We start with the unbelievable: The image you can see above was taken in Venice on a rainy day in April. In some private gardens totally unknown to the public, Venice still looks like she did until 1797. Above you can see what the largest spice garden of Venice looks like in our times: A garden lovingly tended by its owner, whom I had the honor to visit a few years ago.
In the year 1500, Venice had approx. 130 gardens looking like this, where spices were growing. And by spices I mean spices! Ginger, pepper and cinnamon trees, protected by precious tropical flora.
Many of you already know that Venice became rich because it was the home of talented spice merchants, but few of you would expect that these spices weren’t only imported from the Far East, Africa and the Indian Ocean, but also cultivated in Venice!
You can now see that one of the most touristy cities in the world holds many secrets and stories never told in books. This knowledge of Venice, the garden city, hides in forgotten documents at the Venetian State Archive.
Without her gardens, Venice wouldn’t have been able to survive for more than 1600 years. These gardens hold more than one special meaning, as you will discover on the blog in the coming months.
Lina: Iris and I will share stories on A Garden in Venice to provide hope for all of you who love Venice and who are sad, feeling alienated by issues like overtourism and negligence. We want you to know that there is a healthy core in this city. Venice is no potemkin village: Behind the facades is the healthy, invisible city. Gardens weren’t created to fill in accidental gaps between the buildings but on purpose: Why, when, and how, you will discover soon!
It was easier for visitors to see this secret garden city until 1797 when the Republic of Venice still existed. Until then, the city boasted 158 botanical gardens, the largest number of gardens any city has ever had in Europe. Venetians held opulent banquets in these gardens which became famous in the world.
What happened to our verdant heritage? In part, it is lovingly restored and well-tended. In part, the gardens are unkempt and overgrown, home to wild birds and waiting to be restored behind crumbling facades.
And some of these gardens were destroyed during the floods on 12-17 November 2019.
Iris: I started blogging in May 2011, on A Garden in Venice. During those times, there were only few blogs on Venice and I was the only resident blogging in English. Our garden blog drew 3.8 million page views during the first three years, and we were happy that so many people showed interest in learning more about the green Venice.
In November 2019, when Lina’s garden, the last of what remains of the oldest garden in Venice, was destroyed by the floods, we went through a terrible time, and I felt I couldn’t continue writing about Venice as if nothing had happened.
2019 has been a testing time for Venice! Lina and I both felt a strong urge to tell the true story of this garden and the many others in Venice, and how important our green heritage really is.
Call it a radical rebranding, taking us back to our roots. We will share the story of our garden as it recovers. How gardens wrote Venetian success stories and made the miracle of insular Venice becoming a powerful merchant state possible in the first place. Yes, there are many stories our gardens could tell.
I invite you to stay tuned. Our blog entries will be shorter but we will publish more often. As we relaunch A Garden in Venice on 7 February, the website has 268 blog entries: 50 stories come from La Venessiana, especially my book reviews and articles on Lagoon stewardship.
We will focus on the green Venice from now: Virtual garden walks, garden food, the spices and surprising recipes, to show you the many different types of gardens that Venice has: Palace garden, convent garden, herb garden, kitchen garden, balcony garden, altana, liagò, courtyard garden, and so many more!
These are our topics, and we can’t wait to share them with you.
Thanks for joining us and stay tuned! Lina and Iris