Even though the city’s patron saint is the evangelist Saint Mark, the most deeply felt celebration in Venice is the Redentore festival.
Redentore means redeemer and it’s just another name for Jesus Christ who rescued humanity by dying on the cross. In Venice, the Redentore is linked to the outbreak of the plague between 1575 and 1576, when about 46,000 people (25% of the population) died. The Senate of the city funded the construction of a votive temple in thanksgiving and commissioned the renowned architect Andrea Palladio to design it. As it was customary, the temple should have been build in the outskirts of the city, so the island of Giudecca, south of the city, was chosen.
Like today, the celebration was held on the third Sunday of July when a procession started in Piazza San Marco, continued through the alleys of the sestiere of Dorsoduro and arrived on the Zattere where the Basilica of Redentore could be seen in its magnificence on the other side of the Giudecca canal. A specially-made bridge was build from the Zattere to the front of the church and the tradition endures.
The popular festival starts on Saturday after the pontoon bridge is open by the local authorities. Apart from the joy of the religion on the holiday, the day before is all earthly. In the afternoon, people set up tables of various sizes where dinner will be had at dusk. It is like the whole city is having their meal outdoors and the visual impact is sensational.
Three are the typical traditional dishes of this special night which also quite easy to make:
- One is sarde in saor which needs to be made three or four days before: it’s fried sardines, lots of white onion dipped in vinegar, pine nuts, and raisins.
- Bovoleti are small snails cooked in a pan and then mixed with oil, garlic (a lot), and parsley.
- The third dish is slowly disappearing but those who care for tradition still make the anara col pien or stuffed duck. The rich filling of the bird consists of salami, pork, grated parmesan, minced heart and liver, rosemary, and eggs. To try only if you’re bold enough.
Of course, restaurants on the island are open but you need to book well in advance.
The hearty dinner also serves as a pastime because at midnight a fabulous pyrotechnics display starts. The fireworks seem to be shot from the water and the effect is mesmerising. For about half an hour, people hold their breath nose up.
On Sunday, believers take part in the Mass. It is also an opportunity the see the beautiful interior of the masterpiece by Palladio in which major artworks are held.
Since it may be quite crazy, why don’t you book a connection with a Prontopia local and get in-person help?