food and wine,  travel,  Veneto

A Venetian Holiday: Wine, Food, Tradition

Sagre, Mercati, Cibo e Vino in Veneto 

Mercatini di Natale, Verona

Veneto, also known as Venezia, is the beautiful region in northeast Italy,
bordering Austria & Slovania, and extending from the Dolomites to the Adriatic Sea.  The Veneto has 7 provinces: Belluno, Padua, Rovigo, Treviso, Venice,  Verona and Vicenza. Venice (Venezia), of course, is the regional capital city, which is also appropriately referred to as the “City of Water” or “Floating City,” due to its islands and Grand Canal, and for being situated on the Venetian lagoon.  Venice, Verona, Vicenza and the Botanical Gardens in Padua are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  These are beautiful and outstanding places to see when visiting Veneto, but they are especially charming during the holiday season.

Celebrations, Feasts and Festivals

Mass at St. Marks Basilica, Venice-need we say more?  This is the grand Holiday Mass at the Duomo in Venice.
St. Marks Basilica, Venice (Duomo)
San Nicolo di Bari, (Babbo Natale, Santa Claus)

Festa di San Nicola di Bari takes place on Murano Island in Venice. This festival includes a procession on the water and celebrates San Nicola, known in Italy Babbo Natale, or as the original Santa Claus.  San Nicola di Bari is regarded as the patron saint to children, merchants, sailors and others, loved for his kindness and dedication and legendary gift-giving. La Chiesa San Nicolo al Lido is located in Venice and houses his remains.  San Nicola’s final resting place was in Bari, Italy, where there are other celebrations.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception– Traditionally celebrated December 8th throughout Italy, with feasts, parades and music. It was officially declared a Feast Day by Pius IX in 1854.
Fiere di Santa Lucia – Traditionally celebrated December 13th throughout Italy with parades and other festivities.  The one in the Veneto takes place in Verona’s Piazza Brà. St. Lucia or St. Lucy, is honored for ending the famine by arriving on a ship with grains. Therefore, grain dishes, such as Cuccia (soup), are traditionally eaten on this day.  Other traditions involve children leaving coffee for Santa Lucia, carrots for her donkey and wine for her escort.  Gifts are then left for the children by Santa Lucia the next morning. Hmm, sounds like Santa. 

Santa Lucia Markets & Festival, Piazza Brà

Natale in the Arena-Exhibits and global nativity scenes on display throughout the month in the Arena di Verona (Piazza Brà).
Arena di Verona
Murano Glass Christmas Tree-The tallest glass Christmas tree, found in Murano, which is known for the spectacular Murano glass. 
Murano Glass Christmas Tree

Murano Glass Decorations

Holiday Markets  

Asiago Christmas Market-The Asiago Christmas Garden celebrates just that-Asiago! There is cheese, toys, crafts, decorations, food and more, all sold in little wooden huts.
Cortina d’Ampezzo Christmas Market-Holiday market located on Via Corso, that has traditional crafts, exhibits, shops, mulled wines, roasted chestnuts, sweets, music and more.  Other things not to miss are Cortina Fashion Week, showcasing designer fashion in the exclusive shops and the Snowboardcross Europe Cup event in the surrounding Dolomites.
Cortina d’Ampezzo
Campo San Polo Christmas Markets-Markets selling wine and crafts, located in the heart of Venice, near the Rialto Bridge. Here you will also find the outdoor ice-skating rink for everyone, from the novice to the figure skater. 
Piazza Campo San Polo
Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt-Piazza dei Signori in Verona will feature beautiful German Christmas markets with food, crafts, decorations, gingerbread cookies, pastries, bratwurst, and other typical Bavarian-German fare. More markets are nearby Cortile Mercato Vecchio and Piazza del Tribunale, which have all types of traditional Venetian food, wine and gifts.
Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt
Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt (German Christmas Markets)
Bassano Grappa

Bassano del Grappa Market-Bassano del Grappa is on the foothills of Mount Grappa in Vicenza.  It is not only the home of Grappa, but also home to the Epiphany festival and markets.  Epiphany is a national holiday celebrated in Italy on January 6, based on the story of the three Magi who came to visit Jesus and offer up gifts. From that, La Befana was born, in which a woman flies in on a broomstick and brings gifts to children.  Both La Befana and San Nicola are honored in Italy.  In Bassano, the markets have chocolate, toys, food, crafts and everything that delights, including a carousel, skating rink and Lilliputian Train to transport everyone around.

Bassano del Grappa

 *Others holiday markets of note include the ones in Bussolengo (Flover), Belluno and Treviso.

Venetian Holiday Gastronomy
Although there may be some variation due to the varied geography of the Veneto (coast, mountains and plains), Venetian cuisine is characterized by polenta, risotto, grilled chicken, pork or beef, and of course, seafood, olive oil, garlic, and herbs. The holidays are no different, especially the winter holidays, which usually involve fish-based dishes, whether stewed, baked, grilled or fried.  Typical dishes are Risotto de Pevarasse (Venetian clams risotto) Branzino al forno (oven baked Branzino), Baccala’ Mantecata (salted codfish), Linguine alle Vongole (linguine and clams) or seafood and pasta. Antipasto is prepared with local meats and cheeses, but for the holidays, ossocollo (venetian sausage, made from the pigs neck) is often included. Typical desserts include tiramisu, panettone, pandoro and Mostarda con mascarpone. 
There are several great wines produced in the Veneto region, which is part of the Tre Venezie (Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Alto Adige and Trentino and Veneto). In terms of Venetian vino, the most notorious might be Amarone della Valpolicella, Valdobbiadene and Cornegliano Prosecco, Soave and Bardolino Superiore.  However, there are 13 DOCG’s, 26 DOC’s and several IGT wines in the Veneto.
The Wining Hour’s Venetian Holiday Selections:
We have several favorite wines in this region, but we decided to narrow it down for a feasible holiday celebration.

1. Nino Franco Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Rustico DOCG 

Nino Franco is one of the oldest wineries in the Valdobbiadene wine region. Rustico Prosecco Superiore is absolutely refreshing, creamy and delicious.  Lemon, apple, pair and white flowers on the nose, green apple and minerals on the palate. Very flavorful. 100% Glera grapes. Because we do enjoy Italian bubbly, we figured we’d pop another:

Altadonna Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG

Fresh, young and vibrant. Altadonna is extra dry with lemon and white peach on the nose and melon, peach and apple on the palate. This sparkling wine wakes up the palate with complex mineral notes. Smooth and refreshing. 100% Glera grapes.

Both proseccos would be delicious as an aperitivo, alone or paired with antipasto, mature and hard cheeses, fish, seafood and chicken.

2.  Borgo San Lorenzo Soave Classico 2012 DOC

Soave is one of Italy’s best known whites, and this one presents a good example.  Borgo San Lorenzo Soave Classico is clear to bright yellow in appearance.  It has lime, grapefruit and floral aromas aromas with zesty citrus, pear and melon on the palate. This Soave has a distinct minerality, which is no doubt due to its tuffaceous soil.  Borgo San Lorenzo blends Garganega and Trebbiano for this fruity and delicious Soave.  Soave pairs nicely with seafood, chicken, duck or pork.  We would pair it with an olive oil and herb roasted branzino or our favorite, linguine and clams.

3. We must preface #3 by mentioning how much we love Amarone.  However, Amarone can be expensive.  Here are two reasonable options:

Cantina Negrar Amarone della Valpolicella Classico la Tirela, 2012 DOCG

Made with Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella grapes, Cantina Negrar’s Amarone is a dark berry red in color, with intense red fruit aromas and notes of figs and coffee. Delicious tastes of cherry, cigar, black currant and chocolate caress the palate.  This Amarone is a heavy-hitter wine, concentrated, smooth and powerful. 15% ABV. Ready for another?

Antiche Terre Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
Antiche is another tasty Amarone. Made with Corvina Veronese and Corvinone Rondinella grapes, this Antiche is a full-bodied Amarone that tastes of plum, cherry and raspberries. 15% ABV.  Pairing options for Amarone are seafood or pastas in red sauces, grilled meats and hard cheeses.  Note that Valpolicella Ripsasso is yet another tasty option if you enjoy this wine.

4. A Venetian Grappa, such as the one listed above from Bassano.  No Italian meal is complete without grappa!
There you have it-traditions and simple wine and food pairings for a Venetian Holiday!

From a variety of holiday markets, nativity exhibits, concerts, shows, food and wine, the infamous Mass at St. Marks Basilica and more, the Veneto region is the place to be during the winter holiday season.  As a bonus, there are far less crowds in Veneto than in several other regions.

Have you experienced Venezia during the holidays?  Have you visited any other Italian regions during the Holiday season?   

Well, there are more Christmas and Italian holiday treasures to be discovered.  Join my fellow bloggers below and if you catch us in time, chat with us live on Twitter this Saturday December 3rd at 11am EST #ItalianFWT.

Vino Travels -Christmas in Molise

Feast on History – Feast of the Seven Fishes in Italy: Myth or Tradition?

Culinary Adventures of Camilla – Biscotti di Castagne + Vin Santo Dei Chianti

Avvinare – A Florentine Christmas

L’Occasion – 5 Italian Christmas Dishes and Wine Pairings

The Wining Hour – A Venetian Holiday: Wine, Food,Tradition

The Wine Predator – Italian Holiday Traditions Adapted to California Conditions: 3 dishes with wine

Next month Susannah from Avvinare will host coastal reds and whites along with foods and travel to coastal regions on January 7th. 

About The Wining Hour
The Wining Hour writes about wine, Italy and global travel.  The Wining Hour boutique caters to wine-lovers across the globe by offering all wine-related items.  The Wining Hour markets unique wine décor and furnishings, accessories, glassware, barware, wine racks, storage and cooling options, games, gifts and more. The Wining Hour also hosts #wininghourchat on Twitter (@wininghourchat) on Tuesday’s at 9 p.m. EST.(For more, see links at the top of this page)

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Planted, harvested and aged in NY. I have a background in education and marketing, with a love and passion for travel...and all things wine. In addition to writing about wine, I also maintain an online wine boutique ( that caters to the winelover, as well as the weekly vinous winechat (#WiningHourChat) on Twitter (see page for more info).

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