Venice – a place of beauty5th November 2015 • Places to Visit • Stephanie Donaldson
There are few places that surpass one’s expectations, but Venice is definitely one of them and a five night stay was just about enough time to take in the major sights without feeling that we were on a cultural treadmill. There was also time for dipping into the Biennale with its contemporary art that ranged from the beautiful, to the bewildering, to the plain bonkers, but as there are only so many Titians and Tintorettos you can look at without glazing over, it was useful to have the contrasting experiences.
What became very clear was that (quite understandably) gardening doesn’t figure much in this watery place. We stayed in apartment with its own small garden, but I’ve seldom seen tattier grass or more neglected shrubs – the highlight was a jubejube tree Zizyphus jubjuba with a good crop of fruit. I saw them for sale in the market, but after reading explorer Sir Richard Burton’s description of them as “like a bad plum, an unrepentant cherry and an insipid apple” I wasn’t tempted to eat them. Clearly an acquired taste which even the pigeons in the garden hadn’t developed as they totally ignored the fallen fruit.
Courtesy of a guide book called ‘Secret Venice’ we did gain entrance to several hidden gardens – mainly belonging to convents – but weedy lawns, shrubs and a few trees pretty well summed them up. A few rooftop gardens and balconies had some greenery in evidence, but I don’t think Venice is a destination for anyone wanting to earn a living as a gardener. I’m sure that tucked behind palazzos there may be some gardens of note but we didn’t see them – and we didn’t get to Burano which is supposed to have a garden worth visiting. Still, it’s good that there is something we do better than the Venetians, because when it comes to pretty well everything else, they seem to lead the way.