While Venetian history is well-documented, the culinary heritage of the Republic of Venice is almost unknown! La Spezeria shares the historical food culture, natural remedies and perfumery for which Venice was famous in Europe for more than 1000 years.
Much of this ancient know-how was used to survive the two world wars in the Lagoon. That's when our grandmother Lina became interested in the recipes of the past which played a big role for her family to survive these difficult times.
Lina opened her first restaurant in Venice in 1945, offering her childhood favorites from the northern Lagoon, where the family had been living during the war, just north of Lio Piccolo and Torcello: People went foraging for herbs in spring and used herbs and wild fruit in their staple dishes in winter.
She also started collecting ancient recipes from monasteries in the Lagoon and in Venice: San Francesco della Vigna, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, and the forgotten libary of San Zaccaria, of whom she is the guardian:
This was the food eaten in pre-industrial times, serving a purpose: Food = health = beauty. Food was considered the best medicine in the Venice of the past, so we thought that during our current changing, fast-paced and unsure times, adding healthy and delicious touches to food might be useful.
55,000 Venetians live in the historic center. Their numbers are down from 150,000 two centuries ago but this core of residents holds a deep love for their home: Iris and her grandmother are passionate to show people that there's much, much more to Venice than just St Mark's, beautiful though it is. So they write about the hidden, private side of Venice. From courtyard gardens to secet orchards, medicinal botany to vegetable patches. Most lie behind anonymus, vertiginous, red brick walls, totally unknown to passers-by or their guidebooks, and astonishingly gardens cover almost half the surface area of the city. Often the only clue you'll have to being near a secret sanctuary is a waft of heavy vanilla, Jasmine or lemon balm as you pass by. And most of the time you're probably no more than just a few feet away from an old vineyard, an ageing convent garden or, as Iris puts it, the second Venice, known only to residents. If you're lucky she'll take you there through her writing or in person. And if we're lucky Venice, her history and her gardens will survive in the safe hands of Venetians like Iris and her grandmother Lina.
Venetia: Heritage and Culture of La Serenissima Republic of Venice
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Spring in Venice: Delicious Beauty Recipes from the Lagoon
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