Thursday, November 12, 2015

Festa Di San Martino in Venice

For the past few days we've noticed a treat that we haven't seen before in the windows of the local pasticceria, the supermarkets, general food shops etc. The treats are of varying sizes with the same picture on it - horse and rider - and the words San Martino.

Today in the Rio Marin Pasticceria across the canal from our apartment a few women came in and purchased the biscuit/cake which was of course wrapped up beautifully by the shop keeper there. When the shop had emptied we asked about it and what it meant. 

She told us that it was today, in Venice, the Festa Di San Martino and that it was mainly for children. (We had guessed that by the design and components of the treat which included chocolate coins, Lindt chocolate balls, loads of icing etc) she told us about the crowns - and a few hours before we'd seen a large group of children singing with yellow crowns on their head - and she told us about the noise.

What noise.....?

Well it didn't take long before a group of school kids, young, primary school age, came tumbling down the canal, banging and clanging on pots and pans, and singing a song. I filmed them as it was very entertaining, but won't post the actual video here, just a screenshot from it.

We then spent some time researching San Martino and the festival itself. Time Out described it as "Kids armed with mamma’s pots and spoons raise a ruckus around the city, chanting the saint’s praises and demanding trick-or-treat style tokens in return for taking their noise elsewhere. Horse-and-rider shaped San Martino cakes, with coloured icing dotted with silver balls, proliferate in cake shops."

One of the things we discovered today was that many Venetians were pleased to see old traditions get a new life, even if it is with noisy children who will be in a sugar coma at the end of the day after the treat! 

It was educational too for us as we were not familiar with the story of San Martino. Legend says that St Martin met a starving, freezing beggar in Amiens. He cut his cloak into two pieces and gave the beggar the other half, hence his association as the saint for the poor and for charity. When he did this, the sun apparently came out. Now we do love Venice on a blue sky day and these past few days have been foggy and overcast. St Martin, would you mind sending some sunshine our way? That would be wonderful, thanks... 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

We have arrived home to Venice

After a couple of weeks traipsing around Tuscany and Lake Garda we finally came home to Venice on Thursday. Once again we are using Luxrest Venice and we are staying in the same apartment we spent a month in back in 2010. We made our own way to the house on Rio Marin canal this time around as we were on very familiar ground. That said, I did take a wrong turn off the Grand Canal, I'm embarrassed to say, and ended up down a dead-end! But it didn't take long for us to be back in the Venice swing of things, particularly around Santa Croce.

It's been five years since we last stayed in this part of town and I must say there's been a bit of change. Firstly, the graffiti throughout the city is worse. I'm surprised at how much there is. I mean, it's always been there, but now it looks ugly. 

Secondly there are a lot more restaurants (by that I mean everything from an osteria to a ristorante). And a lot more are open in November! It may be because of the Biennale but it's very noticeable. 

Thirdly there is a lot more restoration work going on. We ventured up the Grand Canal today and of course spent some time in Rialto. The entire bridge is under construction! Over the years we've seen the Bridge of Sighs covered up, Salute covered in scaffolding, St Marks itself seems to be an endless round of work, but to see the Rialto Bridge today, well let's just say it left me a little sad. 

But then again, I'm home. Our canal is still beautiful and the pasticceria is still open (very important for a) hot chocolate and b) morning pastries when you feel like a change in your breakfast routine!). 

The local mask maker gave us a very warm welcome (we have been a good client over the last five years) and the wonderful sales person in Fanny's glove shop was so delighted to see us it warmed the cockles of our hearts. In fact, she told us how many years since our last visit. Four. (Too bloody long between visits I say!j The waiter in the restaurant opposite told us that he recognised us and knew we'd been in there before. And it's so nice to have that in a city that millions upon millions of people visit every year, often for only a day or two.

This time we have a two weeks. Plenty of time to start the plan for returning to Venice for a seventh time wouldn't you say?