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The "mystical" wine of the Giardino degli Scalzi in Venice

Ad Mensam and Prandium, the entire history of the Serenissima in a glass

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
The “mystical” wine of the Giardino degli Scalzi in Venice — Veneto Secrets

Discovering one of the oldest vineyards in Venice, that of the vegetable garden of the Convent of the Scalzi dating back to 1649, which gives life to a "mystical" wine with an ancient soul.

Who knows how many times we got off at the Santa Lucia train station in Venice, in a hurry to reach our destination. Yet, just behind the high walls that border the tracks, lies one of the most fascinating and best kept secrets of the lagoon city. It is the wonderful Mystical Garden of the Convent of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers in Venice, the largest in the city, which in 2015 was completely renovated by the architect Giorgio Forti in collaboration with the Venice Wine Consortium.

A project that started way back in 2010 thanks to the pioneering vision of the Consortium which, in addition to the protection of its five denominations: the DOCG, Lison and Malanotte del Piave, and the DOC, Lison-Pramaggiore Piave and Venezia, aims to promote the ancient Viticultural varieties of the Lagoon with the aim of restoring its tradition, today at serious risk of disappearance.

The “mystical” wine of the Giardino degli Scalzi in Venice — Veneto Secrets
The “mystical” wine of the Giardino degli Scalzi in Venice — Veneto Secrets

And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things.

(Old Testament, Jeremiah 2,7)

The cultivation of the vine has been, in fact, one of the most flourishing trades of the Serenissima Republic of Venice since its birth: just think that up to 1812, according to the Napoleonic Cadastre, there were still 300 hectares planted with vines in the islands of the Lagoon, of which today only 10% remains.

A tradition strengthened over the centuries by the many religious orders present in Venice, and, in particular, by that of the Discalced Carmelites which sees the very essence of its birth in the trinomial life-grape-wine. The roots of the order date back to the end of the 12th century when a group of Crusaders settled on the slopes of the sacred Mount Carmel, in Israel, whose name Karmel means “flower garden”. In the second half of the 1500s, Teresa of Jesus gave life to the community of the Discalced Carmelites, the first woman to create an order starting precisely from the male order, which founds the essence of her belief in the union between God, Man and Nature.

The “mystical” wine of the Giardino degli Scalzi in Venice — Veneto Secrets

In 1633 the Discalced arrived in Venice and in 1649 they bought land and vegetable gardens in Cannaregio where they built the current Church of the Scalzi, the Convent and the orchard. A presence that was limited during the nineteenth century, first with the advent of Napoleon, who suppressed religious orders, and then with the Austro-Hungarian Empire which initiated expropriations to build the current railway connections.

Despite adverse historical events, since 1649, the vegetable garden of the Convent of the Scalzi, which has remained miraculously unchanged in its essence, is a small, romantic example of Faith, Resilience and Beauty that today we can visit and even “taste”.

In fact, the restoration of the vegetable garden has given rise to a circular path inspired both by the theology of creation, so that nature speaks of God as God himself is present in it, and by the recovery of Christian numerology. In fact, there are seven flower beds in the garden and seven are the stages of the path inspired by the rooms of the Interior Castle described by Saint Teresa of Avila which represent the journey of the Christian life.

The “mystical” wine of the Giardino degli Scalzi in Venice — Veneto Secrets
The “mystical” wine of the Giardino degli Scalzi in Venice — Veneto Secrets

Mathematics is the alphabet with which God wrote the universe and Nature is the book written in mathematical language.

(Galileo Galilei)

The gem of the Mystical Garden, and fourth stage of the path, is the wonderful vineyard created in collaboration with the Consorzio Vini Venezia which has recovered, literally knocking on the door of the few bastions of rural life left in Venice, its ancient native vines for replant them in the orchard. The result is a vineyard made up of 17 varieties (wonderful explanatory signs that tell you the whole history of wine in Venice) including the main ones that were grown in the lagoon, such as Dorona and Malvasia, and the international ones that are more closely linked to its history, including Armenian and Promised Land varieties.

With the collaboration of the oenologist Mario Barbieri, two fine wines with completely natural cultivation were born, a niche artisan production under 1000 bottles a year, expression of the best winemaking tradition of the Serenissima and of the Venezia DOC denomination. Ad Mensam is the white wine obtained from a selection of 17 varieties including Glera, Bianchetta trevigiana, Grapariol, Malvasia, Verduzzo trevigiano and Dorona, while Prandium is the red wine produced mainly with Raboso, Marzemino, Turchetta and Recantina grapes.

The wines and all the other products of the Convent, including the famous Acqua di Melissa, can be purchased at the shop adjacent to the Convent next to the Santa Lucia station.

The Secret

The Acqua di Melissa (water of lemon balm) is the therapeutic remedy par excellence of the Carmelite tradition, still made today by the friars according to an ancient recipe that dates back to the beginning of the eighteenth century. The only ones to produce it with a secret mix of medicinal remedies based on Melissa Moldavica, it is useful in the somatization of anxiety affecting the gastrointestinal system, as it has a sedative and antispastic action, and has excellent antiviral properties.

Useful Info

Consorzio Vini Venezia
Via Businello 3
31040 Portobuffolè, Treviso
Tel. +39 0422 850045

Chiesa e Convento dei padri dei Carmelitani Scalzi
Cannaregio 54
30121 Venezia
Tel. +39 041 8224006
For reservations, guided tours on request or, without reservation, every Saturday morning (tour start at 10.00 – 11.00 – 12.00)

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