Various traditions are part of this festa…walking across the votive bridge, of course, and lighting candles inside La Salute, and buying balloons for the kiddies.
It’s also the only time of year when they open the main doors of the church, and it’s such an amazing sight when you walk in through those rather than the side doors open the rest of the year. I took this photo early Sunday morning before the crowds and the torrential rain came.
Most of the time when you visit this church, the central floor under the dome is roped off, but during the festa, the ropes were gone. I’d read somewhere that it’s good luck to touch your foot to the central circle right under the dome, and when I saw other people doing it, I had to do it too. The inscription around the circle reads Unde Origo Inde Salus (whence the origin, thence the salvation and health), a reference to the belief that Venice’s very origins are connected to the Virgin (legend has it that Venice was founded on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) in 421).
Castradina is one tradition that I skipped. It’s a mutton and cabbage stew, and during the week of the festa, many osterie around town had signs advertising it. Even La Zucca had it on their menu. During the 18 months of plague in 1630-31 when Venice was under quarantine, this was all they had to eat. I had to pass on this. Even if I still ate meat, I’m not sure I would have been up for this stew!
Also traditional are the nuns outside selling holy water. I learned about this from TrekCapri’s blog when she attended the Festa della Salute a few years ago. I got a bottle of it, brought it home, and then realized, I have no clue what you’re supposed to do with holy water! Am I supposed to drink it? Pour it on my head? Maybe one of my Catholic friends can help me out with this. :) I love the bottle (it’s marked at the bottom that it’s holy water from Lourdes).
Back to the bridge….last week I bought a copy of this special edition of National Geographic. Fantastic photos and great reading. There’s a photo in there of a temporary pontoon bridge built across the Ganges for the Hindu festival, the Kumbh Mela. Very cool. I love traditions that cross faiths and cultures like that. And really, the votive bridge was my favorite part of the Festa della Salute even though I'm not completely sure why.