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”
|Campo Santa Maria Formosa, just after 9 am on Palm Sunday 2011|
|The processione is arriving from San Marco …|
|People carrying huge palm leaves for Palm Sunday, inside the Church of Santa Maria Formosa|
|Waiting for the patriarch of Venice in front of the Church of Santa Maria Formosa|
|in Piazza San Marco|
|Acquilegia flowers, narcissi, tulips …|
|Tulips for Easter|
|Colombe: pasticceria Ballarin, Venezia|
|Pasticceria Rizzardini, often yellow stuffed easter chicks or ducks next to Easter Eggs and Easter focaccie and of course colombe|
|Even my favorite shop Drogheria Mascari, where I buy spices and tea, decorates its windows with an elaborate chocolate Easter egg|
|For a dessert in the evening of Easter sunday and monday, families will eat the chocolate Easter egg together, enjoing it with a fine cup of caffé|
|A green terrace above the porta all’acqua|
|A not so secret garden|
|Early April lights against the Venetian brickwall / San Barnaba|
|A picture taken on a warm Easter Sunday in April|
|Castraure next to vegetables from North Italian hothouses, but also from southern Italy|
|A selection of fresh herbs from Rialto, and red onions, and radish …|
|… and of course we would also buy artichokes and fresh basil as base ingredients for our Easter lunch|
|A nice place to spend Easter Monday – Locanda Cipriani is waiting for lunch guests.|
|A sunny walk in Torcello|
Venezia is said to turn 1592 years on 25 March 2013, the legend says. Which are the four places in the lagoon you should know that are connected with the birth of Venice? And what has become of the mysterious Malamocco island, where the first doges resided, and other centers of the lagoon such as Torcello which were inhabited even before the Rivus Altus nucleus (today’s Venice) was urbanized? In our time, you can still visit three places I am mentioning: Rialto, San Zaccaria, and Torcello, while the forth – Malamocco – is a mythical place from which the small village of Malamocco in the southern part of the Lido, as well as the bocca di porto di Malamocco (inlet nto the lagoon) have taken over the name.
But let us start with our visit honoring the birthday of Venice to the first centrally located place connected with the birthday legend. Legend has it that on 25 March 421, the first stone was laid to build the eldest church in Venice, the church of San Giacomo di Rialto. Just next to it and further into the labryrinth of callie calleselle you will (re-)discover a great market place with delicacies from the Veneto and fresh produce from the lagoon islands, let alone the fish market.
The Rialto (Rivus Altus) location was chosen to build a permanent settlement as these islands grounds were rather solid and constantly above the water level, and were following a natural river bed (the Canal Grande), so therefore not flooded by the tides that enter and rush out of the lagoon twice a day.
25 March means that the birthday of Venice is defined near the time when spring is marking the beginning of the warm season, and just 25 days after the offical year in Venice began (the Venetian calendar started on 01 March and not on 01 January).
25 March is precisely the Giorno dell’Annunciazione alla Vergine Maria. On the other hand, 25 March also was the day dedicated to the goddess Venus, the deity of beauty. Of course one may interpret these facts accordingly. 25 March as birthday of Venezia was passed on by the historian Marin Sanudo (1466-1536). Actually, last year, his book on “De Origine, situ e magistratibus Urbis Venetiae” was re-published by a Venetian research center on medevial history, the Centro Cicogna.
Almost at the same time, when the legendary construction of this first church of Venice took place, with the ensuing development of the Rialto area into the economic and commercial center of Venice, and the banking center later on, the marshy grounds of the islands that were to become the first permanent vegetable gardens and orchards in Venice, the brolo, were solidified. To read more about the first garden, please follow this link to my Brolo article.
In the year 811, as a sign that “le Venetiae” were becoming one urban area, the doges who had first resided on the Malamocco island off Pellestrina island, moved towards the center of the lagoon, as this central area was not so exposed to tides and other enemy sieges. So in 828, the San Marco political center with the doge’s wooden palace and house church (which were to become the Doge’s Palace and Basilica di San Marco later on), but dedicated to San Teodoro first, was built on the territory urbanized and still belonging to the monastery of San Zaccaria.
With small communities settling in on various islands not yet interconnected or at most connected haphazardly, Venice as one settlement slowly began to emerge, with several places flourishing, the first of which were Rialto and San Zaccaria. And then in 1161, the catastrophe really happened, an exceptionally high tide is said to have submerged and destroyed the island of Malamocco.
Since I was a child I have been fascinated with the fate of the island of Metamaucus – Malamocco. It is said to have been located just off the village of Malamocco on the Lido, where remnants of ceramics have been found on the sea bed. So there is the Museum of Malamocco hosted in the village’s Palazzo del Podestà on the Lido, where you might want to visit if you are interested in Lagoon archelology.
Please click here to learn more about the Museo di Malamocco where you can discover for yourselves a bit of lagoon archeology. The boat ride you can see in the video below actually takes a route where the mysterious island of Malamocco has been located.
The forth place connected with the birth of Venice as a town in the midst of the lagoon is Torcello, and the Rivus Altus islands really became strengthened when most inhabitants of Torcello moved there.
Torcello had been the first island in the lagoon, rather near its northern rim, that the inhabitants of Altino fled to after the barbarian invasions in the 5th century AD. And what it looked like then can be easily taken in today: reeds, marshes, but soon livened up with fields, salt fields and fishermen huts, orchards and the defining tamerix trees which to me represent the typical trees lining the canals and river beds on Torcello. And imagine that in the tenth century the island counted 10,000 inhabitants!!
By the way, I love visiting Torcello in late April when all the tamerix trees are in bloom – so the open grassy area next to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta is surrounded by tamerisks wearing pink flowers, just the right place to take the sun in peace and quiet on a (hopefully) warm spring day. But one could of course go to Torcello for Easter Monday when the Italian families make their traditional “Pasquetta” excursion to enjoy the fresh green spring nature.
La giornata all’insegna della mimosa: It so happens that today, in Italy the Festa della Donna is celebrated. And in Venice, and Italy in general, the flower dedicated to women on the 8th of March is the mimosa. Which is natural, as at this time of the year, mimosas on the Mediterranean coasts are in full bloom.
Here are some “virtual mimosa presents” to all women readers of this blog: mimosa pictures, a mimosa painting and two recipes to celebrate a day “in the sign of the fluffy yellow mimosa blossoms”. Giving mimosas to women on 8 March is exclusively an Italian idea and goes back to the year 1946, simply because mimosas are in bloom just at that time of the year, they are also cheap and easily available, as an article of La Stampa has it.
Mimosas are actually trees, and they thrive in the mild climate of the Mediterranean and also take well here in the lagoon gardens if there is the right composition of the soil, of course. If you pass near the flowershop Fantin, next to Campo San Bartolomio and Rialto, this is the picture you get these days: mimosas that wait to be planted out into some Venetian garden. And as you can see in the picture above, there are also other typical spring flowers, such as bright primulas and pale pink azaleas waiting to be planted in a warm and sunny spot amongst lush evergreen shrubs.
Who would suspect that in Venetian gardens, in the moist, lush and silent areas tucked away behind brick walls, some very special flowers usher in spring. Yes, we also have tulips, crocusses and hyazinths – and forsythias of course, which by the way are the typical yellow Easter flowers. So spring is yellow here ..
But let us come back to the mimosas. Not only are they here for us today with their marvelous fresh fragrance, they are favorites with my family, and with Venetians in general. And in Venice like in all the other regions of Italy, several cakes use ingredients that remind us of the flimsy mimosa blossoms: In Venetian pasticcerie, you could buy now torta mimosa, but also smaller pastine mimosa.
And here are some recipes that I would like to share with you as it is mimosa day – torta mimosa and muffins mimosa. The torta mimosa is prepared for the Festa della Donna in particular. The following recipe is taken from the Giallo Zafferano Blog, one of Italy’s best known cooking & cuisine blogs:
Basically it is sponge cake filled with crema pasticcera and decorated with tiny balls made from the sponge cake remnants. For the muffins mimosa, we color the usual dough for muffins with vanilla sugar and grated lemon peel, and fill it with lemon or orange juice flavored ricotta cream.
And finally, I would like to share a painting I came across, showing a Venetian canal and garden walls overgrown with a mimosa in full bloom …Wishing you a happy day and lots of mimosa!!