Monday, July 30, 2012

Sagra di Santa Marta

Santa Marta band Ska J entertains the crowd with its love song to the neighborhood
The Santa Marta section of Dorsoduro, just a short distance from where all the big ships dock, is both one of the most and least Venetian sections of the city. Except for the marvelous and moody and ancient church of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli, most famous from its appearance in the 1973 film Don't Look Now, it's not the picturesque postcard Venice tourists come to see. It's best known for its low income housing, not its palazzi, which is why it's exactly the place to go for a break from tourists.

The dinner crowd just beginning to arrive
It was once an infamously rough neighborhood, and until recently wasn't someplace Venetians liked to visit after dark. But this area, once considered strictly for i popolari (or working class), has been becoming more and more popular. Ca' Foscari has classrooms in the area now, and a great new little theater--which is a pleasure to see live performances in (my post of April 18 has images from a recent show, according to friends who live nearby, it's proximity to Piazzale Roma has made it a desirable location for white collar commuters to the mainland.
Looking toward the bandstand

In other words, I wouldn't be surprised if whatever the Italian term for "gentrification" is starts to be thrown around. But this past weekend the neighborhood held its first ever Sagra di Santa Marta, and from the panel discussion about the Big Ships that preceded dinner on Saturday night to the bands that played afterward it was a distinctly local affair. (The air pollution produced by the docked big ships is the equivalent of having a few parking lots filled with idling cars situated nearby.)
So for those of you who may be making a mental list of feste and sagre to attend on your next summer visit to Venice, this one is a worthy addition. Here's hoping this year's is the first of many.
A view from the Rio dell' Arzero of the bandstand and, in the distance, the food & drink area
More pictures of the sagra and a report in Italian may be found at the Allogia Barbaria Blog at, which notes that the festivities seemed entirely tourist-free.


  1. I was just musing about Santa Marta this weekend! I want to check out the Monday market there on our next trip.

    Yvonne wrote a fun blog post about a Santa Marta Ska J song.

    1. I just learned about that market while we were at the sagra, somebody told me about how it had formerly been at Piazzale Roma but was thriving since being moved to Santa Marta. I'll also have to check it out.

      I think I remember Yvonne's Ska J post, as I think it must be where I first heard that song. I thought of her at the sagra. I was happy they did that song, but was hoping they'd also do "So Figo"--but they didn't. As there was another band after them, they didn't play as long as I would've liked.

  2. After I read this blog post, I watched "So Figo" on You Tube!

    Let us know how the market is, glad to gear it is thriving.

    1. I will let you know about the market when we get to it.

      If you liked "So Figo," you may be interested in a new video from Ska J filmed on Vignole. I learned about it because the vice-president of our rowing club appears in it. It even has sub-titles! Here's the link:

  3. This is so cool! I was just recently researching the church of Santa Marta - one of my books said that for centuries, the church sponsored an annual festa on the eve of Santa Marta's feast day (July 29). This was a neighborhood where poor fisherman lived but even the Venetian aristocrats would come to this festa in their boats to eat fresh fish on the beach. I'm glad they've revived it!

    Can't wait to hear more about the market. Thanks for sharing this.