That Saturday night Venetians eat outside, preferably on water. On improvised tables made of wooden boards covered with tablecloths and placed on boats or along the quay, the traditional bean and pasta soup (pasta fagioli) will surely be served. Who knows why this modest dish is omnipresent on practically all festive menus here? There will be other Venetian specialties like bigoli in salsa, thick spaghetti in a brown sauce of stewed onions and anchovies, or duck ragout made of the lesser meat of the same duck that will be later eaten roasted as a main course. For starters, most probably sarde in saor, fried sardines marinated with onions and raisins… Wonderful evening, modest ingredients and strong tastes so favored in the Venetian cuisine! There is a chance for a touch of color if pepperonata of yellow and red peppers is served on the side along with stewed chanterelle mushrooms with parsley.

There will be plenty of wine – Venetians are easy and celebrate with the same wines they drink every day: the simplest wines from the Veneto region vineyards bought in small shops all over town and poured directly from the barrel into empty plastic mineral water bottles; red cabernet franc, merlot or slightly fizzy semi-dry raboso or rabosello, if white, then sparkling prosecco is a must and flat tai (which used to be called tocai) or pinot grigio which in Venice is closer to a rosé and never too dry. It is a long evening, generous dinner and wine substitutes water but nobody hurries back home before they eat a slice of watermelon big enough to serve an extended family.

Fireworks can be seen just as well from the land, though our hair won’t get sparkled with ashes. The higher, the better: from balconies, rooftops, and terraces of smaller houses or palaces and hotelson the Grand Canal. Venice, again, is democratic and the illuminated sky can be seen from the most remote places in the perimeter of the town. That is certainly one of the reasons why Venetians build and tend rooftop altanas: to see the sky and water too, as did Venetian merchants for ages. From their balconies, they watched their ships bringing goods from overseas. Palazzo Venier dei Leoni – once Peggy Guggenheim’s house and now a museum named after her – has only one floor and was never completed because the neighbors across the Canal, the Corner family did not want their view blocked. Whoever has a good balcony or an altana will not be alone on the night of the Redentore.

by Ewa Gorniak Morgan