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The best guide to an off-season vacation in Venice in November
Venice in November may seem hostile to someone expecting perfect Italian sunshine and happiness, but there is a way to find magic in the coziness of Autumn.
November in Venice means: fog, acqua alta, La Salute festival with all of its small-town-magic, the first mulled wine of the season and hot chocolate, a lot of rain and umbrellas, the closing of the Biennale Exhibition, early darkness, the first Christmas lights, and probably one of the very few times during the year when the streets are quiet and there are very few tourists.
Visiting Venice is always a good idea, even for just a couple of days in November.
Venice is a city made of majestic palaces, intricate canals and narrow streets to get lost into. The whole area of Venice and its lagoon has been declared a UNESCO Heritage site, for multiple reasons. So there is no wrong time of year to visit and learn more about its history.
But if you are traveling to Venice in November, keep in mind that you might encounter some acqua alta, rain, or both.
Acqua alta, rain and fog can be difficult but also interesting when it comes to the photographic perspective. The fog enveloping all monuments is fascinating and extremely romantic when used as a background for couple photographs. A couple photoshoot in November is always a good way to make memories in Venice.
Now let me answer some of the questions you might have when you are planning to visit Venice in November:
What is unique about visiting Venice in November?
- The first reason to visit Venice in November is the relative peace you will encounter. Less tourists around, more Venetians. You will be able to take your time and enjoy the iconic monuments, museums and locations all around the city without the summer crowds. At this time of the year you are more likely to strike a conversation with a local, and see the true spirit of the city.
- November is cold, but you still have a chance to find a good sunny day. The fog is completely normal at this time of the year, especially in the early morning and after sunset. It feels like living in a dream. And it looks great in pictures.
- Acqua alta: the water is generally on a higher level, so you will have a chance to experience the phenomenon of acqua alta. You can find more information on the acqua alta forecast and what to do in case of acqua alta at this website.
- As the holiday season approaches, Venice celebrates some of its most important festivities such as All Saints’ Day, San Martino and Festa Della Salute on November 21st.
What’s the weather like in November in Venice?
Venice in November can be very cold, rainy and humid. With highs of 12°C and lows of 5°C, the city is in full Autumn and you can expect near-freezing nights and a quite a few rainy days. When you book a photoshoot in November in Venice with me, we will have to make sure that you have a change of shoes if you want to have heels, and a coat, especially if we meet in the early morning. We will also check out the weather forecast for rain (if it rains, the photos can still be magical, don’t worry) and acqua alta. In case of acqua alta you might want to buy some boots and we can work around that to create unique portraits on the water.
Best Things To Do In Venice In November
- Visit all of the best museums in Venice with peace and ease.
At this time of the year, in November in Venice, you will not find excessive queues. The basics are: Doge’s Palace, Saint Mark’s Basilica and Accademia if you are interested in learning more about the history of Venice; Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi if you want to see the best contemporary art selection. The Biennale Exhibition is also very important and it closes at the end of November, so this is your last chance to see it.
- Plan a photoshoot in Venice.
Having a photo session in Venice in November is not only a way to bring special memories home, but it can also be a creative way to make memories. My offerings as a photographer in Venice are dedicated to couples, solo travelers, and families. The editorial photoshoot is the most exclusive of my services and it focuses on creating together a visual narrative that tell your story. Larger-than-life landscapes, impeccable styling and authentic love stories as unique as the couples telling them, imagery that’s full of life and adventure. The result are photos fit for the pages of a magazine. If you need some more reasons to do it, check out my journal post on the subject.
- Try some of the best restaurants in Venice and enjoy the best service.
November is the perfect time to enjoy the coziness of an osteria in Venice: great wines, great food and much more ease when it comes to booking. Some of the best restaurants in Venice are: Ristorante Quadri, Al Covo, Osteria Do Spade, Osteria alle Testiere, La Zucca (recommended for those of you looking for vegetarian options).
- Experience the magnificence of Italian Opera at Teatro La Fenice.
Experiencing a show or two at Teatro La Fenice is highly recommended. The theatre isn’t just loaded with architectural gems, it also has wonderful acoustics. Teatro La Fenice is the cultural center of the city. The name of the theater has the word “phoenix” in it as it was rebuilt from ashes twice during its existence. The theatre has once hosted the likes of Verdi, Donizetti, Abbado, Muti and Chung, Rossini, Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti, and Bellini. You can buy a ticket for an evening show, or you can also book a tour of the theater to learn more about its history.
- Explore the canals with a gondola ride
The city of Venice is lined with serpentine canals. To see the city of Venice while sitting in a gondola is an unmissable experience that takes you back in time. A gondola is made of 280 hand-made pieces using eight types of wood (lime, oak, mahogany, walnut, cherry, fir, larch and elm). The process takes about two months. The uniqueness of the gondola includes its being asymmetrical along the length making the single-oar propulsion more efficient. This unique boat is one of the most recognizable symbols of Venice.
Calendar of Events in Venice in November
Visiting Venice in November means visiting off-season, far from the crowds and the biggest events. But it doesn’t mean that there are no events in the city! Some of the most important religious events are celebrated in Venice in November. As a tourist, these events can be an interesting way to see how Italians live.
– All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on November 1st and 2nd
You will have the chance to see the most unique cemetery in the world, the island of San Michele, around the days of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
All Saints’ Day, or Ognissanti in italian, is a day when everyone gathers to celebrate the saints. It originated in the 3rd or 4th Century with Pope Gregory IV making it a catholic holiday in 835AD. Church bells will call everyone to church, and throughout the day families get together and share a meal.
The following day is All Souls’ Day , Giorno dei Morti. Families visit the graves of their loved ones, cleaning them and praying. A place is often laid at the table for those who have passed away or even a glass of water for them to drink. This is because some people believe that there is a strong connection between the living and the dead on this day.
This celebration is deeply ingrained in the Italian history and as with all Italian traditions, every region has developed their own customs.
In the Veneto region, as with any festival worth celebrating, food is at the heart of it all and despite having drifted slightly from the original recipes, the concepts are still the same (see Fave dei morti in the Food Section of this Article).
– Festa di San Martino on November 11th
San Martino or St Martin was a military man who was an early convert to Christianity.
Festa di San Martino is celebrated throughout Italy on 11th November each year. Legend says that St Martin was a soldier riding his horse through a city, in the depths of winter, when he saw a poor man, dressed in rags and begging.
Martin’s response to this man’s situation was to cut his cloak in half and give half of his cloak to the frozen man. A simple act of kindness and generosity.
That night Martin had a dream: Jesus appeared before him wearing the exact same military cloak that Martin had cut in half to give to the poor man. Martin then converted to Christianity and went on to become the third Bishop of Tours, in France, that is why he is known as St Martin of Tours.
In Venice the tradition of San Martino has developed into a fun day for the local children.
The bakeries and pastry shops all make beautifully decorated biscuits in the shape of a man on a horse. The man is of course San Martino. These large biscuits are elaborately covered with sweets, chocolate coins and icing sugar.
On the feast day of San Martino the children of Venice walk all over the city visiting local shops and requesting sweets as a gift. It looks like Halloween, with the addition of pots and pans that kids carry around and bang to make noise. In the days leading up to 11th November the shop windows are filled with these colourful and joyous displays.
– Festa della Salute on November 21st
Festa Della Salute commemorates the end of deadly 1630 plague that had wiped out nearly 33% of Venice’s population.
The festival honors the ex-voto made by doge Contarini in 1630. The Doge vowed to erect a solemn temple if the city had survived the disease. A few weeks after, the epidemic started to decrease until it finally stopped in November 1631.
The final count was of about 50,000 deaths in the city alone and almost 100,000 in the whole Venetian territory. The Basilica, designed by Baldassare Longhena (who also built Ca’ Rezzonico and Ca’ Pesaro), was consecrated in 1687.
Venetians celebrate the occasion by taking a pilgrimage walk across the Grand Canal over a temporary bridge made of boats.
Once inside the Church of Santa Maria Della Salute they will also light a candle and say a prayer. This day, November 21st, is a public holiday in Venice, that’s why everybody participates. It is a celebration that shows you the real Venice and it feel like a small town carnvival: there are food stands, little shops, mulled wine and cotton candy for the kids.
What to eat and drink in Venice in November
The pillars of Venetian cuisine to try in November and any other month
In the Veneto region unlike other parts of Italy, pasta is not the staple – that role is played by the double act of polenta and rice. You can find yellow and white polenta, served as a side dish for meat in its liquid form, or in its hard form, sliced and toasted. Risotto is a very common first course in Veneto, and it is commonly fish risotto in Venice.
Many of Venezia’s traditional dishes are fish-based.
Bigoli in salsa (pasta in an anchovy sauce), risotto al nero di seppia (risotto cooked with cuttlefish ink) and sarde in saor (sardines preserved in a sweet and sour marinade) are amongst the most famous dishes. A very unique recipe is moeche: fried small green crabs fished out of the lagoon in the spring, when they moult and lose their shell.
Ironically, for a region with a large coast, baccalà, dried fish from the north Atlantic, is very popular. In baccalà mantecato, it’s soaked, cooked in milk and then pounded with olive oil to make a kind of pâté, eaten with disks of white or yellow polenta.
Risi e bisi is a kind of risotto made from peas and pancetta. Pasta e fasioi is a winter warming dish consisting of a bean soup with small pieces of pasta in it.
Most people in Venice enjoy a glass of wine after work with a couple of cichèti.
Cicheti are small plates served in bacari, the city’s traditional wine bars. Anything you can eat while standing with a glass in your hand is a cicheto.
Mozzarella in carozza (deep fried mozzarella sandwiches) are a local speciality, with the best ones said to come from the Rosticceria Gislon in Venice.
Among the most famous Venetian desserts are fritoe, a kind of donut made during the carnival season and pinza, a pudding made from dried bread, milk, sugar and sultanas. Baicoli are a kind of thin biscuit, often eaten dipped in coffee with zabaglione or crema al mascarpone (cream cheese mixed with sugar, eggs, and rum).
Autumn delicacies to try when you are visiting Venice in November
On the occasion of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, you can eat ‘fave dei morti’ (beans of the dead) a sweet almond biscuit made in three different colours. Legend has it that Fava beans, which the almond biscuits are supposed to represent, were a direct line of communication between the world of the living and dead.
Secondly, the‘Cotognata sweets’. They can be described as a sort of crystalised quince jelly, made of an apple-pear fruit. We recommend finding them at Mascari, the last spice shop in Venice, by the Rialto Market.
Around November 11th you will find all bakeries and pastry shops filled with San Martino cakes, large biscuits elaborately covered with sweets, chocolate coins and icing sugar.
Tips for visiting Venice in November
- Bring shoes that can resist water. You are probably going to encounter some rain, or acqua alta at some point during your trip, so be prepared.
- Note that November 1st is a public holiday in Venice for All Saints’ Day. Some services might be unavailable.
- If you get to Venice via plane, once you are at Marco Polo Airport remember to buy 48hours, or 72hours travel tickets: this will give you access to all transport networks in the city. You don’t need the vaporetto (waterbus) everyday if you are staying in the main island of Venice, but you need them if you want to explore Murano, Burano and Giudecca.
- If you are looking for a coffee, be aware that in Venice there are two ways to have coffee. Since coffee is seen as a necessity, and espresso if a very short coffee, most Italians will have it while standing at the bar. If you want to sit down and sip it, remember the the pricing will be different.
- If you want to keep warm during a long day in Venice, taste some hot chocolate, or mulled wine in November to make the best of the extreme weather.
- Look for deals on hotel and flight rates as November is not a peak tourist season.
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