The Story of A Secret Garden in Venice

I first planned to write about the edible gardens of the Lagoon when I was twelve. During the school holidays, I was thoroughly enjoying life in this incredibly lush garden with all its blossoms, fruit and herbs. It seemed to have a special climate of its own, and there were so many birds !! I loved the balanced life my family led in Venice. Despite lots of work in their restaurants and hotel, they found enough time to take care of their garden and orchard and use its produce in the kitchen.

Grandfather took care of the shrubs and trees. Pomegranate and fig trees, tangerines, lemons, oranges, kumquat and olives. Elderflowers, climbing roses, wisteria and oleanders … a symphony of blossoms in red, rose and white. A secret world that passers-by can’t even imagine. We can hear their footsteps and voices echoing, just a few meters away, when everything is quiet on an early summer morning. The geranium- and rose scented morning air is already warm, very inviting to eat breakfast on the terrace. Later, during the heat of the sun, the plants seem to muffle any outside sound until the late afternoon, when the air gets clear and blue, and life on the Venetian streets is back.

Grandmother uses her herbs and vegetables to make delicious food but also natural remedies. To flavor fish, vegetables, panna cotta and cakes, and to make syrups, mustard, teas and flavored coffee. She even makes my favorites at home, a Nutella-style hazelnut cream and “ice chocolates”, and there are lavender-flavoredzaleti biscuits …  You can discover this family recipe and many more dishes from Venice and the Lagoon in our Recipes Section.

The little garden you can see was part of a convent garden in Venice since the 5th century AD. Fruit trees, a fig tree, olives and vines, climbers and citrus trees grow here. Ivy, aralia, palm trees, yucca, purple wisteria and ferns, fragrant jasmine, aralia and pittosporum grow next to roses, lilies and a pergola covered partly with uva fragola grapes and with wisteria.

On the terrace, the family grows kitchen herbs: Parsley, laurel, mints, sage, fragrant geranium (we use for syrup or to flavor pancakes). Erba cristallina, anise mint and rosemary.  Raspberries, red currants, tomatoes and strawberries grow in pots next to ornamental plants like oleander, irises and lilies-of-the-valley. Kiwi and kaki, fig and a pomegranate tree, so typical for the Venetian Lagoon …

This first-floor terrace is connected to the kitchen on the ground floor via a black wrought-iron staircase that we call chiocciola in Italian. It’s a giardino movimentato, stretching across several levels which means that a greater variety of plants can be grown. A large portion of the courtyard garden is covered with grass and as it is very low-lying, during very high tides it may become soaked. Then you see how a salty film covers the grass.

Pittosporum is a salt-resistant plant which grows down here, and it smells heavenly between May and July. There’s a little giardino ombroso where the fruit trees and berries grow on slightly raised and insulated beds. In a sunny corner, a few vegetable beds and huge rosemary bush grow, interspersed with wild and spike lavender, and a profusion of chamomile.

Vegetables growing are zucchini, egg plants and tomatoes. We get lots of salads of the soft kind called insalate da taglio, and of course arugula. We always grow frigitelli. And salicornia (we’ll come back to this herb in a blog post). There’s also a small nursery to experiment with plants and seeds. Growing eucalyptus and hibiscus from seed, for example. Clicking on the blog post category “Garden” you can follow this garden as it develops during all seasons of the year.

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2 Comments

  1. Caeol wrote:

    Is there any chance that Wisteria will be in bloom during the first 2 weeks in May 2019 in Venice?
    Best viewing locations (even from afar…)? Molte grazie!

    Posted 2.17.19 Reply
    • Iris wrote:

      Ciao, yes, there might be a few blossoms left, slightly wilted, though, in early May. You may be more lucky to see white wisteria, which starts blossoming around one week later, so you should see these in any case! Wisteria in Venice is simply everywhere, you can’t miss it. I’ve also written a post on a wisteria walk in Venice: https://lavenessiana.com/camminando-sotto-i-glicini-the-venetian-wisteria-walk/

      Posted 2.18.19 Reply

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