November is the month when the city takes a breather after the assault of the colourful multitude of tourists during the summer season.
Life in the city returns to being quieter, less frenetic, and you can walk without the jams of people in the narrow alleys and squares.
The city seems sleepy, as if tired of the efforts it has made but a little beguiling too, ready to offer wonderful surprises.
Surprises that come from the typical climate of this month which is certainly a different way of seeing Venice, when sudden “acqua alta” (high water) which floods part of the city alternates with dense fogs that conceal buildings with a fascinating cloak, muffling sounds, and the visitor finds himself or herself walking in a void towards a void.
In November, however, there are other surprises that let you discover the Venice that belongs to the Venetians.
On the eve of St. Martin’s Day, which falls on the 11th, you will find groups of children armed with all sorts of instruments to make a racket, such as saucepan lids, metal bins and wooden ladles borrowed from their kitchen at home. They wander through the streets “beating the St. Martin”, as they say, entering the shops and singing a little song while bashing those improvised instruments and making an incredible racket so that every shopkeeper, to get rid of them, offers them small change with which they buy sweets and cakes.
Typical of this day are biscuit pastry garnished with colourful pralines or quince pastry, shaped like a knight on horseback, recalling the story of the same saint who cut his cloak in two to share it with a poor traveller.
On the 21st, there is the Feast of the Madonna della Salute (Our Lady of Health) which recalls the end of a serious outbreak of plague centuries ago. For the grace received of the end of this scourge, the Republic erected the Church of the Salute and every year the people go on pilgrimage to ask for the Virgin’s intercession to protect them from illnesses.
A special wooden bridge crossing the Grand Canal was built by St. Maria del Giglio on the opposite bank to allow for access to the Church of the Salute.
A typical traditional dish, which you will still find in this period in some trattorias, is “castradina”, or a mutton soup that seems to have been consumed by fishermen on the boats moored in front of the church while waiting for the opening of the doors and the first religious function of the morning.
At this time, hanging in the butchers’ windows, you can see signs with the words “gavemo ea castradina”, that is, “we have castradina”, advertising the availability of this kind of meat which is not available at other times of the year.
At the start of the month, on 2 November, the commemoration of the deceased occurs and the Venetians visit their loved ones, they no longer visit the cemetery on the Island of St. Michele.
In this period, the city’s patisseries sell special sweets, the so-called “fave dei morti” (beans of the dead), small coloured balls made of almond paste which with their sweetness perhaps help to ease sorrowful memories.