The 21st of November is a very special day for Venetians which stop for a day, gather together for “La Salute” and pay their tribute to the Lady, visit the Basilica, go to mass or simply light a candle and pray.
We have to turn back time to more that 300 years ago to understand when it all started from. In 1630 the plague had spread all over the city, bringing death, pain and sorrow and killing 1/3 of the population. The Venetian community decided then to ask for the Lady’s help to stop the epidemic. As a vow and as an eternal thank you, they would have built a church dedicated to her. And you know wh? The plague stopped and one year later, in 1631, the building work kicked off: it took 2 years to complete the foundations (can you imagine, there are something like 100.000 wood poles stucked into the soil to build the base where the Basilica stands on today) and 56 years to finish it up.
So, how do Venetions celebrate “La Salute”? This is what I usually do. Firstly, I’m of course off work – schools are closed and so are the majority of private and public offices. I like to get to the Basilica early in the afternoon and through the temporary bridge built for the event at Santa Maria del Giglio.
Once in front off the Basilica I usually buy a candle from one of the many stands outside.
I patienly queue to enter the Basilica (it can really be overcrowded).
Once inside I handle in my candle to the volunteers who will light it for me. I stand for some time in the Church and admire the dome from inside.
Once I’m done I get out and head to Rio Terra dei Catecumeni,where fun begins! Along this alley, which is supercrowded, you will find food stands selling mouth watering Sicilian patries and sweets: crunchy sugar coated almonds, sesame,nuts and almonds bars, marzipan fruits, almond cookies, amazing Sicilian cannoli, bomboloni (donnuts) with chocolate and cream, arancini filled with rice, mince meat and peas and “frittele”and fried donnuts covered in sugar and for those who need an extra kick filled with Nutella.
I like La Salute because it is one of the very few trully Venetian events left, still very much felt by Venetians an that gives to Venice a less “touristy” atmophere. I also like it because it gives methe chance to stop, slow down and, even though I’m not that religious, to think about friends and relatives and spare a thought for them.
Have you ever been in Venice for “La Salute”?