This post is all about re-discovering my neighborhood, a walk crossing the ancient Greek and Dalmatian quarters of our city, exploring favorite views, breakfast spots, shops and markets.Welcome to my personal spring itinerary! We start out in the morning on the terrace and continue walking at dawn, watch the sun rise and return home to our garden in the late morning.
Join me for a stroll around my neighborhood !! Imagine you are here with me on a fine, flower-scented day in March or April. We are in Castello, and start our walk farther east towards the Greek quarter in Venice just five minutes from Piazza San Marco, on the bridge overlooking Rio de l’Osmarin.
As it usually happens in early April, this is a slightly wet morning with mist shrouding our town. Now and then, you can see lighter patches on the sky as the sun is trying to get through to us. Yet, it’s warm and the air is full of spring scents. Flowery ones, but you can also smell the deep greens sprouting in the gardens behind the brickstone walls. This is my favorite season and Venice is full of blossoms. The whole city seems a melange of pink and blue. You can see the pink-golden light reflected in the picture below where I’m just crossing Rio dei Greci on my way to Campo della Bragora.
This is a campo with flower beds. They blossom from April to early December. Yellow and purple blossoms abound in particular. I love the mimosa which comes in two varieties in Venice. Now in early spring, it’s the yellow mimosa showing off a wealth of tiny fluffy blossoms. By mid-June, it’s the silk trees – mimosa albizia with their fluffy soft pink blossoms we call albero della seta (used as a remedy in China where it comes from). There’s a fine silk tree blossoming on Campo della Bragora until late September.
Il glicine – wisteria is also coming into bloom during the first days of April. Next to Campo San Lorenzo there’s a particularly beautiful plant which I “visit” as often as I can. I love stopping below its perfumed purple flower cascades on a wooden bench overlooking Rio dei Greci. On these warm but moist spring morning it’s a boon to stop and watch and think. The sky is getting clearer now, the mist is giving way to the blinding sunlight of spring. No breeze, just calm and salty air. More than half the spring days in Venice start out like this.
Around 10:00 am, you can see the first odd sun ray open up a gap in the milky haze. By 11:00 am, it’s getting sunnier by the minute. Time to enter into my favorite pastry store and enjoy the wonderful almond croissant. Or, I might eat one of their fabulous soft almond cakes called torta greca. They offer a special variety just for breakfast at Pasticceria alla Bragora, located just off Campo della Bragora. Most certainly, you will eat the best almond croissants in your life!
If you’d like to order torta greca for breakfast ask for the tortino alle mandorle if you’d like a bigger portion, or dolce alle mandorle if you’d rather eat a smaller piece.
A few minutes farther on Salizzada dei Greci, Pasticceria Chiusso offer their own morning specialty, marzipan-apple cream-filled cornetti. True, Venetians love a sweet breakfast, but you won’t suffer from excess calories because you’ll quickly walk them off in Venice !
Taking a break now and thinking a bit about our surroundings … Castello is the name of the sestiere east of Piazza San Marco where the Greek and Levantine communities of Venice lived. It was one big vineyard, herb garden and orchard called el brolo, cultivated by the nuns of San Zaccaria since the year 400 AD. The western part of the brolo became Piazza San Marco in the 7th century. This part of town, la Venezia Levantina, comprises the Scuola dalmatina, Chiesa di Sant’Antonin and Campo della Bragora. Based on archeological traces found in the courtyard of Sant’Antonin, early Venetian history may be re-written. From the year 1453, more than 50,000 inhabitants of Constantinople were invited to settle after the fall of their town. They brought with them their cultural heritage and that of ancient Greece …
We continue our walk towards Riva degli Schiavoni and Torrefazione Girani’s. This is where I buy our coffee ! Via Garibaldi isn’t far away, a best-loved boulevard with lots of street cafes to stop and enjoy a cup of early morning tea and nutella-filled zaleti biscuits :-) And it has quiet corners and campielli just behind, looking so green now as you can see in the picture above !
I usually buy spring vegetables from the barca della verdura, the floating market boat moored on Rio di Sant’Anna at the far end of Via Garibaldi. There are many best-loved breakfast bars on my way, but I do have a favorite which is just round the corner. On we go, to Caffé della Serra, a beautiful plant nursery, hothouse, winter garden cafe and terrace in the midst of lush plants and blossoms. While I’m being tented by the wonderful selection of pot plants, young salad plants and sementi (seeds), I’m looking forward to my real breakfast for today. For it’s around 11 am, and that means that the cafe at the back of the garden center / hothouse will be opened.
I love to sit on the terrace next to the pittosporum hedge with its scented blossoms just opening in April.This part of Venice still holds many secrets. Many homes of doges were located in the neighborhood of the Venetian Arsenal, the backbone of Venetian economic success building the cogs for the flourishing spice business.
I usually order toast and lemon zest – flower tea, and then it’s another cappuccino and a cup of blueberry tea by Tea Forte. The toast also comes in a vegetarian manner, filled with baked cheese and melanzane (eggplants). They also offer a home-made dip made from sour cream, parsley, chives and yellow mustard. Bread and pastries come from the island of Burano, from the Palmisano bakery. At the far back of the garden surrounding the cafe, a basin housing an “exhibition of wild Lagoon plants” is tucked away. If you are interested in Lagoon plants, also edible ones like salicornia, do take a look …
On my way back, I walk towards the Riva which is just a few steps away, crossing a bridge. You get a wonderful view from here back towards Venice …. and in the meantime, you can see, the weather has changed once again, and I can feel a few warm rain drops in my face. You can see the raindrops on the pittorsporum leaves in the picture below. This is a blessed part of Venice, protected and storing all the first warmth of spring. This means wisteria is growing (see the example in the picture at the top!).
After all, this is April, and we even get thunderstorms by now … Yet, this time I’m lucky and I stop at the vegetable barge to get some herbs (bruscandoli and salvia) which we use to make a sauce for pasta this noon (made from bruscandoli and pinoli, olive oil and garnished with grated pecorino cheese and fried salvia leaves).
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PS: I’m also taking you on walks on Instagram. Click below to scroll:)