The gardens of Venice
Are you curious? Would you like an unusual tour? Are you interested in the Gardens of Venice?
The first stop of our trip on ‘Beauty in Venice’ will revolve around the Giardini (gardens) that, as we’ll see, are quite unique. They are not large, save some exceptions, but they are many, about five hundred, of which only six are public. If we think that Venice doesn’t offer large spaces we can understand that even a garden of a few square meters is a treasure.
Venice, as every island that is part of it, is not only surrounded by water, but is also often submerged by it and the gardens are endangered by this phenomenon. That is why they are always on higher ground compared to the court that precedes them or the external street besides them. No matter the risks, nature prevails and the gardens have been surviving for centuries transforming progressively.
The monastery and convent garden
It has developed during Medieval times thanks to the S. Benedetto Rule (6th Century), the Benedictine spirituality and thanks to the Franciscan one (13th Century) that held nature in very high consideration. In the vegetable garden of the monasteries the garden of “the simples” was born (medicinal herbs that at the time were called “simple medicines” as they were direct derivations from nature).
One of the primary reasons of their development and growth was the need to cure the diseased that at the time were treated primarily through the use of medicinal herbs. In those years the study and knowledge of this kind of vegetation grew exponentially compared to the past. The input to develop also vegetables, vineyards and other products of the earth sprouted from the need to sustain themselves and the desire to help sustain the poor.
The oldest gardens in Venice are gone, like the one of the Certosa, but we do still have the orchard-garden of the Monastery of the Cappuccini (Franciscan derivation from the 16th Century) at the Redentore, and the Minori Osservanti one (another Franciscan derivation of the same period) at S.Francesco della Vigna.
At Redentore there is also the magnificent ancient Pharmacy, still decorated as if time had stopped and jealously guarded by the Monks.
In the monastery and convent pharmacies they would conserve, after being dried, the herbs that were collected from the gardens, catalogued by properties and functions in drawers, compartments and vases.
During the 16th Century an additional impulse towards the evolution of vegetable gardens will come from the Carmelitani Scalzi (the branch of Carmelitani founded by S. Teresa) this order will underline the beauty of nature as expression and manifestation of divine beauty and gift of God to man. From this we can deduce that being in contact with nature can bring man closer to the mystical union with God.
The Malta Knights (order of S. Giovanni del Tempio) had a garden of similar nature; it is now a green area that will be brought back to it’s ancient splendor. This will be possible thanks to detailed documents that are a few centuries old in which the garden is drawn and through which it was possible to understand what the favorite plants were, that include, of course, St. John’s Wort (named in honor of the protector of the order). From the flower you can obtain an oil for the skin, a fatigue-relieving infusion and an ointment that helped scaring.
The Knights did not only dedicate themselves to the defense of the pilgrims, but also to their health and because of this in every place they went they organized an hospital choosing carefully the positioning, often near a pre-existing garden.
These and many others that we haven’t yet talked about are real treasures, the more hidden the more precious and attractive.
They are not easily accessible, but the guided tours, even if dependent on the permits of the owners, are possible if organized early.
It is really worth; see it to believe it!