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A Garden in Venice

Garden art & lifestyle

Morning impressions of the Festa della Salute

Would you like to join us, Venetian families, for a morning walk on 21 November,  the day on which the Festa della Salute takes place: We have to start early today, as this is the day when Venetians, with public offices closed, and those Venetians living in the towns surrounding the lagoon alike, will be here for this traditional Festa della Salute. Venetians have been doing so since the year 1687, year of inauguration of the church. 
And in the early morning of Wednesday, 21 November 2012 it looked like it could become a wonderful cloudless day. Crossing Piazza San Marco, we usually walk to the Campo del Giglio, structured by the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Giglio with its greyish sculptured facade of the 17th century and the famous Hotel Gritti Palace, towards the Gran Canal part called Campo del Traghetto. This is a quiet campo all year long, but on November 21, stalls (bancarelle) have been set up here from the early morning, offering traditional votive candles to the pilgrims that are ready to cross the Grand Canal over the Ponton Bridge. 
21 November, 08:00 am on the Campo di Santa Maria del Giglio: Bancarelle everywhere, selling the traditional white candele da chiesa for the pilgrimage towards the Basilica della Salute
Passing by the hotel gardens and the Residenza Gritti on Campo del Giglio, towards the ponton bridge spanning the Grand Canal from here ...
and on we walk, towards the Ponton bridge that you can see in the background, which is already quite packed, as today the Basilica is open from 05 am to 22:15 pm, with so many visitors waiting to enter
I usually buy one of these long white candles already here, and warming fritelle and other Venetian delicacies that will keep me warm for the next two hours or so that one needs to fully take in the celebrations. And the queues waiting on the other side of the Grand Canal at Calle Traghetto, all the way towards the Baslica, passing Campo San Gregorio and Calle dell'Abbazia, and even the sottoportego dei morti before you reach the Campo della Salute. 
Crossing the ponton bridge
Coming out, amongst the crowds, from the Sottoportego dei Morti, next to the Abbazia di San Gregorio building, on your way towards the Basilica.
Waiting in the queue to move forwards, you have time to muse about the origins of the Festa della Salute when you are standing in the queue
In 1630, a carpenter (falegname) living in the sestiere di Dorsoduro and working on the lagoon island of San Clemente (today hosting the San Clemente Hotel and Gardens), where at that time the duke of Mantova was isolated suffering from the plague, was said to have spread this deadly disease in town. Doge Nicolò Contarini made a solemn vow during a mass held at the Basilica di San Marco in October 1630 to build a sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna as protector of the Republic and town. Undo origo inde salus - meaning, from our origins and roots shall derive our health, and the origins of town and Republic are represented by the Madonna herself. The location for the new basilica had to be a prominent area overlooking the Bacino di San Marco, the waters just off Piazza San Marco. Architect Baldassare Longhena's plan was implemented, building a basilica resting on more than 1 million wooden trunks !! It is an octagonal church, with a structured facade including the famous orechioni sculptures, looking a bit like huge ears, that contribute to balancing the huge dome. 
Unde origo, inde salus
From the center of the church, which people are allowed to enter into only on this very day on 21 November, you can see all eight altars in their niches simultaneously. And here you can notice a small slot in the pavement, where the doge in 1631 deposited a coin to lay the foundations for work on the basilica, saying in Latin: Unde origo inde salus
And afterwards, when the candles have been stacked alongside numerous others in the church .... we usually walk on, but this time choosing the quieter pathway towards the Rio dei Catecumeni
Rio dei Catecumeni, with the palloncini and fair-like stalls selling Venetian specialties and sweets
We then continue to Campo San Barnaba and Fondamenta Venier towards the Accademia bridge, and then have a coffee and dolce in the corner bar on the other side back in the Sestiere di San Marco, at Campo Santo Stefano. By now, the sun is out fully, regaling us with a beautiful and warm rest in the sunshine.
Looking back towards the ponton bridge from the Ponte dell'Accademia
As this is the Garden of Venice Blog, here is a picture of a wonderful private garden looking out to the Grand Canal, with wonderful roses, vines and laurels, seen from the Accademia bridge on 21 November.
Stepping down from the bridge, we enjoy the warming sun rays at the end of November.


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