Spring is the season of flowers. The lively colours, the intriguing perfumes and the calming effect of the green of the leaves profuse positivity all around town and I feel as if I have to get hold of at least some of this beauty and bring it home with me. Whenever this feeling occurs, I go to one of my favourite places in Venice: Laguna Fiorita, a plant nursery located at the end of F.ta dell'Abbazia in Cannaregio to the right of the Church.
Probably the biggest and most productive plant nursery in central Venice, at Laguna Fiorita it is possible to buy plants, flowers, vases, seeds and anything else you may need for your home gardening. The location is really unique, bright, spacious and with a side overlooking the lagoon. So, whether you wish to buy aromatic herbs, order a whole new set of vases for your geraniums or simply want to have a look, I suggest stopping by!
This nursery was once part of the set of buildings and green areas belonging to the Scuola della Misericordia, one of the six 'Scuole Grandi' in Venice (lay confraternities of mutual support, an essential part of Venetian life). The church had been built together with the abbey around the 10th century by a confraternity of Augustinian fathers, while the Scuola Vecchia was founded around 1308/1310 and functioned as 'house for the poor'. Thanks to its intense charity activities, the Scuola Grande grew in size and importance over the centuries and gradually expanded. The area with the Scuola Vecchia and of the Abbey used to be called Val Verde (literally meaning green valley) for its green colour and grassy nature. It was very florid, ideal for growing plants and herbs, and the part where Laguna Fiorita is now was given to the fathers around the 1500s, now separated and independent from the other part of the garden. Spending even 15 minutes in this environment will make you feel immediately relaxed and closer to nature. Even the Campo dell'Abbazia is magical, with its original fishbone pavement in red bricks and the white well. Definitely quieter than the near Fondamenta della Misericordia, it conveys an almost metaphysical sensation. In other words, a must see!
The plant nursery is -obviously- open to the public, while the garden of the abbey is very difficult (if not impossible) to visit. This May, though, the Galleria dell'Accademia have organised some special guided tours (see dates), which need to be booked in advance, and I strongly recommend seizing this opportunity!
Anyway, after all this chit chat, I have to confess that even if I love flowers I don't know all their names and definitely do not consider myself anything near an expert. My mother is much better than me, she knows all the meanings behind the different flowers and pays great attention when arranging a bouquet or a floral composition. I suppose she got this from my grandmother, who took very good care of both her front and back garden in Dublin. When I was a child, the part I enjoyed the most was not the flowers, but the compost area. It may sound weird, but my friend Aifric and I used to play there all the time so that, as soon as my nana and gra sat inside and could not see us, we could secretly climb the wall and go play with their neighbour's dog... great memories!!!!
I discovered that even the different herbs have their own meaning, so for example basil symbolises good wishes, fennels flattery, mint virtue, parsley festivity, rosemary remembrance, thyme courage, sage wisdom and immortality and salvia 'I'm thinking of you'. How sweet! And how good to know, in fact, to be totally honest with you, my mother has taught me to buy people plants rather than flowers (because they live longer... ) so now I could just opt for the herbs! This time, though, I just bought a small mint plant for my house (I use mint a lot in the warmer months to aromatise water).
When I left I went for a short walk along Fondamenta della Misericordia and stopped for a quick tea at sullaluna, the bookshop and vegetarian bistrot I talked about in many other posts and that I've grown very fond of. My suggestion is, from campo dell'Abbazia, to take the sottoportico, turn right before the old wooden squero (boatyard) and wander around Fondamenta Gasparo Contarini, where the Camel Palace is (proper name, Palazzo Mastelli). Take a look at the Church of Madonna dell'Orto at least from the outside, a church dedicated to Saint Christopher Martyr (my preferred Saint, destined to a hard working life -poor guy, so sweet...and so muscular too!-, differently from Saint Jerome, destined to a contemplative life and definitely not as hot as the younger Christopher...) with some marvellous works by Tintoretto and an astonishing cloister, and then reach Campo ai Mori with its stone statues of the three brothers from Morea and their servant, the silk and spices merchants who lived in the Camel Palace. At this point, you can't miss the house and small bust of Jacopo Tintoretto.
If you have time keep exploring, walk along Fondamenta della Sensa, where Anice Stellato -one of my favourite restaurants- is located, then (following a map, because you will need to turn a couple of times) try to go as far as Sant'Alvise, an area that very few people visit but that is absolutely worth seeing! Obviously, the Jewish Ghetto is always interesting (you can refer to my post 'Eating in the Jewish Ghetto'). Otherwise, if what you are looking for is a bit of fun and relaxation, just go back to Fondamenta degli Ormesini and della Misericordia and choose a spot for a drink and a nibble. For suggestions, have a look at my post 'Around F.ta della Misericordia'.
I am always amazed by how much there is to do and see in this area of Cannaregio! One would really need a lifetime to learn about all the history and notice all the details, so don't worry if you feel as if you are missing something... after all, despite having lived here almost all my life, I feel the same! Just enjoy your day and take it easy! I'm sure you will love Laguna Fiorita and even if you don't live in Venice, besides breathing in all the positivity of the place and gladden your eyes with all that beauty, you can buy their scented candles as original gifts for your friends and family!
Have a wonderful day, talk to you soon :-)