In Venetian gardens

Venetian gardens are unexpectedly quite a few. At least five hundred. In Venice, gardens are not so easy to spot, though. Most visitors, after spending a few days in Venice, get the feeling they miss plants, green areas, trees, flowers… Some also wonder if there is anywhere one can go jogging or where children can play. In other words, it is easy to perceive Venice as a city of water and stone.

There only are six public parks in the city. You can find them next to St Mark’s square, by Piazzale Roma, in Dorsoduro, in Castello by Sant’Elena. I have already expressed my wish the Biennale Gardens were open to public even when the Biennale exhibition is not going on (see my blogpost here: 

Venetian gardens and their walls

However, the reason you don’t perceive the presence of over 400 gardens in Venice is not the fact they are private gardens, which only a few lucky Venetians enjoy. 

The reason why Venetian gardens remain hidden and secret is that they need a wall all around, not just to protect them from flooding, but also because that wall serves the purpose of being a sort of a large flower pot, filled in with good dirt. As a matter of fact, the ground of Venice contains a lot of salt —which kills plants, so better keep roots far from salt!

Wisteria blossoming along a private Venetian garden in the district of Santa Croce, Venice

In a documentary film, the owner of one of these gardens, Toto Bergamo Rossi, told how much trouble he had to go through to bring the dirt to his garden by boat so that plants could grow in a safe space. Also the lovely vineyard in Mazzorbo, Venissa, mentioned something like 80 centimeters of good dirt for its grapes. 

Gardens in Venice: what kind of plants

Let’s not forget Venice was a city with no fresh water till the construction of the aqueduct (see my blogpost here: That adds to the difficulties, but also explains what kind of plants you will normally find in a Venetian garden! Strong ones, of course.

Wisteria, ivy, trumpet vine, palm trees, boxwood, magnolia trees, jasmine, fig trees are among the most common. Basically plants that can stand the cold, the heat, the lack of fresh water or the presence of brackish water. 

When visiting Venice, I will be happy to take you to some of them and describe Venetian gardens in detail to enjoy this miracle of “artificial (or artistic) nature”. In this post let me mention some gardens, which can be considered pretty special and let’s start from one with a special name, the Eden garden at the Giudecca, to move then to Carlo Scarpa’s garden at the Biennale, a monastic garden near the Venice train station, a garden in a factory and finally end with the island of Poveglia.

The Eden Garden on the island of Giudecca

In February 2018 I had the pleasure to visit and run a tour of the Eden Garden on the island of Giudecca. Closed to public and actually described as a forbidden garden where no one is allowed, the Eden Garden at the Giudecca was for me a really secret garden. The most secret of the secret gardens, if you wish. 

After being taken care of in the late 1800s by British garden lovers, Frederick and Caroline Eden, sister of the famous gardener Gertrude Jekyll, the garden passed to the Greek monarchy and in 1979 it was acquired by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Hundertwasser’s idea was to leave the garden to its wild growth. When I visited the garden, the occasion was the promotion of a new perfume for a famous fashion brand, and it looked anything but wild.

These are some photos I took.

Statues in the Eden garden on the island of Giudecca, February 2018

A fountain in the Eden garden on the island of Giudecca, February 2018

A storage construction with ceramic elements in the Eden garden on the island of Giudecca, February 2018

Redentore church viewed from the Eden garden on the island of Giudecca, February 2018

In November 12th, 2019 the brick wall protecting the garden was deeply damaged by the acqua alta and parts of it crashed down under the strength of the wild waves of that night. 

The garden of sculptures by Carlo Scarpa in the Biennale Giardini

Is there anything like natural gardens? Not in Venice. 

The meeting of art and gardens is a “natural” union, as both express human creativity. Carlo Scarpa designed at least two wonders you can admire in Venice, where architecture of stone and concrete combines with a selected choice of natural elements, such as water, plants and the sky.

One of them is the garden Scarpa designed in 1963 at the Querini Stampalia Foundation (I talk about it here: 

Carlo Scarpa’s garden at the Querini Stampalia Foundation, Venice

The other one dates back to 1952. It is called the Garden of Sculptures and lies in the Giardini of the Biennale and often hosts art works by different artists. Three large columns support a concrete roof, open to the sky in circular shapes.

Column, fountain and concrete roof in Carlo Scarpa’s Sculptures garden at the Biennale Giardini, Venice

Concrete roof and ivy in Carlo Scarpa’s Sculptures garden at the Biennale Giardini, Venice

Venetian gardens in the hands of monks and friars

Herbal orchards, vineyards and plants chosen to represent theological concepts characterize those Venetian gardens you can find in ancient monasteries. At the Giudecca, the garden of the Capuchin Franciscan friars is an example, the vineyard at San Francesco della Vigna is another one and the Carmelites garden at the Scalzi is quite an unexpected space, incredibly large — and it used to be even bigger! 

Vineyards at Scalzi monastic garden in Venice

The mystical garden at Scalzi monastic garden in Venice

Serving the purpose of growing herbs for medical reasons and vegetables for the monasteries’ inhabitants, the garden is also a place of meditation, connected to christian religion and its theology.

Carmelites mystical garden in Venice

A Venetian garden in the back of a textile factory: the Fortuny Garden

Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo founded his factory on the island of Giudecca in 1919, right after WW1. While the factory is not open to public, the showroom and the garden behind can be visited. 

Fortuny garden and the ex brewery on the island of Giudecca

The garden is spectacular, featuring large plants, roses and trees which in spring beautifully blossom. There is even a swimming pool!

The swimming pool in the Fortuny garden on the island of Giudecca

Planned by Elsie McNeill Lee, who acquired the factory after Fortuny’s death in 1949, this was the second swimming pool in Venice designed in the ground, after the one built at the Cipriani hotel, still in Giudecca. The garden was also part of the marketing strategy of the new owner: a way to entertain potential clients right in the premises of the factory, where the precious fabrics was printed. In this way, the textiles you brought home would always remind you of this luxurious space.

The island of Poveglia: a public park in the middle of the southern Lagoon

Poveglia is a public property island south of Venice, near Malamocco center on the Lido island. It’s over 72K square meters large and in 2014 the City council of Venice chose to sell it. 

Poveglia island with its bell tower, Venice lagoon

The Association “Poveglia per tutti” ( or was then born to prevent it from becoming a private island and it was able to collect 450K euros from residents and not just, around 4500 people and around 40 Venetian organizations. Umana SPA led by Luigi Brugnaro (who would become Mayor of Venice in 2015) offered over 500K euro. But nothing happened. 

Poveglia island in the southern lagoon of Venice

A sailboat by Poveglia island in the southern lagoon of Venice

Flowers blossoming on Poveglia island in the southern lagoon of Venice

Now, after all these years, during which time the association has taken care of the island arranging fairs, maintenance and cleaning actions, fighting against abandonment, it looks like something could happen. The first step will be to turn the association into a no-profit one. The purpose is to propose projects once more to enhance a public perception of the island, its historical heritage and its plants. Because otherwise you forget it exists, like a secret garden.

by Luisella Romeo
registered tourist guide in Venice, Italy

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Showing 2 comments
  • John Stewart

    Very interesting article and some beautiful garden pictures

    • Grazie, thank you for leaving a comment! I am glad you have enjoyed it! It was hard to make a choice as gardens in Venice are of many different and interesting kinds.