Welcome to our Venice Guide! We have prepared six short itineraries for you to get to know Venice a little better. Dedicated to the Armchair Traveler, First-Time Visitor, Frequent & Returning Visitor, Food Lover, Blogger & Writer and Photographer.
Venice is a city that can be overwhelming, usually at second glance. Once you are here, you will feel the spell of this rich heritage, looking for the message this old world is conveying to the modern one. That’s why we think it’s good to start exploring with yourselves in mind. Enjoy this updated Venice Guide for 2018, and do contact us here whenever you have a question !
There is still one of which you never speak.’ Marco Polo bowed his head. ‘Venice,’ the Khan said. Marco smiled. ‘What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?’ The emperor did not turn a hair. ‘And yet I have never heard you mention that name.’ And Polo said: ‘Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.”
Marco Polo and the other Venetian merchants set the stage for the unique economic power that Venice became by focusing on the spice and luxuries trade. Venetian creativity set the stage for a cuisine and lifestyle that influenced Europe for more than 1,200 years. Join us in this e-journey Venice for beginners whenever you have time, simply by clicking on the icons below. We started in September 2016 and publish One Step A Month. It’s a free e-course, the basic tools you need if you really want to get to know Venice and the Venetians. Take this journey in chronological order and Venice will unfold in seven chapters !
#1 Slow Living and Language
Venice isn’t easy to know, I’ve often heard our foreign friends say. Remember, it’s impossible to know Venice inside out. She will always keep her mysteries. We’ve lost too much of her heritage by now.
The Venetian state ceased to exist in 1797 and its culture fell into oblivion, it happened gradually. There’s not much remembered about the immaterial heritage of Venice after 220 years. What do I mean by immaterial heritage – you’ll discover as you go through this e-course !! Much information is still available but tucked away in public and private libraries in town and at the Venetian State Archive.
VENICE is so much more than just this floating city you see in the midst of a 550 km² Lagoon. She was a trading super power for more than 1,200 years. Venice had been under the protection of Byzantium ever since and benefited by weaving a unique network of trading posts in the Levant. Why yes – that’s the visible heritage you can still see in her architecture, the reason why Venice looks like an oriental fairy tale town. Enjoy this first step of getting to know Venice !!
#2 Slow City and Lagoon
In this section, you will learn why Venice is considered THE Slow City. What Salvatore Settis means by putting the focus of his book “If Venice dies” on a few basic requirements that cities need in order to guarantee a minimum quality of life for their inhabitants. Venice has mastered this task in an extremely difficult environment. Imagine what it’s like to build in the middle of a Lagoon, on unstable ground and tidal movements that may flood the place twice a day, and that’s normal !!
The secret of Venice being defined as the Slow City is the precise role each part of the Lagoon has been assigned to. The Lagoon is, for most of it, an artificial landscape, sculptured by Venetians for centuries. Each island has and will always fulfill a purpose. If one part goes missing, or is damaged, the whole ecosystem goes out of balance !! Find out a few useful terms that you might apply to the place in which you live – anyone can benefit from the know-how of Venice.
#3 Slow Gardening & How the Exotic Plants Came to Venice
This section introduces you to the art of growing edible gardens in the midst of what seems a very forbidding environment. In a shallow Lagoon where salt water prevails over a few freshwater pockets located next to the mouths of the rivers. Growing gardens was an absolute necessity to survive, and the Lagoon is a completely self-sufficient terrain that succeeded feeding 300,000+ inhabitants back in the 16th century.
There’s much knowledge to be re-discovered: How could Venetians harness the strengths of such a potentially adverse environment to grow not just gardens with local fruit, herbs and vegetables, but to make the most of imported spice plants ? Yes, Venetians grew spices in their secret gardens and flowers on every possible public and private space. You will only understand Venice when you know how Venetians lovingly tended their hidden gardens and Lagoon vineyards for centuries. With such a history, Venetians for 1000 years fueled and coined European taste in using natural ingredients flavored with herbs and spices.
#4 Slow Beauty and Spices
Imagine what an incredible delight it is to go exploring Venetian palace gardens. Besides al fresco living rooms with raised terraces, pergolas and little green groves overlooking a calm canal, there are plots and beds and other areas dedicated to cultivating. Cultivating what on difficult, salty terrain you may think. The inventive Venetians conquered these difficulties and by the year 1500, Venice boasted the largest number of botanical gardens in the world.
Venetians used their gardens to experiment with exotic spices, blossoming trees and herbs. Out in the Lagoon, they could live out their agricultural soul, for entire islands were dedicated to farming and growing vegetables. Here in town, they cultivated everything precious to beauty, health and what they needed to make perfumes. Gardens, not just imported spices, were the prime source of the Venetian spice experts called spezieri, and the beauty industry in town (yes, there were soap factories too). But who were those people, the Merchants of Venice, who brought all that wealth to the city and the ingredients for perfumes and cosmetics ?
#5 Slow Food in the Lagoon
I loved how Arrigo Cipriani describes the local produce in his book “Harry’s Bar Cookbook”. He mentions that Lagoon vegetables are smaller but so succulent. Slightly salty, they confer the taste of the Lagoon. Now that you know a bit about the Lagoon and how gardens were used to grow vegetables, herbs and spices, you will want to taste this authentic food in town.
We’ll be sharing a few suggestions in this part of the e-journey, for food is an essential step to capturing the soul of a place. Together, we’ll explore seasonal markets in Venice and you’ll learn how to recognize authentic Venetian food.
The acqua granda (flood) of November 1966 was disastrous for the Lagoon vegetable plots and orchards too, and many didn’t grow afterwards as well as they did before. It’ only about ten years ago that conditions for cultivating vegetables and fruit on the northeastern fringes of the Lagoon are back to normal.
#6 Slow Rituals and the Coffee Story
Venetian habits permeate our day without us noticing or knowing, in the first place. Take the coffee break, for example. Venetians came across kafa – coffee in Syria as early as in the 11th century. They brought it back to town but it was only in the 16th century that coffee shops opened along the format of those in Constantinople. Caffé Florian wasn’t even the first to open, in town, the spice experts turned apothecaries by then, used coffee to heal any symptom of fatigue or bad mood and circulatory issues.
But then it’s not just coffee. Venetians structure their days the way they have always done. Around 11 am, you’ll find them flock to a bar-caffé or pastry store where they eat “their real breakfast”. That is, coffee and tramezzino or other delicious treats, both sweet and salty. That’s what remains from the ancient ombra break. There’s a second ombra time in the late afternoon, and that’s the time when Venetians love drinking a tiny glass of wine and eat bruschetta. This ritual is called giri de l’ombra. Carnival is a good time to present this topic to you !!
#7 Slow Feasts and the Wisdoms of Life
Feasts remind us of our history. There are monthly reminders in Venice, and Venetians spend much time to prepare for them. It’s just part of their lifestyle and how they structure their day. There’s always something to look forward to. There are the regattas and 25 April, when the Feast of San Marco is celebrated. It was the national day of the Republic of Venice. Then there’s the Redentore Feast in summer and La Festa della Madonna della Salute in fall. Venice still remembers how she overcame the bouts of plague in 1575 and 1630. How she became stronger afterwards, and all other countries benefited from insights gained in treatment and hygiene and prevention in the first place.
Venice recalls the good and the bad times. How good ones were harnessed and the bad overcome and dealt with collective knowledge. Passed on from one generation to the next.