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A Garden in Venice

Garden art & lifestyle

Red roses and delightful spring food: What to expect on 25 April in Venice

If you intend to visit Venice in spring, then I recommend that you witness this special day: You will be able to see the typical Venetian flower bunches of red rose (boccolò), besides wisteria, all over town, and taste the favorite spring dish the doges used to celebrate with. In Venice, we still dedicate this 25 April to the Festa di San Marco, patron saint of Venice, and celebrate with red roses and finest spring vegetable dishes fresh from the lagoon islands. And lots of flags all over town, as you will see in the pictures below. 
Preparing for 25 April - and not only: this house in the Sestiere di Cannaregio, sports flags of the ancient Republic of Venice all year long.
Il gonfalone di San Marco, amidst a window sill with rododendron and azalea and kumquat pot plans 
The lion as the symbol of Venice; this one is a scupture placed on the facade of the Scuola di San Marco (now the hospital building next to the church of San Zanipolo)
So join me to discover what we need to know and remember about this red-golden flag depicting the Venetian lion, and the favorite spring dish of the Venetian doges - risi e bisi, This dish is rice made with finest, softest and freshly harvested light green peas from the lagoon islands. Then it is flavored with pancetta or bacon, and lots of pepper and grated parmesan. The secret is to use the soft inner lining of pea's bucce (pods) to color the rice dish a fresh green.
Finest spring food - Rialto market in April - in the top left corner, you can see the piselli (bisi - peas)
risi e bisi - versione sofisticata
My other Blog Le Spezie della Serenissima will be running the family recipe and background information connected to this traditional Venetian dish risi e bisi, as I said, a favorite with the doges to celebrate St Mark's Day on 25 April. 
Famous painting by Gentile Bellini, showing the celebration of 25 April: La Prcessione in Piazza San Marco (1496, you can view this picture in the Galleria dell'Accademia)
So on 25 April, it seems that we are very busy in Venice, as quite a few anniversaries are celebrated on this very day: Giorno della Liberazione (Liberation Day, as is celebrated all over Italy on that day, with alzabandiere and processions taking place all over Venice, click here for the program in 2013), Festa di San Marco (the feast of the patron saint of Venice and the Repubblica della Serenissima), plus the day is dedicated to a red flower bud now coming into bloom in the Venetian gardens - the red rose boc(c)olo. Flower stands all over town, on the campi spring up that sell the boccolò: one red long-stem rose, clad in cellophane, that is given to the female members of the family. A tradition my grandmother is looking forward to ...
Flower stand selling the boccolò roses
This is how the red rose "BOCOLO" is sold, at the markets, but also at ad hoc make-shift flower stands in town
Expect that on 25 April, all day long, you will be seeing scurrying Venetians all over town carrying one or more boccolò under their arms ...
But the real symbol of this special day of San Marco is the winged lion, which by the way, you can see all over town, in any season. But now with the special occasion with the former national day of the Republic of Venice coming nearer, the red-golden flags make their re-appearance in our town. 
I found this lion protecting the fish at the Pescaria - the fish section of the Rialto market - no se toca means in Venetian: don't touch ...
But did you know that the Venetian lion can actually appear in two forms - one with the book open, saying "Pax tibi - Marce evangelista meus" in Latin, and the other version, when Venice was going to war, was the lion with the book closed and holding up a sword in its right paw. 
The combative lion flag - book is closed and under the right front leg, in the other it is holding the sword; tail is up as a sign of force
And then, the Venetian lion, symbol of the town and Venetian empire since 811, comes in another, lesser known variant: while the winged animal standing on a stone base, and later on, as a sign that Venice set up its territorio da mar, the lion was depicted with its backlegs in water and front legs resting on soil, that is on the gospel book, in the second, lesser known variant the leon di San Marco is depicted as moeca - in the form of crab. 
Leone moeca
Here the lion is depicted with his wings embracing its head, which looks like the claws of a crustacean. The lion is emerging from water, so that this variant is more associated with referring to the lagoon. The standing winged lion is more associated with the Venetian terraferma and the Mediterranean empire.
Windows not only adorned with flower pots, but with ... flags
To get a virtual impression of 25 April, you could watch the video below on how the Festa di San Marco is celebrated in the Basilica di San Marco:

And as we are already talking about the Republic of Venice, why not listen to the former national anthem of the Republic of Venice, which we are remembering on this day by celebrating the Festa di San Marco:

Wishing you a Happy 25 April in Venice !!

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