Unveilling the spice monopoly: a culinary odyssey through venetian history
THE ROUTE OF SPICES
The best way to know a different culture is to discover it’s food and the culinary history behind it. To understand how Venice became such a glorious city, it pays to look to the East. As early as the 12th century Venetian merchants realized the economic potential of Asian spices they had known thanks to their trade in the Mediterranean area.
A symbol of wealth and status in medieval Europe spices were small, light, durable, and they had become immensely desirable at that time. A long experience in commercial travel had led in the XIV century to the creation of a regular system called “Muda”: trade routes that could vary annually, just like the migratory flows of birds, hence the name meaning “muta”. Thanks to these convoys the “Serenissima Republic” guaranteed the ‘special treasure’ a safe journey to the Rialto market, the centre of business.
Venice became the commercial hub for import and export of Spices. Once at the Rialto Market, the “Messeri del pepe” (the Masters of the pepper), supervised the quality of the imported spices to export them from Venice across Europe, where they were sold at many times the purchase price. Spices made the fortune of the Doge’s town. The Monopoly of Spices has been created as early as XIV century, a first example of globalization in the world.
Routes of the medieval spice trade
In order to maintain florid traffics in the Mediterranean Sea, Venice has been able to maintain long periods of “strategic peace”. The welcoming has always been its aim: merchants, writers, apothecaries, exiles or conquerors, all have found welcome among the streets and canals of the Dominant. Venice has been able to integrate diversity always taking the best and turning it to its advantage.
View of ships unloading in San Marco basin Venice by Gasper van Wittel 1697
Food has been the vehicle of a cultural interchange whose elaboration can still be read today in every stone, in every monument and in every dish of the culinary tradition.
Uncovering the spice routes: venice’s legacy in the world’s flavors
Gateway to the East and melting pot of cultures, Venice has always been characterized by a cosmopolitan society. A Babel of languages, scents, colours and flavours that speak of distant lands. Its long history of discoveries, travels, wars, colonies and trade is revealed in food, in those preparations considered today part of the tradition, but born from the contamination of different cultures. Dishes that stand out thanks to the magical touch created by the addition of a spice. Or a combination of them.
Exoticism and myth were imported through the ‘special’ Spices. The Latin origin of the word “species” means extraordinary, out of common: that extra pinch that makes the difference and that makes a ‘special’ dish.
Savor the flavors of venice: exploring the rich spices and authentic dishes of venetian tradition
“Saor” in Venetian dialect means “flavour”. This is a XIV century seasoning made of onions, vinegar, pine nuts and raisins, a conservation technique for sardines but also other foods. It recalls the vocation of Venice to be a bridge to the East.
Try and eat “Castradina” (mutton meat, black pepper and thyme), or “Pastissada de manzo”(meat with long maceration in red wine with a symphony of aromas) and you will be on a trip around the world or rather the world will be served in your dish. Thanks to a continuous work of fusion, today we can rejoice and enjoy so many amazing Venetian delicacies.
Marco Polo sailing from Venice in 1271, detail from an illuminated manuscript, c. 15th century; in the collection of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, United Kingdom
Caffè Florian is the mirror of Venetian history, a microcosm in which the ancient echoes of its glory are revived.
We wanted to recreate in our exclusive products a sensory and olfactory journey that would witness the historical role of the Serenissima. In the perfume de toilette “Aqua Florian” the first note that is perceived is coriander followed by wormwood.
In the room fragrance “Illustrious Men” we wanted to celebrate the Queen of the Spices Route using clove and nutmeg.
Enjoying our “Spicy Cookies” cinnamon, among other spices, will surprise your taste buds becoming the protagonist of tea time. Ginger, cloves, anise, coriander and nutmeg…
You just have to close your eyes and let yourself be carried away in time and space. Elsewhere, but in the East.
Discover the aroma of venice: navigate through spice markets to savor the taste of italy spice markets
Trying to discover the secrets of Venice you can find a new path to the heart of the town leading to the Rialto Market. “Ruga dei Spezieri”, “Spices’ sellers’ road”, is a reminder in the topography of the strategical role Venice had in the trade of Spices. Can you imagine all the spice merchants aligned with their colourful merchandise on display? Cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, cassia… Vibrant colours, harmonious contrasts, inebriating scents, velvety texture: spices stimulate sight, smell, taste. They can awaken all senses, and they can lead us through a sensorial journey into the world and time.
The Venetians, brilliant masters in the art of selling, have been able to invent the practical bag of spices, “sacheti veneti di speciarie veneziane” that collected different aromas according to the dish to be seasoned: meat, fish, or a combination of spices to suit all tastes.
Today we would call it a successful marketing operation!