Spring has finally come to us, too. After rainy times we are now happy that the weather has turned mild and sunny again. So you may have wondered how Venetians prepare their flower beds (aiuole), little vegetable plots (orti and orticelli, there are some of these in town, located in private courtyards and small garden plots), and window herb gardens. As you may have guessed, with regard to private vegetable plots for everyone, or at least for every family, we have some shortage here, as the custom of keeping broli (orchards) in town has long been abandoned. Broli were places in the 10th-16th century, where Venetian families were growing their produce next to their houses, even spreading out into campazzi (squares). These days, the islands of the lagoon are ready to deliver all the bounty we need for cooking with fresh spring greens. But despite difficulty to find space to grow herbs, Venetians don’t give up and use their … window ledges, provided these are neither exposed to the blazing soon at noon, nor looking into northern direction with no sun available at all. Continue reading “L’arte verde in città: How to plant a spring herb garden in Venice”
Il Carnevale è spirato – now that Carnival is over, and the quaresima (lent) time has arrived, what can you do in Venice between Carneval and Easter? Evidently, you can choose between a few quiet activities in this leisurely span of time: Enjoy the Venetian sun terraces (weather permitting) and discover the first spring blossoms, look out for birds, and enjoy Venetian sweet delicacies in the pasticcerie without crowds.
Quaresima time is one of my favorite times of the year in Venice: Ash Wednesday somehow rings the bell with Venetians that spring is about to set in. Now, with an eye to the Venetian gardeners and spring just round the corner, they are currently planning on how to embellish their windows for the spring that is imminent, and which flowers to grow on their balconies, garden strips, terraces and in their flower beds: You will notice that from now on, spring flowers are appearing all over town, and plants come back up to the Venetian roof gardens (the so-called altane). And that the February late-winter light that falls into Venetian homes now takes on a special sparkling quality …
We must not take the spring sun for granted, at least now: On some days after the Carneval period, you can savor the quiet late-winter atmosphere, when the town can become totally still. On mornings like these, you could choose to taste your favorite sweets in peace and quite at the bars and pasticcerie in Venice, with a fine cup of tea or coffee, without the crowds. And there is enought time to talk to the owners and learn more about recipes and ingredients.Before Easter, you can take your time and choose your favorite fritole / fritelle, and a host of other sweets that I would like to present to you in a few pictures. Take a look at those colorful meringues, and almond pastries, filled with apricot and rasperry jam … My other blog “Le spezie di Venezia” will be running a post on the common sweets available here in Venice.
A few days ago on my way towards Rialto I chose to go there crossing one of my favorite campi in Venice, Campo Santa Maria Formosa, located in the quiet sestriere of Castello. From here it isjust a seven minutes stroll to Rialto. Campo Santa Maria Formosa is quite spacious, complete with week-day market stalls, bar, trattorie, and hotels facing this lively campo. When I was there on a quiet Friday Morning at 9 am, this gave me time to stop and take a few pictures, as on that day I was looking out to take pictures to add to my collection of little Venetian roof gardens that have always been so popular in Venice and that are called “altane“. With the houses of Venice becoming ever higher from the 14th century onwards, the altane were the place to take in fresh air, dry the laundry, take the sun. Venetian women also used the altane to take the sun and dye their hair by using a particular paste, let it dry in the sun and achieve a special reddish blonde tint, as I was once told by a Venetian hairdresser.
But before we look at some altane, from which the view of the campo below must be astonishing and revealing new perspectives, I invite you to follow me on this short walk. Entering the campo from the small alley Ruga Giuffa, you get a marvelous view of the bridges crossing the Rio di Santa Maria Formosa
Having stepped out into the Campo, I cannot help looking for the bar gelateria with its huge dark green sun shades, where Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa opens up into the Campo. As a child back in the 1990s in Venice, I used to come here to visit a rather grey-black cat sitting on the cafe’s chairs and even on the tables they place in the Campo, alongside with the guests, with whom it was a favorite, all year long, even in winter. I remember the cat sitting here on the table in the Campo next to me when I was enjoying a cup of cioccolata calda molto densa. few things have changed since then, for example the Hotel Vitturini has opened here, alongside with the traditional Hotel Scandinavia
I will come back later in this blog with many more pictures on the traditional roof gardens, altane and liagò that are well established architectonic elements in Venice, and that provide a respite from the heavy moist air and a haven for rest to Venetians on the many hot summer evenings that you can experience here from May through September.