Sunday, December 23, 2012

Buying a Christmas Tree in Venice

The boy rode the scooter to school, the Christmas tree rode it home
"We need a mototopo," was the first thing Sandro said after agreeing that we should buy a Christmas tree on our way home from his school last week. A mototopo is one of the very long work boats you see carrying pallets of groceries, or a mountain of bulging hotel laundry bags, or wheel barrows, cement and other construction materials around the city.

Sandro has become very Venetian in that he truly, fervently believes that everything one needs to do should be done in one's own boat, and that for every job or even errand there is an appropriate boat.

I told him that a small outboard motor boat would be plenty big enough for the size of tree we could fit into our living room, but he brushed this off. I was missing the point. He announced: "Nonno Pietro (the grandfather of his friend) would use a mototopo."

"But he has a trasporti business," I replied. "We don't even have a small boat of our own."

Which, blatantly true though it is, was still the wrong thing to say.

"Ahhhh," he began, slipping into the whiney pleading reserved by other kids in other locales for kittens or puppies or bunnies, "when are we going to get a boat? We need a boat..."

I assured him the vaporetto would work perfectly well for the tree we were going to buy. Again he looked at me like I was clearly, stupidly missing the point, but I cut him off before he could get started again: "Talk to your mother about it," I told him, "okay? We just need to get a tree today."

There aren't really many places to buy a Christmas tree in Venice. Florist shops often stock a couple, and that's where we bought a tree--actually, a prickly little evergreen bush--the first Christmas we were here.

There's a large tree lot set up for the season on the edge of a park on Via Sandro Gallo on Lido--and that's where we bought our tree last year.

And there's the well-known seasonal lot beside the Church of San Felice on Strada Nova where we bought our tree this year.

Coming from New York, where fresh tree lots crowd the sidewalks all over the city, I was initially surprised that there were so few places to buy trees here. But the fact is, while practically every Venetian we know has a tree (some have two), they are all artificial. There's probably some cultural significance in the contrasting preferences of Venetians for artificial trees and most New Yorkers for real ones, but I'll leave that as a subject of rumination for someone else. It's the holiday season, there's too much else to be done.

I wonder if at some point Sandro himself, influenced by the traditions of his classmates and friends, will himself suggest that we buy an artificial tree.

In any case, lacking not only a mototopo but even the humblest of personal boats, we transported our tree con radici (with roots; that is, potted) on Sandro's scooter to the vaporetto stop at Ca' d'Oro, and on the vaporetto home.

To my great relief, we were early enough in the afternoon that the vaporetto was not crowded, and Sandro was so excited to have the tree--though it may not have been exactly the right type by most Venetians' standards--that he didn't complain about the totally inappropriate manner in which we were transporting it home.

I considered this an early gift.


  1. Oh to be in Venice at Christmas! Small tree, big tree...the trees of others...just to feel a Venetian Christmas. Frankly being in Venice anytime sounds lovely.

    I'm back visiting blogs after a long needed break from blogland. I do enjoy yours....

    One year since my visit to Venice and so enjoy your photos and words.

    Happy Holidays and enjoy decorating your little tree!

    1. Thank you Ellen for you very kind comments and wishes, I'm sorry to be so long in replying but by the time I've finished putting up a couple of posts since this one I find I'm due somewhere else or to do something else.

      I hope you've been having a good holiday season and wish you a wonderful 2013!

  2. I love this post! Sandro really is becoming Venetian, isn't he?

    Speaking of vaporetti, I have found them to be quite empty this year considering it is the holidays. The calli are fairly empty as well. I wonder if this will change for New Years?

    1. Sometimes more of a Venetian, Susie, than is comfortable to bear! Now that I've taken so long to reply, I suspect you've noticed yourself how the vaporetti are filling up. Though since so many Venetians leave town at this time of year, I've found myself on the 4.2 line, for example, with every single seat occupied by a tourist. It's a little strange.

  3. Hope you're having a cozy holiday around that tree. What a great kid. Thinking of you three, as we enjoy Liam and Ollie today, and of course admire the tree.

    1. Finally, Linda, I get around to saying that the holiday was nice & cozy around the tree, and I hope yours was as well. It would have been nice to somehow see the 3 boys together. Hope you all have a happy New Year's Eve & day & a lively--but not too lively--2013.

  4. I was also passing by this Christmas tree market in Cannaregio and even took a photo - with a memory cards' capacity of storing more than 2 000 good-resolution images I wasn't hesitating and abstainibg, never:)

    Do you show your son the movies with a more...classic Christmas? These with lot's of snow, etc?

    1. This year, Sasha, he's been watching classic Christmas cartoons or stop-motion "specials" that used to be on once a year when I was a kid--in those primitive pre-VCR days (at least in the house I grew up in): FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, narrated by Jimmy Durante; SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN, narrated by Fred Astaire, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE XMAS, with Boris Karloff; A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. Are these ones you know also?

      Happy new year!

    2. Happy New Year!

      Of course, the films we saw were very different. Most of them were some folksy fairy tales - like this one:

    3. That's an interesting review, Sasha. Maybe I'll see if I can find a copy of that film. Thanks.

      And Happy New Year to you!