Florian: Obviously, I love tea! and this one sounds, and tastes, delightful: The new Sweet December tea at one of the finest cafes in Venice consists of rosehips and cinnamon and smells of vanilla. Enjoy it after a walk through wintry Venice, so it can work its restoring magic.
- Panettone, Pasticceria Nobile: Do Venetians eat panettone? Of course, even if we do have our own sweet Christmas breads. There are also Venetian bakeries specializing in making panettone. My favorites stores baking panettone are Ponte delle Paste, Chiusso, Rosa Salva, and Pasticceria Nobile on Strada Nova, which in my opinion has the softest cakes in town.
Thoughtful and Glamorous Books on Venice.
Books telling the history and heritage of Venice, each in their own special way. And, all of them are set in winter.
- Dream of Venice in Black and White, by JoAnn Locktov: In September 2018, JoAnn Locktov published her third book: Dream of Venice in Black and White: A masterpiece of storytelling, this book takes you to explore Venetian symbols and life in La Venezia minore, involving you not just as onlooker but virtual participant in the scenes photographed in the book. Foreword by Venetian writer and playwright Tiziano Scarpa, images by photographers from all over the world. See the website of Bella Figura Publications for further information. In Venice, the Dream of Venice book family is available at several bookstores, such as Libreria Studium, Libreria Toletta, and Libreria Cluva.
- San Giovanni in Bragora – La Chiesa di Antonio Vivaldi, by Virgilio Boccardi: Take a close look, Libreria Studium offers many book treasures not just in prima fila, but behind the larger books and bestseller shelves. This little book, published by the Venetian Supernova Edizioni, tells the story of one of the best-loved campi in town, and its church, San Giovanni in Bragora. The book also gives valuable insights into family stories: Interesting to read that the Medici family and the Venetian family Loredan had common relatives, living on Campo della Bragora. So if you love to really really look behind the scenes of this city, do take a look at books whose covers are less shiny but share unexpected treasures and the real Venice. Books like this one are amongst the sources we used to create our new Venetia – Venice Heritage Online Class.
- Lagunario, by Isabella Panfido. Take some time during the holidays and read Venetian stories set on the Lagoon islands: The story of a Venetian who tried to explore the world of a raft. Or, winter on the island of San Servolo during times long past. In-depth and secretive stories, some of which may be true, while others are legends and fiction. PS: We will cover this book in our Venetia – Venice Heritage Online Class in January 2019.
- Dream of Venice: The first book published by JoAnn Locktov dedicated to Venice, and I just have to point it out to you for its incredibly beautiful photography by Charles Christopher. Have you ever seen how luminous Venice can be during December? The book cover shows you a Venice in verde acqua, a turquoise hue, as preview to those incredible colors and images you can find inside the book.
Venice Gourmet Experience, Past and Contemporary Flavors.
Give yourself, your friends and family the gift of breakfast, lunch or dinner in Venice, while exploring the culinary heritage of times long past, cuisine present and past, local, Mediterranean and Levantine. Here’s my personal gourmet collection 2019.
- Pasticceria Chiusso: Located on Salizzada dei Greci in the ancient Greek Quarter. I recently noticed a new chocolate delight on their counter during breakfast: Cannoli all’amarena, maraschino-flavored cannoli (puff-pastry filled with crema pasticcera, originally from southern Italy). If you’d like taste Venetian Christmas on a wintry morning, here’s your treat. Or, try one of their sfere al cioccolato – chocolate balls that come with caffé espresso in the afternoon.
- What about cappuccino at Caffé Florian? It IS always a luxurious experience, and for Christmas, they offer special macarons, which we show in our Venetian Christmas Experience e-book. We’ll also reveal the secret and surprising history of macarons!
- Tasting Menu at Ristorante Local: Just like Drogheria Mascari is a representative of our culinary past, Ristorante Local, neighbor of Pasticceria Chiusso on Salizzada dei Greci, takes up Venetian culinary heritage, which would be referred to as fusion cuisine today. The tasting menu is glocal so to say, consisting of Lagoon plants, fowl, and fish, flavored with avantgarde spice mixtures and exotic ingredients. A menu transporting historical culinary culture to our times.
- Al Giardinetto da Severino: This restaurant, located 10 minutes from Piazza San Marco in the Castello, is all about Venetian home-cooking, based on recipes my grandparents used to cook and eat (really – they offer food cooked from Lina’s recipes!!). Set in a nice garden in a 15th century palace, their chefs transform simple dishes into gourmet flavors. This is where the people in my neighborhood celebrate Christmas ..
My Unusual Gift Collection for Venetophiles, Home Cooks, and Food Lovers.
Did you know that we eat desert rose pastries for Christmas? A historical recipe, and one of the five varieties of cookies Venetians of the past used to bake for Christmas. Find out more, plus the recipe, in the Venetian Christmas experience ebook!
- Venetia – Venetian Heritage and Culture Online Class. Last year saw the launch of our first online class!! 30 per cent of course proceeds go to social initiatives in town, such as Dingo, Caffé Sospeso, Lipu, Una Stella per Natale, etc. Venetia is based on 187 (!) books such as I presented above, exploring and explaining the true story of Venice, surprising and unknown: Even if you are Venetian or a frequent visitor, you will find VERY different perspectives and stories on your Venice: Topics range from culinary, colors, art, design, artisans and how to harness Venetian strengths and benefit in our times. Click here to discover it!
- Rose del deserto – Panificio Colussi: The Colussi Bakery (founded in 1840!) on Campo San Luca was first in taking up this historical Venetian recipe, best-loved during winter. Actually, the recipe for desert roses is older than the frittelles recipe, arriving in Venice before the age of Marco Polo. To make a long story short, you can now buy them at the Colussi bakery, and find the recipe in our Venetian Christmas Experience ebook.
- Venezia Essenza by The Merchant of Venice (flagship store is located on Campo San Fantin). This secretive, black scent of black vanilla reveals a historical Venetian perfumery recipe, based on blossoms and spice essences. This is how Venice must have smelled during Christmases long past ..
- Venetian Dream Tea by Caffé Florian: Caffé Florian not only recreates delicious cakes and sweets of the past, but also coffee and tea specialties: Their Venetian Dream Tea is made from cinnamon and almond pieces (any coffee or tea you drink at Caffé Florian, is based on historical recipes).