Summer Morning in A Green Courtyard: San Giorgio dei Greci

Venice, 27 August 2012. I will always recall this day, because it was the first time I ventured out, new camera hiding in my bag, to take pictures for my new blog on Venice! Because there were no other blogs on Venice written in English by a Venetian, I took the plunge and started A Garden in Venice!

I regularly posted in A Garden in Venice as my private garden blog until early 2015, before grandmother Lina and I started La Venessiana – Venice Slow Travel Magazine. But I was missing my garden blog, so during the summer we decided to relaunch A Garden in Venice as blog telling the story of our Culinary Project, Roses and Spices (more of that later).

Here’s my first post from A Garden in Venice, for which I took the photos on 27 August 2012, exactly seven years ago.

In Venice, there are all kinds of gardens, public, private, roof gardens (le altane), balconies, gardens located in corti (courtyards) and along the calli (narrow streets), convent and monastery gardens, and secret vegetable gardens and orchards. Just as you can see in this walk around the Venetian sestiere (district) Castello, which brought me to the courtyard of the Church of San Giorgio dei Greci. This jewel is located not far away from our house, and at 08:30 am the streets were almost empty. It was rather hot and the first guests were enjoying cappuccino and cornetto at the canal-side bar on Fondamenta de l’Osmarin

A refreshing morning walk is like heaven during our parching summer months. Did you notice the lights dancing under the bridge and reflections on the water? This is Ponte del Diavolo, the bridge crossing Rio San Provolo which runs along Fondamenta de l’Osmarin. If you like Venetian roof gardens, this is the place that you should see. Roof gardens are called altane in Venexian, the language of Venice.

I noticed that visitors usually don’t take in the peace and quiet of this beautiful and green Venice, but immediately rush towards Piazza San Marco. But I think it is worth taking a closer look and discover those breezy and green premises of which you can find so many in my neighborhood, less than seven minutes from San Marco.

The Greek heritage of Venice, and the church complex of San Giorgio dei Greci have always fascinated me. As I child, I used to spend hours on end in one of these secret courtyards around the church, and along a canal shielded by thick shrubbery. The Hellenic Institute of Byzantine Studies is also located here, and on their website you can find an interactive tool that prepares you perfectly for a visit to the Church, the Museum and the Library. There is also an English Site available.

In 1498, the Senate of the Republic of Venice allowed the Greek community living in Venice to found a confraternity to assist members of their communty, most of whom were merchants. Their church and campanile date back to the year 1592.

Back to the present, here are some of the pictures I took of the courtyard. I hope these pictures convey the calm, restful and pleasant atmosphere of this charming treasure garden to you, which should be considered a premier part of our little known patrimonio verde (green heritage) in Venice.

Standing on the bridge aptly named Ponte dei Greci, you get a first impression and view of the monastery, museum, library, church and campanile, and the huge vines hiding the courtyard. You can also see a small approdo (landing stage) outside. Here I’m looking back from Ponte dei Greci towards Fondamenta de l’Osmarin: Still in the shade, to the left, is the bar where guests enjoy cappuccino on this azure-clad morning. And now, we will explore the gardens of San Giorgio dei Greci.

The entrance of the church is framed in by two oleander, and the courtyard is embellished by laurel, fig and olive trees, magnolia and ilex shrubs, amongst others. Did you know that there are three courtyards? Climbers (vite americana) cover the facades of the museum in the first courtyard, and a little behind is a Venetian well called pozzo next to an olive tree. I’m now standing in the second, larger courtyard, looking back towards the entrance gate, flowering pot plants, green facades and deep blue sun shades.

Laurel and oleander make the third courtyard a peaceful garden framed in by white benches made from pietra d’Istra (Istrian stone) Here, a pigeon is enjoying the early morning sun 🙂 Looking up through the leaves of the laurel tree, the sun is definitely too strong for my eyes, despite my sun glasses.

In one corner of the third courtyard, the small landing stage offers a glimpse of the Venice that will remain private forever. This is the canal side view of what was once the largest monastery in town, now hiding behind grey stone and red brick walls. It was, and still is, a garden sanctuary, the largest garden in Venice. This monastery complex, of which most of you know the church facade, is actually larger than Frari, San Zanipolo, or San Francesco della Vigna. More about it, and images, will be here for you on the blog (A Garden in Venice) soon!

Enjoy a last look up the green facade. American vines are a favorite here in Venice, and they thrive despite the summer heat, which is a little less hot now that we are approaching September. Here in the courtyard of San Giorgio dei Greci, the green facade is so important for the birds, it’s home to martins and blackbirds. I love stopping here in the spring, especially at Easter when a special celebration is taking place. And I love returning in late September and early October, when the leaves turn auburn red, wrapping the building into the most beautiful and reassuring colors of autumn.

So this was San Giorgio dei Greci, and my neighborhood in 2012, in the images and text for my very first post in my private journal, A Garden in Venice. I was focusing on garden walks, taking readers to my favorite garden restaurants and breakfast spots. And I was telling the story of our garden in Venice ..

I re-published this post today also because we are in for a couple of changes here on the blog! From September, La Venessiana will share more practical tools and tips for responsible visitors to see the beautiful, green and creative Venice. A Garden in Venice will be back, telling you all the background stories of our project Roses and Spices, in which we explore historical Venetian health and beauty recipes. And there will also be the secret images and story of the largest monastery complex of Venice. It’s probably one of the best-kept secrets which we will unveil soon.

I hope you will join us on this journey! But first, I’ll be sharing our new Venice City Guide 2020 in my next post on Saturday.

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  1. How is it possible that with every new blog post you publish I think I have read my favorite? This one was so amazingly beautiful. I felt I was there with you looking at all the beautiful flowers and greens and shrubberies. You so make Venice come alive through your words.

    1. Thank you so much Vanessa! We’ll soon have many more stories on the gardens. I think we will focus on these in the future, and the garden food and secret Venice. xx

    1. Dear Janet, thank you so much for your kind comments! I’m so happy to meet you here, and I think we have a lot in common. Greek Venice has always been my favorite topic, and I grew up next to the San Zaccaria monastery which is another fascinating topic to explore.. xx Iris

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