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The Secret Gardens of Venice

 

Between water and sky, Venice stands before our eyes: a stone face that speaks of art, holiness and history.

The sense of beauty that surrounds you in Venice is the same that drove John Ruskin to explore it with an insatiable thirst for architectural detail in “The Stones of Venice”. Walking through the calli and campielli, one can feel the absence of other natural elements, until finally, between the water and the stone, spring bursts forth with its myriad of colours and scents. The vegetation in this city, between liquid and rocky elements, manages to surprise more than anywhere else by discreetly taking over the city.

Discreet, because in Venice the gardens are secret… with a few exceptions.

Join us on this journey to discover the spring awakening of the city of stones!

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A mimosa tree in a private garden heralding the arrival of spring

Spring Walks Along the Canals

 

In spring, the Venetian gardens are transformed into natural theatres where nature puts on its most enchanting show.

Climbing plants put on new leaves and challenge the heights of the walls and the barriers of the borders. Flowers bloom in a multitude of colours and the air is filled with the scent of jasmine, wisteria and roses.

At the heart of the city, overlooking the waters of the Grand Canal, are the Royal Gardens.

Commissioned by Napoleon in 1807 as gardens for the Procuratie Nuove (then used as the Royal Palace), they have been returned to the city in a new guise after the wonderful restoration of 2019. Walking among white hydrangeas, acacias, laurel hedges and flowering agapanthus, you can see the ‘Paron de casa’ rising up into the sky. The Campanile of San Marco, an elegant icon of the city, reminds us that we are just a few steps away from Piazza San Marco.

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Dai Giardini Reali fa capolino il "Paron de casa", il Campanile di San Marco

Walking past the Doge’s Palace towards the Riva degli Schiavoni, you can see the “lungs” of the city from afar.

The largest green area in the historical centre is located in the Castello district: the Giardini were created to ensure the presence of green areas in the city, following the Napoleonic decree of 1807. Today, part of this splendid green space hosts the Biennale, the International Exhibition of Art and Architecture.

Continuing the walk along the Riva, the paved area that marks the border between the land and the lagoon, we come to the Parco delle Rimembranze. We have reached the island of Sant’Elena, where maritime pines, lime trees, oaks, holm oaks, maples, elms, ginkgoes, cedars of Lebanon and palm trees immediately transport us to another dimension.

Sitting on the benches overlooking the lagoon, you can admire Venice and the islands of the lagoon in a calm, timeless beauty.

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Sant'Elena, Parco delle Rimemranze

Nascosti tra le calli e i campielli, lontani dai percorsi turistici più battuti, si trovano i giardini segreti di Venezia. Questi spazi verdi sono quasi inaccessibili.

Si risvegliano in primavera, superando con fronde e fiori i limiti imposti dall’uomo e regalando l’illusione che esista un’esclusività del verde che rende privilegiato chi possiede un giardino. Un’esclusività che li rende luoghi paradisiaci.

 

Hidden among the calli and squares, off the beaten tourist track, are the secret gardens of Venice. These green spaces are almost inaccessible.

They awaken in spring, with fronds and flowers overcoming the limits imposed by man, offering the illusion of an exclusivity of green that makes privileged those who own a garden. An exclusivity that makes them paradisiacal places.

 

Speaking of paradise, one cannot help but think of the Garden of Eden on the island of Giudecca.

Inaccessible and therefore mythologised, it is the symbol of the union between the untamed richness of nature and the culture that has permeated it. A garden that has given shelter and wellbeing to illustrious personalities such as Marcel Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke and Eleonora Duse. A paradisiacal place that has inspired pages of literature, from Henry James (“The Aspern Papers”) to Gabriele D’Annunzio (“Il Fuoco”) to Serena Dandini (“Chronicles from Paradise”).

Although the allusion to Paradise seems apt, the garden owes its name to the English gentleman who bought it in 1884: Frederic Eden fell in love with what was just a vegetable garden and transformed it into a dream. Wine pergolas, peonies, irises, pomegranates, pines, cypresses, oranges and lemons, tulips, dahlias, roses of every variety and origin. Purchased in 1979 by the Austrian architect Friedensreich Hunterwasser, the garden lent itself to a new interpretation of nature, which, according to the new owner, should be left to its own devices, creating embroideries through the tangled brambles and branches.

Abandoned to nature, the Eden Hunterwasser Garden is now inaccessible, according to the will of the late owner. The dense and overpowering vegetation gives it a mythological role, beyond the reach of any human intervention.

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The Garden of Remembrance at Villa Hériot: a floral tribute to the city of Venice and its heroines. Museum and garden make reflect on freedom and resilience

While you are still on Giudecca Island, why not stop off at the Villa Hériot Garden of Remembrance: a floral tribute to the city of Venice and its heroines.

The house museum and garden are a place to reflect on freedom and resilience: the yellow “Proust” roses pay tribute to the anti-fascist Franca Trentin, while the vibrant “Bella Ciao” and the delicate “Résurrection di Ravensbruck” pay tribute to the Venetian women who suffered during the war.

Recently, the garden has welcomed new white roses in memory of Valeria Solesin, a symbol of innocence and hope tragically lost in the Paris attacks.

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Labyrinth Borges on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore: get lost in a one and a half kilometre labyrinth made up of 3200 box trees.

“The Garden of Forking Paths” is the work by Luis Borges that inspired the Borges Labyrinth on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

It was designed to explore the theme of fate and the choices we make in life. It is not a secret garden, but you must want to find it to live the unforgettable experience of getting lost in a labyrinthine path of one and a half kilometres created by 3200 box trees.

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A jewel among stones: the Savorgnan Park in Cannaregio

To find a public park, unexpectedly at the end of a calle, you have to head towards the railway station.

The public park of Palazzo Savorgnan: conceived as a botanical garden, it has evolved over the centuries with deceptive perspectives that create the illusion of a larger space, typical of romantic gardens. Today the park is characterised by its undulating lawns and the presence of ancient trees such as the Ginkgo Biloba and the Celtis australis, imposing yews, the Gleditchia triacanthos (or Judas tree) and the Broussonetia papyrifera (paper mulberry), a rare plant native to Asia and introduced to Europe in the 18th century.

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Frati Carmelitani Scalzi nel Giardino Mistico

The last stop is the Mystical Garden of the Discalced Carmelites, where you can admire ancient vines, both native and imported since the times of the Serenissima. It is a convent garden divided into seven areas that represent the spiritual dwellings based on the visions of Saint Teresa of Avila.

As well as being a place of beauty, the garden is also a place of work: three monks, assisted by gardeners, cultivate the medicinal plants that are essential for the production of lemon balm water, a key ingredient in the distillery and in the products of the convent.

 

An example of how art and nature can be reconciled?

Let’s set sail for Murano to visit Judy Harvest’s Honey Garden, a reclaimed green space specially designed to welcome bees, contribute to the production of honey and support the biodiversity of the lagoon ecosystem.

An initiative that shows how to contribute to the preservation of a fragile ecosystem like Venice and its bees! A synergy where art unites with nature to protect it and to draw artistic inspiration, as the works of art of the American artist show.

We know and appreciate Judy Harvest, with whom Caffè Florian has shared a part of the artistic journey.
In 2006, she exhibited her work “Venetian Satellite” inside the historic Caffè, leaving a mark on our existence with the message she entrusted to the work: COMMUNICATE!

Spring Events and Holidays

 

Festivities and traditions awaken the soul of the city.

The birth of Venice: A Hymn to Spring On 25 March, a breath of history mixes with the spring air to celebrate the founding of Venice in the 5th century.

The Bòcolo: A flower for eternal love On 25 April, Venice is decked out in the passion of red with the Festa del Bòcolo. A rose, not just any rose, but a symbol of eternal love that transcends time.

The Festa della Sensa: On 12 May, Venice renews its vows with the sea. The Festa della Sensa is a symbolic marriage, an unbreakable bond that celebrates centuries of dominion over the waters.

The Vogalonga: the heartbeat of the lagoon on 19 May, the rhythm of the oars in the water heralds the start of the rowing season. The Vogalonga invites everyone to rediscover the lagoon by rowing, while respecting the environment.

The Castraùre: The festival of the purple artichoke on the second Sunday in May, the island of Sant’Erasmo celebrates the festival of the purple artichoke. It’s a plunge into the flavours and smells of the lagoon, a sensory journey through gardens and vineyards, where the artichoke becomes the star of a festival that enchants the palate.

 

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Typical Venetian Flora: Between History and Curiosity

 

With the arrival of spring, even the most familiar paths take on a surprising new light.

The mimosa, with its early flowering, signals the awakening of nature in Venice, where its flowers can only be seen in private gardens.
The wisteria captivates us with its beauty and the audacity with which it challenges heights and boundaries. The air, saturated with the scent of its flowers, takes on purple hues and thoughts turn to Marco Polo. It was he who brought the seeds of the “wisteria” from the East to Venice. A rarity that conquered Europe and for which we are grateful to the Venetian explorer.
In a challenging natural environment, it is the halophytes that characterise the vegetation of Venice: sea lavender and salicornia colour the lagoon and can enrich dishes and distillates with their unique flavour, created to surprise the palate.

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