Welcome to A Garden in Venice. Dive into the surprising story of the oldest garden in Venice, and discover the invisible city:
On this blog, in our ebooks and online classes, we open the doors to the other half of Venice, which I call the invisible city: Almost 50 percent of the city surface consist of private garden jewels, large and small, ranging from palace gardens to altane (roof gardens) to convent gardens. These green areas of Venice are mostly not open to the public.
Hiding behind red brick walls, these gardens are the backbone of Venetian heritage, providing all the ingredients Venetians used to create healing food, natural remedies and beauty products. This heritage was lost after the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797 and is relegated to forgotten book shelves. Just imagine, there are > 1 million books and documents to be rediscovered at the Venetian State Archive!
Time to lift the curtain on the invisible city and take in the true Venice. These gardens are the home of spice secrets and forgotten stories of Venice, the capital of Res Publica Veneta, a country whose heritage and significance for Europe is largely unknown and underestimated in our times.
Venice could never have existed without her orchards and spice (!!) gardens which helped the city to become largely self-sufficient. It was a challenge to create gardens on salt drenched islands in a Lagoon, as you will discover soon.
The oldest garden belonged to the nuns of San Zaccaria on the Ombriola island group. For more than 1300 years, it was called El Brolo, reaching from San Lorenzo to the banks of the Grand Canal beyond San Moisé.
Ombriola consisted of 19 islands located between today’s Riva degli Schiavoni, Campo della Bragora and also included San Lorenzo. It is as old as the Rialto area and was first settled by Byzantine merchants who arrived here from the grand port of the Lagoon, which was Torcello.
This blog is an atlas of the old world: We take you into the forgotten Venice, filled with fragrant spice gardens. During the times of La Serenissima (421-1797), Venice was as lush and green as the images we choose carefully for this blog.
In 1968, our grandmother Lina bought last of El Brolo garden on the grounds of the former monastery of San Zaccaria. She restored this verdant paradise when the nuns left the monastery in April 1968, and Venice was trying to get to grips with the after-effects of the grand flood of 1966!
On 12 November 2019, another serious flood destroyed the garden, and Lina, who just turned 97, is setting out to restore the garden for the second time.
El Brolo must be the most peaceful spot in Venice! In this blog, we share its story and the progress we (hopefully!) make in restoring it. We’ll also cover the challenges of creating a garden in Venice, and why the Venetian gardens are also relevant for Europe and other parts of the world.