Have you ever wondered what’s behind those tall brick walls as you walk down a calle in Venice? You know, the ones with wisteria or orange trumpet vines drooping over, and maybe you get a peek through a gate into a secret garden?
Thanks to Vince Gratzner who shared this link with me, you get to see inside not one but two secret gardens today. Oddly, they’re actually in a short documentary from Real Royalty about Empress Sissi of Austria. The home and garden where she lived is on the Giudecca island in Venice, known as the Giudecca Eden, sadly closed to the public (though if you want to see it, contact tour guide Luisella Romeo who might have information for you). Go to roughly minute 32 of the documentary to catch the beginning of this section.
Though is was immaculate when the Princess lived there, the garden is now quite lush and unkempt. It was allowed to grow wild under the ownership from 1979 to 2000 of the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (yes, that guy who created the amazing Seuss-like houses). Enjoy this very rare footage into this garden and check out the statues, pathways, fountains and other hidden gems. (Who ever expected to see a boat in a garden?) You’ll also see the terrible damage sustained by the garden from the 2019 aqua granda.
The video also contains peeks into an enormous green space in Venice: the garden of the Grand Hotel Palazzo Dei Dogi in northern Cannaregio. Go to roughly minute 45, which describes the botanical garden that Empress Sissi visited, which is now the hotel gardens. Luisella tells me that if you ask nicely the hotel “lets you see the garden when they don’t serve breakfast.” Or you can just be a guest there. In any case, what a treat! Go to roughly minute 45, which describes the botanical garden that Empress Sissi visited.
Next time you need a break from the cobbled streets and stone bridges or the big crowds, look for one of Venice’s hidden gardens instead.