VENETIAN TRADITIONS: SAN MARTINO DAY

Venice lagoon by night

Everybody in Italy knows that the 11th of November is the day in which Catholic Church commemorates Saint Martin. It’s not clear why this figure is so popular in our country but, as a matter of fact, it’s undeniable that here in Venice is just another occasion to celebrate!
First of all, who was Saint Martin or, as we know him in Italy, San Martino?

This man probably finds his origins in Hungary, during the first years of 300 A.D., and he was a soldier. His life was overturned by a compassionate and merciful event: while he was riding his horse on a cold and gloomy day of winter, he met a poor man, who was begging for money. His clothes were miserable, and the tramp was probably sick. Now, this is the part that every Italian grandmother always finds amazing to narrate to her grandchildren: Martin, who felt really sorry for the poor man, decide to tear up his refined cloak and gave a part of it to the beggar, who later was revealed to be Jesus Christ himself.Venezia

This story is very popular in Venice, and for the joy of your stomach, chestnuts are the traditional food that is eaten for the occasion. However, Venice is known for another typical delicacy in this period, which you can find in every Venetian bakery shop: San Martino’s sweet, a shortcrust pastry biscuit covered in chocolate frosting or sugar, which represents Saint Martin on the back of his horse. Also, in the past years, children were used to go back and forward on the streets (calli) of Venice, singing under the windows of other houses and hoping that some people could throw from their balcony some chestnuts.

We try to translate the folk song from Venetian dialect for you:

Martin xe ‘ndà in sofita
a trovar ea nonna Rita
nona Rita no ghe gera
S.Martin col cùeo par tera
E col nostro sachetìn
cari signori xe S.Martin

***

Saint Martin has gone to the attic
To visit granny Rita
Granny Rita was not there
Saint Martin hit his bottom
And with our tiny bag
Ladies and gentlemen it’s Saint Martin
day!

LAgoon

As we can see, Venice never stops surprising us: if you’re planning to visit Venice in these days, we hope you could be captured by the atmosphere of our city even more, now that you know its traditional aspect. Moreover, we want to warn you about the phenomenon of the high tide, which in November, is a typical inconvenience. Buy some boots and ocio a la acqua alta! (“Be careful!”).

Post by Elisa Gentile