Why are so many people drawn to Venice?
She will be 1,600 years old in 2020. She has accumulated incredible wisdom. Venice for 1,300 years has been more than just a commercial nation. A New York of the 15th century?
Little known is her unique commercial background, opening doors to the Levant, Asia and Africa. Importing goods to Europe and the New World that we all take for granted. Pioneering in food and cooking. Collecting and raising botanical treasures from the Far East. Devising a fragrant pharmacy and public health initiatives still valid today.
For my master thesis, I’m grateful I was given access by my Venetian Grandmother and friends to special documentation. From environmental issues of the Lagoon to historic spice recipes and public health initiatives. Venice as the prime city of perfume making and beauty products in Europe.
How the survival of town depended on what has now become trends. Urban gardening. Harnessing medical properties of food and Lagoon herbs. Making one’s own syrups, jams, preserves was not only economical and healthy, but a necessity. Venetians had to resort to much of this knowledge in the process of re-building Venice and her identity after the WW1 and WW2.
People always think of Venice as surrounded by water, and it certainly is. But in that water, out in the lagoon, are a number of islands. The soil of these islands is sandy, salty, and full of minerals – it is constantly flooded by tides – and ideally suited to vegetable farming … the island vegetables are small. But they have the most intense flavor of all the vegetables grown in Italy … I would even say the world. Arrigo Cipriani – The Harry’s Bar Cookbook
Venice has kept the knowledge of fresh, unprocessed food. Vegetables and fruit full of colors and energy. Peas, spinach, salads, herbs, carrots, tomatoes, artichokes… all delivered freshly from the Lagoon islands.
In healthy cooking, my Grandmother has learnt much from the convents in Venice and the Lagoon. San Lazzaro degli Armeni. San Zaccaria. Gli Scalzi … A favorite remedy against migraines and fatigue of ours is melissa water produced in a cloister garden in town. They use le aromatiche – aromatics, aromatherapy being at the heart of their pharmaceutical tradition.
Venice is a micro-cosmos reflecting the world.
My Grandmother calls the process of learning “crossing the magical border”. Venetians, over the centuries, have been dealing with all situations life can ever give you. There are many questions and answers waiting. That’s where we start.