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Plague, parties and proverbs in Venice

Punta della Dogana | Cantina Do Spade

If, on November 21st, you happen to drop by Santa Maria della Salute, you’ll find a series of stalls. They mainly sell candles, but you’ll see bakes and cakes there, as well. Because on November 21st Venice celebrates the end of the plague in 1631.

How do people celebrate the Venice Salute Festival?

The Salute Festival is probably the least popular Venetian celebration among tourists. On the other hand, it’s incredibly heartfelt for Venetians, who every year go on a pilgrimage on the boat bridge connecting the Salute church to Santa Maria del Giglio.

Inside the church, the faithful can either participate in a mass or light a candle, so that the Virgin Mary can intercede on behalf of their health.

But this celebration has another face, too: the pagan one. Mainly related to food.

Santa Maria della Salute | Cantina Do Spade

What do Venetians eat on the Salute Festival?

First of all, the typical dish of the Salute Festival is the castradina, as we’ve told you in this article.

Anyway, there’s another food which is peculiar to this celebration: bakes and cakes:

Indeed, on the stalls of the square in front of Santa Maria della Salute, you won’t find just an extraordinary amount of candles, but rather toys, too. And, most of all, pevarini, zaléti, bossolai e frìtole, i.e. Venetian pancakes, black pepper biscuits and the other traditional Venetian biscuits.

The secrets of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice

Basilica della Salute | Cantina Do SpadeEvery church has its secrets. And Santa Maria della Salute is no exception. Here’s a couple of them:

  • the dome is surrounded by 8 obelysks, turning the church into a gigantic crown for the Virgin;
  • the statue of Holy Mary on the top of the dome is dressed as a capitana da mar, a “sea she-captain”, to remind everybody that Venice is the true lady of the seas;
  • inside the church there’s a statue of the Plague by Giusto Le Court: represented as a toothless old woman, she’s the reason why Venetians say ti xe bruta come ea peste, “you’re as ugly as the plague”. But this is just one of their sayings on this epidemic.

Venetian proverbs on plague

The most famous are these ones:

  • ‘sto fio xe ‘na peste: “this boy is very troublesome”;
  • go ciapà a peste: “I’ve got ill”;
  • sènti che peste!: “what a smell!”.