Venetian Garden Culture

Many of our visitors think that Venice has no gardens which is understandable:Your first impression upon arriving here must be one of a city made from white Istrian stone!

Yet, almost half the surface of Venice consists of gardens! Surprising news, so this website takes you on a secret journey, into the other half of Venice, the realm of secret gardens hiding behind towering brick walls, from kitchen to palace gardens, hanging gardens and lush courtyards.

This is the part never told in books and while there are many publications on Venice in general, such as guide books, only few were published on the gardens recently.

A few hundred years back, Venice counted the largest number of private and botancial gardens in the world: Our blog explores the Venice Giuseppe Tassini described 150 years ago, taking up the famous words of architect Francesco Sansovino (+ 1570): Quel bisogno che noi proviamo .. di respirare aria più libera, e di rallegrare lo sguardo nell’aspetto degli arbori, dell’erbe e dei fiori, veniva .. provato anche dai nostri padri, ed è perciò che, fin dagli antichi tempi, noi troviamo in Venezia, alla Giudecco e in Murano, parecchi orti e giardini ..

Venetia, città nobilissima et singolare, di Sansovino

In Venice, Gardens Are Our Way Of Life, Background To Normal Days.

Before the noble families of Venice created sophisticated gardens consisting of a mix of formal and wood garden styles, convents and and monasteries had built vegetable gardens and herb gardens, and vegetable plots surrounded practically all houses and were even located in the courtyards. You have to be inventive in a city built on 118 islands!

Famous palace gardens included those belonging to the noble families of Venice, the Rizzo-Patarol, Sormani-Moretti, Gritti, Dandolo, Loredan, Corner, and Vendramin.

Convent gardens and herbs and vegetable gardens include San Francesco della Vigna or the Redentore gardens, that can still be visited today. There is also a biogarden initiative started in the Santa Croce area.

Numerous private gardenshotel gardens open to everyone, like the Boscolo Hotel dei DogiHotel CiprianiHotel San Clemente, to name just a few,  and lots and lots of terrace and roof gardens, the so-called altane and liagò. Public gardens, like the Giardini Reali next to Piazza San Marco.

After the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797 it was British expats living in Venice who resuscitated Venetian garden culture and adding their own experience in it: In the 19th centuries many noble families in Venice were impoverished after the end of the Republic, and often had to sell their gardens. Frederick Eden in his book described what was gardening like in Venice at the end of the 19th century. His is a sort of garden bible, and its tips are so useful to anyone trying to grow a garden on the salty soil of the Lagoon islands.

As I wrote above, there are so many gardens left, though most are privately owned and tucked away behind brick walls. But Venice is really a garden city, and so I wanted to create this blog sharing large images of gardens in Venice and in the Lagoon, about ancient and famous ones, public and private ones. During the past five years, I have witnessed so many initiatives started by Venetians to embellish their gardens, simple window gardens, courtyards, and even taking up urban gardening again, of which Venice is a pioneering city.

In November 2019, Venice lost one third of her gardens, Lina estimates. If they are destroyed, Venice loses the most precious part of her heritage, an intrinsic part of the cityscape. For gardens weren’t used to embellish “the space between the buildings” in Venice. They were essential for the Venetians to live self-sufficiently and growing their own food. The blossoms were harvested to create dreamy perfumes and beauty products, and went into home-made natural remedies often enriched with spices, which were also growing here in Venice for almost 1000 years!