I think that the average visitor to Venice really overlooks our gardens. Did you know that almost half of the area of Venice consists of garden plots? Of these, four fifths are not open to the public. Venice is really a gardening city, and the 1,400 year-botanical heritage of the Serenissima Republic is still very much alive in town.
On our blog, we take you into secret gardens and share tips for your own garden. Do join us in Grandmother’s herb garden and take a look at our Monthly Garden Moodboard here !!
We don’t distinguish between edible and ornamental gardens so much in Venice. Every palace garden had, and often still has, a few plots where herbs, fruit trees and vegetables grow, and often exotic spices ! How come are there so many gardens in Venice ? In our floating town consisting of 118 islands, gardens were the first distinctive feature and a necessity !! The Venetians had to deal with serious restrictions first, for not all plants grow well in a salty environment exposed to tides at least once a day. Fresh water was scarce and had to be brought in from the mainland (read more here).
When Venetians had learned to tame their difficult environment, the Lagoon provided a rich and fertile ground for growing fruit, herbs and vegetables thanks to the special quality of soil and the humid climate. Just like Arrigo Cipriani put it:
People always think of Venice as surrounded by water, and it certainly is. But in that water, out in the lagoon, are a number of islands. The soil of these islands is sandy, salty and full of minerals, constantly flooded by tides and ideally suited to vegetable farming … The island vegetables are small but they have the most intense flavor of all the vegetables grown in Italy … I would even say the world. Arrigo Cipriani – The Harry’s Bar Cookbook – read more here.
The Lagoon and the gardens in Venice became the playground to experiment when Venetian merchants brought home from their voyages exotic plants, herbs and spices. A new prime source for the Venetian spezieri who used plant essences, aromatics and essential oils to produce medical remedies, flavor food and make perfumes and cosmetics.
In the 15th century, Venice counted the greatest number of botanical gardens in the world. You can see these gardens, private, palace and convent gardens, in the famous map of Venice drawn by Jacobo de Barbari. Venetian noble families created the cradle of the plants that grow in Europe today. You still find many of these private gardens in Venice – more than one third of the area in town is closed to the public. Discover how you can decode the age of Venetian gardens and how the winds in the Lagoon determined – and still determine – the shape of gardens.