We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style - Day 9

Advent Calendar for Day #9 of the Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style collection

Ciao, tutti! 

This just might be my favorite Advent calendar this year. I've been thinking about what I might put in each of those drawers. Don't laugh, but I'd put Hersey's kisses in them, the same number in each box as the number on it. So, 1 kiss for Dec 1, 2 for Dec 2 and so on. December 24 would be like a winning the lottery- especially since we cannot find Hersey's kisses over here. Having them would be such a treat! Any thoughts on what you'd load those drawers with? 

Today I'm taking you to one of my all time favorite shops in Venice, to meet a very special artisan. This is one of the very first places I visited on my first trip to Venice, I returned every year, and now I pop in several times a week. Ca Del Sole mask shop is just a few minutes from St. Mark's square, on Fondamenta Osmarin in the district of Castello. 

At the front door of Ca del Sole, one of Venice's most famous mask shops

Hamid Bandar, owner and mask maker at Ca Del Sole since 1986

Meet the man behind the masks, Hamid Bandar.  Hamid opened his shop in 1986 and was one of the first artisans to create a revival of the traditional Venetian mask. I caught Hamid mid-lecture in his workshop the other day, doing something he loves - sharing the story of Venetian masks.

Scary collection of plague doctor masks at Ca Del Sole

Inside his shop you'll find a wide assortment of masks, ranging from the Plague Doctor to fancy, elegant creations perfect for a Las Vegas showgirl. All individually made from paper mache and decorated with gorgeous accessories such as beads, gold leaf and feathers. 

Vast array of handmade masks at Ca Del Sole

Exquisitely decorated masks at Ca Del Sole

Doges hat and masks at Ca Del Sole

Each mask is made of paper mache lining a plaster mold of a face at Ca Del Sole

A handmade Venetian mask is a work of art which takes days to construct from start to finish, beginning with strips of blue paper mache and glue in the plaster mold. Recreating the traditional masks worn in Venice is a labor of love for Hamid and his assistants. 

Handmade Carnevale costumes available for rent at Ca Del Sole

Ca del Sole not only sells Venetian masks, but also rents handmade costumes for Carnevale masquerade balls. 

Hope you will put Hamid's shop on your list of Must-finds next time you are visiting Venice. It's definitely one of Venice's gems. 

You can visit Ca del Sole at Castello, 4964, Fondamenta Osmarin
www. cadelsolemascherevenezia.com

Here's the link to the Countdown to Christmas 2014 post Just click here!

Today's Advent calendar thanks to imaginifnz.blogspot.co.nz

Celebrating the Festa della Madonna della Salute in Venice

             La Salute church

Ciao tutti! 

In going through recent photos I discovered I'd neglected to make a post about one of Venice's biggest festa's, the Festa della Madonna della Salute. Other cities hold festivals to celebrate the wine harvest, or mushrooms, or garlic. Venice holds festivals to remember the black plague. Every year in July we have the Festa del Redentore to commemorate the Plague of 1574, and in November we celebrate the end of the plague of 1630.  

During each of these plagues, Venetians prayed to be spared from death and destruction. To keep their promise to God when the plagues ended, they built a church. In 1630 the called on the Madonna directly to end the plague, and their thanks resulted in the marvelous church of Madonna della Salute, in Dorsoduro. 

Every year, on November 21,  citizens make a pilgrimage to the church in order to give thanks to the Madonna for her intervention on Venice's behalf, and to pray for the health of their families. In the old days, people crossed a makeshift bridge across the Grand Canal made of boats tied together, to make their way into the church for mass, led by the Doge. Today, the city constructs a temporary votive pontoon bridge across the canal. 

Festa della Salute is huge. People still make a mass pilgrimage, flooding the streets and over the pontoon bridge to buy candles, attend mass, and afterwards, buy goodies. It's an annual tradition that is absolutely essential to Venetian life. 

What most people don't know about the Festa della Madonna della Salute is that the festa actually begins one week before November 21. Always on the Saturday before, the rowing community of Venice rows a giant candle down entire length of the Grand Canal to the La Salute Church, where they are met by the priests who will then bless the boats and the rowers of Venice with a special benediction.

Rowers taking the candle to La Salute

Close up view of the large candle being rowed to La Salute

Pink Lionesses participating in the row to La Salute

Arrival of the candle

Delivering the candle to La Salute

Priests at La Salute giving the rowers the benediction

Priests on the steps of La Salute blessing the boats and rowers

Alze remi, the rowers honorary salute

 Alza Remi (raise the oars), an honorary salute given by the rowers. The young men and women in blue jackets are from the Francesco Morosini Naval Military Academy in Venice.

The votive bridge being constructed for La Salute

The pontoon bridge during construction a few days before November 21.

On November 21, the calle next to the church of La Salute is lined with vendors stalls selling all sorts of goodies- nutella crepes, candies, marzipan, cheese, roasted nuts, just to name a few. And there are balloons. Tons of balloons.  Take a stroll down the street with me, and I assure you, the temptation to stop and indulge will be strong. My weakness is always the cannoli booth!

Chestnuts roasting at La Salute festival

Big fat cool looking porchetta

roasted nuts at La Salute

donuts at La Salute

Candied apples at La Salute

Chocolate candies at La Salute
Arancini at La Salute

Cannoli at La Salute

Roasted corn on the cob for La Salute

Street view at La Salute

Either before or after you hit all the goodies, you will stop to purchase candles at one of the numerous candle vendors, then make your way into the church to have your candle lit. 
Candle vendors at La Salute

Candles lit inside La Salute

Decorated inside of the church La Salute for the festa 2016
The main altar at La Salute church dressed out in velvets specially made by Bevilacqua.

For more information about the church of La Salute, https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_di_Santa_Maria_della_Salute

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style - Day 8

Recycled Toilet Paper Roll Christmas Advent Calendar:

Ciao, tutti!

Welcome back for day #8 of my Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style.

Every time I write "Venice Style" for these posts, I hear the "Gangnam Style" song in my head. Sorry. Couldn't help myself. You are all doing the dance, aren't you? 

Today is a very important holiday in Italy, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Banks, schools, government offices are all closed. In fact, most are making a four day weekend out of it. It's also the day most Italians put up their Christmas trees  and arrange  their  Presepe.  As of this very moment, our fake tree is out of the box, constructed and lights are on.  I have a feeling the rest of the process will get done tomorrow. But.. we're almost there! And on the right day too. 

So, are we ready to take a peek behind door #8? 

I decided to stay in Campo Santa Margherita again today. 

Say hello to my favorite fishmongers (peschivendolo in Italian) - Gianni, Paolo and Riccardo.  

Gianni, Paolo and Riccardo in Campo Santa Margherita

This family has been selling in one of the few areas of Venice where fish vendors were located for hundreds of years. Right in the campo. Every day, Tuesday through Saturday, they set up shop.  That's my salmon Riccardo is holding in the photo (eaten tonight for dinner and it was yummy). I love that they will prepare the fish any way I ask. They even peel and clean my shrimp! Who could ask for better service? 

Ricardo with rhombo
Riccardo holding up a huge flounder (rombo) for us.

With the number of Venice residents declining rapidly, we're happy to see our favorites still in business.  Should you be in the neighborhood, stop by to say hello. Better yet, if you are renting an apartment, be adventurous and buy some local fish to make for your diner! 

Here's the link to my Countdown to Christmas 2014 post for Day 8 Glass Ornaments!

I promise, tomorrow we're not going to be in Campo Santa Margherita again. I'll leave you guessing what I have up my sleeves for you, though!

Today's Advent calendar thanks to  The Crafty Blog stalker. Great use of old toilet paper rolls. Ingenious! 

A domani!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style- Day 7

                                                            Stars. One of the great ideas for advent calendar:

Ciao tutti!

Once again, I have to begin with a huge "Grazie mille". The response to this series has been overwhelming, the blog has record page views this week. I love reading all of your comments, so please keep them coming.

And I love the advent calendar I chose for today. I only wish they had included a little footstool or ladder so this cutie pie could reach the very top pockets! Being short myself, I can empathize with her.

Are we ready to crack open door #7?  I know I am!

Today we're visiting a spot very dear to my heart, close to where we used to live over in the Santa Croce district. But we're stopping just 1 bridge short of Santa Croce, ending in Campo Santa Margherita instead.  If you are a regular reader of my blog you are well aware of my attachment to this campo. If not, then you will be shortly!

Campo Santa Margherita, the heartbeat of the Dorsoduro district, is home of one of our favorite places, Imagina Cafe.  I know, I have been featuring artisans of Venice on my advent calendar posts so far, and you are probably scratching your heads wondering why I'm mentioning a cafe today instead.  I promised I'd focus on people in this Advent Calendar instead of things, and I can't think of any better place to introduce you to some of our favorite people.

Remember that TV show Cheers? The place where everybody knows your name? Well, in Venice, Imagina Cafe is that place. You come in the front door and there is always a happy "Ciao" for you, and a smile. It's your home away from home, your second family.  And trust me, when you are a foreigner trying to make a life in a country far, far from home, you need that. These people have been our second family since the day we arrived in Venice, 9 years ago.  

Domenico and Ramona
Here's Dominico and Ramona

stefano and jacopo
and absent this morning while I was snapping photos were Stefano and Jacopo. (  recent photos courtesy of http://iaindeau.blogspot.it/)

IMagina cafe

If you want to get an up close and personal experience with the locals, this is the place to be. If you need a spot to duck away from a busy day full of Venice sightseeing, this is the place.  If you want one of THE best spots to people watch, grab a seat at one of the outdoor tables. If you want a drink and one of the BEST tramezzini (Venetian sandwich) in town, this is the spot.  

Their walls also host the work of local artists, so you're getting a little dose of culture as a bonus. (And you never know if there will be one of those local artists sitting at the next table- some famous, some not so much).

Oops...almost forgot....Imagina Cafe is home to some of the most decadent hot chocolate with Whipped cream. Must have. 

 And just say Karen sent you. 

Imagina Cafe, Rio Tera Canal, Dorsoduro 3126

The link to my Countdown to Christmas 2014 Day 7 blog, just click here

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style - Day 6

Mini Felt Stockings Advent Calendar from Garnet Hill.com $78.00 Embroidered with white numbers:

Ciao tutti!

One of my friends here in Venice came up with a very unique Advent calendar this year. I can't help myself, I have to share it here.  Thanks, Paolo. 

24 days of beer advent calendar

Brilliant idea, isn't it? 

Now, back to what is in store behind door #6. 

Today, I'm taking you on a walk to Rialto Bridge to meet a friend, Marco Jovon. Marco and his family have operated a jewellery shop on the bridge since 1934, first opened by Marco's grandfather. 

Jovan cameo shop on Rialto bridge

Walk into Gioielleria Eredi Jovon and you are walking into a unique part of Venice's past and present.  The tradition started by Marco's grandfather, continued on by his father Bruno is now proudly carried on by Marco, his mother Gabriella and the rest of the family. 

Cameos by Jovan

But Jovon's isn't just any ordinary jewellery shop. Marco hand carves exquisite one-of-a-kind cameos. At the shop you will find many works of art of Marco's own design, or you can request a custom design just for you.  

Marco and Giorgio

Marco and Giorgio, always ready to greet you with a smile.

Jovan cameo

example of cameo caving

tools for carving cameos

The ancient tools for cameo engraving are still in use today.

shell used for cameos

Amazing, cameos all start from a shell similar to this one. 

Blue cameo Jovan
photo www.eredijovon.com
One of Marco's latest creations, a blue cameo with woman at the Rialto bridge.

Inside the shop  a small cameo museum displays an unusual collection of family pieces. Jovon also sells other types of jewellery, including corals and Murano glass. 

I'm honored to be able to share another wonderfully talented Venetian artisan with you as part of my Countdown to Christmas, Venice style.  Hopefully, as you are walking over the famous Rialto bridge you will take a minute to stop in to meet Marco and his family, and perhaps take home a special cameo too. 

 You can find Gioielleria Eredi Jovon, San Marco 5325, on the Rialto Bridge.
For more information check out their website http://www.eredijovon.com/en/ or like their page on Facebook. Marco has written an ebook about cameos which is available for download on the website. 

To see my Countdown to Christmas 2014 - Day 6 post,  Just click here.  It's one of my favorite posts from that year - lucious cioccolata calda con panna (hot chocolate with creme)! Makes me want some right now. 

Today's advent calendar thanks to digsdigs.com.

Have a favorite post so far in this series?  Which Advent calendar did you like best? Suggestions?  I'd love to see your comments, so please leave a note for me in the comments section here. 

Ciao, Ciao!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Countdown to Christmas 2016, Venice Style- Day 5

8 Calendarios de adviento DIY - srta limón:

Ciao tutti!

Welcome back!  First things first, I must thank each and every one of you for reading along as I countdown to Christmas. My blog has experienced record traffic this week over the last 4 days. Wow.  I am overwhelmed and just so grateful. 

I've been thinking what I would put into each of the little boxes of this advent calendar.  I'm pretty certain my choice would be a few delicious truffles in each box, each a day a different flavor. Wouldn't be too hard, I seem to love every kind of truffle I've ever had. Yes, truffles would do very nicely. 

In the previous days, I've introduced you to artisans who practice their crafts to keep Venetian traditions alive.  Today I'm introducing you to someone who is responsible for creating a Venetian landmark.  

Ready for today's reveal?  Drum roll, maestro, if you will.....

Luigi Frizzo at Acqua Alta book store
Meet Luigi Frizzo
We're back in Castello again today, at the  Libreria Acqua Alta. Luigi Frizzo's unusual and world famous haven for book lovers is tucked into an old warehouse in Campiello del Tintor, a few minutes off Campo Santa Maria Formosa. 
front entrance to Acqua Alta book shop

There's no bell for us to ring or "door" to use to gain access to this hidden paradise. Instead you just walk in the entrance, which has racks of  books, cards, maps and assorted postcards spilling out into the campiello.  Once you've made your way inside, you are usually greeted by both Luigi and a cat or two. 

While the shop itself, jammed to the rafters with new and used books, is something to marvel at, it's the owner who makes this place the gem that it is. Luigi opened the shop 15 yrs ago, and continues to add features to the shop each year. Books are stored in a variety of boats and bathtubs, even a gondola, in order to keep them up out of "Acqua Alta", high water.  Books that are unserviceable, such as old encyclopedias and waterlogged reference books, have been "re-used" to make stairs in the courtyard, or to line the walls of the rear entryway of the shop. 

Water door of Acqua Alta book shop

While the water door is not the main entrance to the book shop, it probably is it's most recognizable feature. This doorway appears in countless photos all over the internet. Luigi's shop is listed as one of the 10 most unique bookshops in the world. After having visited the shop you'll understand exactly why it holds that distinction. 

Acqua Alta courtyard stairs

Go ahead, I know you want to. "Follow the books".

interior Acqua alta book shop

side entrance acqua alta bookshop

main room acqua alta bookshop

This shop is all Luigi's creation-  his dream, his child,  his labor of love, his gift to Venice. 

Definitely put the Libreria Acqua Alta on your list of places to discover the next time you are in Venice. But don't just go to see the books. Please, go to meet Luigi. The man is a legend. And yes, the shop does get high water inside it!

Libreria Acqua Alta, Castello 5167 ,Campiello del Tintor. 

And once again, the link to Countdown to Christmas 2014- Day 5.  It's Italian Christmas carols!

Today's advent calendar thanks to Bloglovin'

A domani!!