During the terrible plague that hit Europe between 1629 and 1633, Venice lost 12,000 out of its 150,000 citizens in only 17 months. Desperate, the Doge, Venice’s chief magistrate and leader, promised the Madonna to build her a church if she freed the city from the plague.
The church, with its elegant baroque forms, was built by the architect Baldassarre Longhena. Even today, a bridge of boats is set up to unite the banks of the Grand Canal, allowing the pilgrims to bring a candle to invoke the benevolence of the Madonna.
During the last four centuries, on this day Venetians eat a very special dish called the “castradina”, a hearty soup made of smoked and salted leg of lamb with cabbages, onions, and wine. This meat is typical from Dalmatia, one of the four historical regions of Croatia and is prepared in honor of their people who, in 1630 were the only ones to supply the city with food while it was isolated due to the plague.
This ancient dish has never been forgotten and is a big part of Venice’s great culinary tradition.