The Festa della Salute is probably the least “touristy” of the Venetian festivities, as it is for the Redentore (Redeemer), and evokes strong religious feelings among the city’s inhabitants,
Every year, thousands of Venetians visit the main altar of the imposing Salute Church on November 21th to give thanks and light candles to the to the Madonna Mesapanditta. A temporary bridge is built on boats crossing the Grand Canal, connecting the area of S. Maria del Giglio (in the Saint Mark neighbourhood) with Longhena’s basilica (in the Dorsoduro neighbourhood).
In 1630, the plague (narrated by Alessandro Manzoni in his The Bethroted) gripped the North of Italy and Doge Nicolò Contarini made a public vow to erect a church called the Salute, asking for the Virgin Mary’s divine intercession to rid the city of the plague. Only in these days you can find the “Castradina S’ciavona” a tribute to the loyalty of the Dalmatians who, during Venice’s long plague-induced isolation, were the only state to provide Venice with food. However, they could only bring what they had to hand: mutton, which was readily available in that region. And so during those seemingly never-ending eighteen months of isolation the Venetians ate almost nothing else. This is why, in memory of that trying time, the tradition of eating castradina on November 21th is maintained to this day.