On 21 November 2014, Venice will be celebrating, for the 384th time, its Festa della Salute. This is probably the best loved celebration by Venetians, ushering in winter and Christmas time.
Contrary to the Redentore Feast celebrated in July, there are no fireworks, celebrating takes place in the church. The only lively note is given by the colorful fair and food stalls set up next to the Church. It's my personal favorite in Venice. Since 2012, this is my forth post on this topic, click here to view the others. This blog post offers a "glossary" of the Festa della Salute to you. Part of it is written in Italian, to make you acquainted with the expressions you can hear in Venice in November.
21 November in Venice represents a collective holiday for all Venetians, though it is not an official one in Italy. In the Veneziano, the region of Veneto and the surrounding towns in the province of Venice, Treviso, Padua and Rovigo, people take off at least a few hours to join festivities. That is, they attend the mass services in the church, Can you imagine why this Festa is still so vivid in Venetians' minds, after 384 years?
Trabaccolo boat and balmy weather: Hopefully the weather will hold for the day ..
La festa più sentita dei veneziani: It is about the perennial topic of health, and has even become dearer and enriched with new traditions in the last few years. Maybe that's because a new "citizenship consciousness" has taken roots here. Maybe it's because Venice is currently going through a crisi - which must not really be viewed negative - originally, crisis just meant crossroads - so there is a component of opportunity in it, not just risk. 
In this blog post, you can read not just about 21 November, but the additional festivities Venetians have created in the last few years, which last for 10 days. 
Durata della festa: The Festa della Salute does not just take ONE day. It started on Saturday 15 November with a first mass in the Basilica di San Marco. So you see how festivities spread across town, though of course the Basilica della Salute remains the focal point. 
One votive bridge's pillar is resting next to the Hotel Gritti Palace - you can see the mariegola (niche altar) on its facade. 
Ponte Votivo: The Venetian infrastructure and maintenance company, Insula - Alles spa, is setting up the Salute votive bridge, 80.51 meters long, spanning the Grand Canal. If you have been to the Festa del Redentore and crossed the Redentore Bridge in July, you might recognize the structure: For our Ponte votivo della Salute, the three central modules of the Redentore votive bridge are used. The inauguration of the votive bridge takes place two days before 21 November, this year on Wednesday 19 November at 12:30 pm. The bridge will stay in place for the usual five days. Each module is 19.22 meters long and 3.6 meters wide. 
Benedizione dei regatanti: This year, festivities started on the Saturday before 21 November, you can find the complete program on the website of the Seminario Patriarcale. For the forth year in a row, on Sunday, members of Venetian sailing clubs, canottieri and remieri associations, such as Bucintoro or Sette Mari, came to obtain their annual blessing. During the year, they love rowing and usually take part in the various rowing competitions which take place on the occasion of festivities in Venice. They brought a huge white cero (candle) that you can see in the picture below.
Benedizione dei regatanti (Photo credit: Il Gazzettino)
Vigilia della Festa: In the evening of 20 November, a pilgrimage for young Venetians will start off in the Basilica, and together with the Patriarch, they will cross the votive bridge to reach the Basilica della Salute for an evening prayer.
You can buy ceri (candles) in Campo San Gregorio next to the Salute Church
Impressioni di buon mattino: On 21 November - often shrouded in the caìgo (thick fog) in the early morning, you can see Venetians arrive, by foot, or taking vaporetti until Rialto or Accademia. What it is like to arrive in the thick fog, you can read in my Blog Post "Morning impressions". 
From there, Venetians, including those living in the countryside, walk to Campo di Santa Maria del Giglio, from which the Ponte Votivo leads towards the Salute Church. In Campo San Gregorio, you come across the first pop-up stalls, where you can buy white ceri (long white candles) to be lit in the church for a few minutes before they are exchanged, as many other people with candles in hand wait in the queues. Don't think that the candles you bring to church are thrown away - your candle will be used at a mass service in the following year.
Ceri (candles) are lit at the Chiesa della Salute, but don't burn down, but are saved for later.
Fritelle e palloncini: In the meantime, stalls pop up about town, offering local foods. In the bakeries and pastry stores - pasticcerie, focacce are being prepared, as Christmas is just round the corner. Street food sweets include the fritelle, click here to read more. Also, Venetian children get their palloncini (balloons) from the stalls lined up on Rio Terà dei Catecumeni and beyond. Foodwise, it is the castradina menu which you can also find at my Blog "Le Spezie della Serenissima".
Many stalls, owned by people from outside Venice, remain or either return for other winter festivities, for Christmas, New Year, and finally the Carnival. You can encounter them on the bigger campi in Venice, at Campo San Bartolomeo, Campo San Lio, or Campo dei SS Apostoli.
La festa continua - Museums offer free entrance for Venetians in the week 19-24 November. So it is really a relaxing week, when you take time to discover your town in the quiet atmosphere of (usually) balmy autumn days. I simply love walking around with my camera, hunting for new photos and of course blog posts !! 
Fig tree, today in Venice
L'Ambiente a Novembre: Leaves are usually still green, even wisteria ... it is usually the fig trees that show the first signs of autumn as their leaves are the first to turn yellow, followed by the gingko trees in the Giardini Reali. If it were not for the special light and the fog (caìgo) with the diffuse light resulting from the sun rays filtering through, you could imagine it was spring.
Ponte dell'Accademia and its rose bushes in late November
Lettura storica - Historic Reading: Get a broad picture about the bout of plague that hit Venice in 1630, described by Alessandro Manzoni in his book "I promessi sposi" - click here for an Italian website offering a good description of the novel. When you go to school in Italy, this is basic reading for all pupils at the scuole medie. In English, this book is titled "The Betrothed".

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