Three each, please!

Sweet november in Venice
by Fabio Marzari

The unmissable beans of the Day of the Dead, November 11 with the shortcrust pastry San Martino, the inevitable hot chocolate with cream on the 21st for the Madonna della Salute.

Autumn in Venice means three unforgettable appointments with baking tradition. Not that any other season would ever leave us wanting, but do keep your eyes open on the days leading to November 2, 11, and 21. Keep your guilt at bay and remind yourself that traditions exist for a reason. A little, fleeting moment of sweetness and joy can mean the world in difficult moments such as these. The fave dei morti are a typical Venetian kind of confectionery whose origins are to be found in an ancient tradition, recorded as far back as ancient Rome, as recorded by Pliny. The fave (lit. fava beans) were considered a kind of protecting amulet, a symbol of the dear departed and ab auspice of wealth. Actual roasted fava beans are not used anymore, and the brown, pink, and cream sweets you will see in bakeries around town are made with almonds and sugar. Grab a packet or two on or before All Souls’ Day, November 2.

Another must-try is Saint Martin’s Horse, a large horse-shaped shortbread biscotto decorated with other smaller pieces of confectionery. Saint Martin’s Day is November 11, and while this doesn’t mean much in the rest of Italy, the few children that still live in Venice give their all to keep the tradition alive. In this Halloween-like night, children walk around town making noise with makeshift drums, asking for a coin or a sweet while reciting a condensed biography of the Saint on form of a crude nursery rhyme in Venetian language. We must add that some of the remains of Saint Martin are kept in a Venetian church dedicated to him: a piece of a finger, a tibia, and a piece of a coat that belonged to him. The tibia, in particular, had once been given to the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista as a lien for the Church to fund renovations, and had to be returned to the same Church once a year in a procession. Long live Saint Martin! Hot cocoa drink with whipped cream on top, usually accompanied by the typical baicoli cookies, is what you deserve after showing devotion to Santa Maria della Salute. After your visit to the Basilica, walk over to Piazza San Marco and head to Florian’s. A cup of delicious hot cocoa will be waiting for you.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022