Stella di Natale: December wears red in Venice

A dicembre Venezia si veste di rosso: December brings red accents to Venice, as the Stella di Natale plants take over, and Christmas decorations are put in place: Already in the first days of December you notice that Christmas is coming nearer by the advent of this plant with lush red leaves, brightening up shops and windows. Now it is not just the green patches of gardens, from altane to balconies, terraces and window gardens, that bring color to our campi e calli in Venice, but it is the flaring reds of Stella Natale (euphorbia) taking center stage.

Lush green plants on our house’s terrace in December, overlooking a small garden

Don’t expect Venetians to shut off their outdoor flowers in December – no, shrubs and flower pots are usually there all year long, though the pomegranate, tangerine and orange trees on our terrace may be protected from cooler days and particularly nights by means of plastic sheets. Oleanders remain there, unprotected from cooler salty mists coming in from the open sea, and just on some particularly cold nights, the typical winter flower pots of red and purple cyclamen may be brought in for the night, and are then returned to their sunny spots on the following day in the late morning. Coming back to the Stella di Natale plants …

Our stella di natale – growing new red leaves as it is time to get ready for Christmas. We do not throw away these plants, but try to make them feel fine in the hot Venice summer on a quiet place where they can enjoy the morning sun
Stella di Natale pride – red spot in our hallway

… in December, you can find them everywhere in Venice, not only in homes, but in shop windows, in particular those belonging to pasticcerie and restaurants. Though, as you can see above, there are some window sills brightened up by these colorful plants of Mexican origin all year round ..

December sun rays – lights fall upon the quiet rio del Rimedio
December window garden: details of flowering shrubs (gerani) overlooking Fondamenta del Rimedio

I find the first two weeks of December in Venice particularly restful: there are less people around town, and one can walk for hours on end, though feet can become quite cold by then. Anyone coming to Venice at this time of the year can take the opportunity to unwind, and you could do this by going for a quiet walk of discovery to see what gardens and flowers look like in December. And then get ready for the contrast of the festive red and colorful Christmas decorations. You could start your stroll in lively Campo San Filippo e Giacomo, in the early afternoon sun light (no, it is not always foggy!!) and then continue towards Calle del Rimedio, crossing Campo San Giovanni Novo.

Campo San Giovanni Novo, a quiet campo, a few guest houses opened here some years ago
Sun blinds may even be necessary in December when the early afternoon sun lights up the houses and a wonderfully overgrown terrace just below (Campo San Giovanni Novo)
Detail of Campo San Giovanni Novo, from where a sottoportego (archway) leads to Fondamenta del Rimedio

I love Calle del Rimedio because of its dream-like twists and turns of the narrow canal running alongside, opening up to a bacino at one corner. At the other end is Campo Querini Stampaglia.

View towards the Rio del Rimedio, from the calm waters of the bacino
Secret twists and turns in sestiere di Castello, Rio del Rimedio
Bright December afternoon along Fondamenta del Rimedio

And then, all of a sudden, dusk and fog sets in just after four o’clock, with street lights being slowly turned on. Back in the San Marco district, you are in for quite a change: busy streets, lined with shops, pasticcerie and restaurants, brightly decorated with – greens and reds – and Stella di Natale ..

Dusk is slowly setting in …
… and all resemblance to summer is fast disappearing. Now you are in Calle Specchieri, and are looking at the windows of the restaurant Antico Pignolo
… embellished by red Christmas decorative elements
… and loads of Christmas delicacies and oranges now coming in sweet and ripe from Southern Italy …
It is here that you could stop and enjoy a marvelous risotto ai tartufi at the end of a quiet December afternoon.

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