Just a beautiful and colorful virtual walk for you if you’re missing Venice and her gardens in spring. This post takes you on a relaxing morning walk amongst wisteria blossoms. We start right here in the image below, admiring the “wisteria house” next to a pozzo (well) on Campo di San Giacomo dall’Orio.
And yes, this is a long way from my home on the opposite side of the Grand Canal. But I think this campo is a good starting point for a morning walk in April, when the city is wrapped in warm and humid haze and wisteria fragrance.
You’ll certainly come across beautiful wisteria on the campi, or along a quiet calle framing a door, or reaching down to the waters of a quiet canal. But the real beauty is always “inside”, in private gardens, where more varieties of wisteria grow than in most other places on earth. I also love the mighty white wisteria plants (wisteria floribunda alba) in Venice, a Japanese variety blossoming a little later than the ever-present purple wisteria sinensis. A particularly beautiful example of white wisteria grows in the gardens of Hotel Gabrielli, climbing up a wrought iron veranda overlooking a canal. Its foliage and blossoms seem to lock out the noise on the water, and now and then, a pigeon or blackbird move behind the white blossoms, otherwise the garden seems completely still.
So from San Giacomo dall’Orio, we walk towards Rialto, past a couple of mighty wisteria plants (you won’t miss them!), and then onwards to our first breakfast stop, Pasticceria Ponte delle Paste. Paste means “little sweets and cakes” in Venice, and this pastry store offers some of the finest you can get for breakfast in Venice. Did you know that many pastry stores have extra menus for breakfast: Your favorite cornetto, filled with almond-blossom cream, will only be available until mid-morning – important to know so you can taste what breakfast in Venice is really like!
Standing at their bar counter, and looking back towards the door, you can enjoy the view and sometimes, even the scent of one of the most impressive wisteria plants in Venice. A very special early-morning experience, when there’s just the slightest warm breeze spreading the scent, and you’re wrapped in the sweet fragrance of wisteria blossoms while drinking coffee.
In Venice, the local type of wisteria is wisteria sinensis. And there’s another special type of wisteria, whose name I’m still trying to define, growing in the garden of one of my grandmother’s friends on the Lido. Anna used to pick its blossoms and use it as ingredients for special sweets, such as fritole al glicine (wisteria frittelles) and sciroppo al glicine (wisteria syrup, a topping for panna cotta). A special and very old wisteria climbing up the facade of her house and onto the foxglove tree in the garden.
Wisteria frittelles were a favorite dessert for the April holiday when my grandmother was young. A festive dessert, eaten after lunch on 25 April, when Venice celebrates La La Festa di San Marco. By then, the blossoms might have been a little overblown, as wisteria starts blooming much earlier in the month. In 2021, you could see the first wisteria blossoms in late March in sunny spots. The best time to see the lush spring wisteria blossoms in Venice is the two weeks between 8 and 22 April, while last week of April and first week of May are definitely dedicated to white wisteria.
From Ponte delle Paste, we continue walking along Salizzada San Lio towards Campo Santa Maria Formosa, Ruga Giuffa and on towards Fondamenta de l’Osmarin. From there, we turn left and walk along Rio di San Lorenzo, and just before the bridge, you’ll notice a terrace overlooking the canal wrapped into purple wisteria. You can’t miss it, it’s my personal favorite, and the wisteria I visit whenever I have time. It blossoms several times a year, so if you’re lucky, you can also enjoy its blossoms and scent in late June or early September.
Retrace your steps to Ponte dei Greci, cross Rio dei Greci and continue along Salizzada dei Greci. Just before you reach Pasticceria Chiusso (worth a second stop and cappuccino, as they offer one of the best cherry – marzipan cornetti in spring, and apple marzipan cornetti later during the year), turn right into Calle dei Greci and walk sempre dritto until you reach Calle drio la Pietà. Then turn left in front of Hotel Bisanzio, and walk towards the bridge crossing Rio de la Pietà, from where you get one of my favorite views of Venice, with the bell tower of Sant’Antonin overlooking the canal in the distance.
Walk below the wisteria spanning the calle, and on towards Campo della Bragora, where Pasticceria alla Bragora is just round the corner, another favorite of mine to enjoy breakfast outside on an April morning. For breakfast, they serve a special almond pastry, or if you prefer cornetti, the best almond cream-filled cornetti in Venice.
If we could turn back time to the 1970s, you could see the wisteria on Campo San Provolo. It’s a small campo you can reach by turning right on Fondamenta de l’Osmarin. This wisteria, I was told, covered Sotopórtego San Provolo and the building on the right. One day in the late 1970s, it was gone, my grandfather told me without going into details, despite I kept asking him to tell me more for years .. The branches of this wistera even reached inside, into the rooms of Nonna Lina’s home, as you can see in the painting below.
This must have been one of the most beautiful wisteria plants, and was even painted by Marino Marini, who made the sculpture L’Angelo della Città at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. During his stay in Venice in the 1970s, he became friends with my grandparents, and on an impulse made a painting of the campo, which he gave to them. The painting is in Nonna Lina’s living room, and has been my favorite view of the Campo, the missing beauty once spanning half of it.7