By mid-May, roses bloom all over Venice, and the good news is that la stagione delle rose – rose season reaches fairly into June! As you know, Venice has a very special relationship with roses, not only with regard to the boccolo tradition (roses given on 25 March to women). But are there certain roses, and colors you can find most often in Venice? In other words, is there a special rosa venexiana?
Well, not just one but several ones, as you’ll discover: Colorwise, I’d say that in Venice, most cultivated roses are crimson and white, while wild roses (rosa canina) can also be found quite often, blossoming pale pink. Often, the color of the roses recalls the typcial Venetian red (rosso veneziano) of the brickstone facades.
But is there a sestiere (district) where roses grow even more lush than in other parts of Venice? I think there is, to me it’s Dorsoduro, which you’re going to discover on a morning walk in early June in this blog post.
To reach Dorsoduro from San Marco, walk towards Campo Santo Stefano, cross Campo San Vidal towards the Accademia Bridge. And when you stand on the bridge in the morning sun, Palazzo Civran Badoer comes into sight on the right, well-known for its crimson roses. From there, we continue towards Campo San Rocco, a rose-pergola-covered garden, and towards Le Zattere, a quay with many roses blossoming behind the red brickstone walls, so worth enjoying along your walk. On the way back, we’ll pass the vegetable boat anchored next to Campo San Barnabà.
Just behind Campo San Rocco, filled with the scent of roses and pittorsporum during this time of the year, a green area of Venice begins, with flowering palm trees and jasmine, but also, with crimson-colored roses growing in the gardens. Usually, it’s the bright crimson roses overgrowing the brick walls and reaching down to the canals like cascades.
Below, you can see the slargo (square) just behind Campo San Rocco and its roses! From there, we return towards the campo and turn right on our way to Pasticceria Tonolo, walking past a family-run trattoria whose terraced courtyard garden is also overgrown with roses. This time, they are pale pink and white, and next to the entrance of Trattoria da Sara, you can see terracotta pots with seasonal plants like margherite, thriving in the morning sun next to the rose-covered pergola.
Trattoria da Sara looks like a refreshing oasis when the sun is getting stronger on a summer morning. Amercian vines cover the walls of the courtyard, and when you walk up the steps to the terrace, you’d never guess that you’re right in the middle of Venice but rather, the raised courtyard looks like a country inn, somewhere in the green and summery Veneto.
Near the trattoria is Casa di Sara, apartments with antique furniture overlooking more terraced gardenscapes. For everyone who likes the feeling of Veneto country gardens, filled with geranium and margherite, this could be the perfect sestiere of Venice to live and to explore.
Continue walking towards Ca’ Foscari, the main building of the University of Venice, and towards Campo San Barnaba, where the famous vegetable boat is moored. In front of the bridge Ponte dei Pugni, you can make out the turquoise sun sail of the boat, protecting the freshly harvested produce from the heat. In early summer, they also offer flowers like red-striped geranium, and of course vegetables and fine herbs like rosemary.
Turn right, cross Campo San Barnabà and walk towards Bar Pasticceria and Libreria Toletta, taking in the scent of the white roses and jasmine along the way. Bar Pasticceria Toletta is a favorite of mine to stop in the morning. They sell some of the best breakfast pastries in Venice, puff pastries of all kinds filled with strawberry jam, and I just love their tramezzini made with soft white bread and seasonal fillings like spinach-leek-tuna-anchovis. From here, we’re very close to where we came from, the Accademia bridge, designed by Eugenio Miozzi and opened in 1933.
As you can imagine, these roses aren’t here just for pleasure but in the past, rose petals were used in the kitchen to prepare gourmet treats! A popular liquor in Venice is called rosolio, but it doesn’t necessarily need to include rose petals. The name rosolio derives from the Latin ros solis = dew of the sun. Rosolio is made from the same amount of alcohol, sugar, and water, then flavored with flower or spice essence.
In Venice, rosolio in its original, probably Dalmatian version, comes with rose petals. Rose essence is, however, just one way to prepare the liquor, it could also be flavored with citrus, coffee, anise or mint essence. And often in Venice, rosolio was colored with alchermes liquor, which in turn contains rose essence, rose water or rose syrup.
The other Venetian rose specialties are zaleti ae rose or pan dolse ae rose (rose flavored sweet breads, often enhanced with strawberries or cherries, which are baked in the dough).
And there’s the famous marmellata di rose – rose jam made on San Lazzaro degli Armeni: On this island just off the Lido, the monks pick their Damask roses in mid-May to make jam, and if you’re lucky, you can buy it in their little shop at the monastery.
Here’s an easy recipe for you to make rose syrup, from Nonna Lina’s garden – La Terrazza.