Glimpses of Christmas Past: Photos from Venice 2019

Joe and Patricia Gartman have spent the Christmas seasons from 2017 to 2019 in Italy. Here are photos from their time in Venice in 2019.

Christmas tree in front of Doges Palace, Venice

Those who are tasked with decorating Venice for Christmas have a challenging job: it’s difficult to park a boom lift in the middle of a street to hang lights if the street is made of water.

But more than that, Venice itself competes with any ornamentation. For example, when I saw the elegant tree in the Piazzetta, I thought it was a masterpiece of Christmas tree art, but my eyes kept straying to the seductively graceful façade of the Doges’ Palace behind it.

Arcade of the Procuratie Nuove with Christmas lights

I suppose that’s why the arcades surrounding three sides of Piazza San Marco featured subtle hanging strands of bright but monochrome lights behind their arches. Why gild the lily? Or, since that’s where we found Caffè Florian, why over-egg the pudding?


Meanwhile, on Campo Santi Filippo e Giacomo, the “Oldest Pizzeria in Venice,” the Conca d’Oro, abandoned all pretence of sophistication and created a vernacular art construction featuring Santa Claus on the balcony above their entrance.

Nativity scene in a lifeboat

And, on the deck of a historic cargo ship, we found the Holy Family sheltering in a lifeboat. The ship, the Nuovo Trionfo, is moored in front of the Old Customs House at Punta Dogana, at the mouth of the Grand Canal opposite the San Marco district.

Venice II Nuovo Trionfo moored at Dogana Point

It’s a trabaccolo, and the last of its kind. Such vessels were used to transport timber, grain, and other goods in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Its hull, masts, and rigging were lighted for Christmas by the volunteer organisation that has conserved the ship: Amici di Nuovo Trionfo. You can find them on Facebook. Nuovo Trionfo, by the way, means “New Triumph.”

San Giorgio Maggiore from Via Garibaldi

Finally, while looking at San Giorgio Island from the end of Via Garibaldi, we realised that sometimes, Venice requires only the most subtle of decoration.

Words by Joe Gartman, Photos by Patricia Gartman.

See more photos of Italy in our archive.