Serra Dei Giardini: an island of green, light and glass in Venice
Serra Dei Giardini: where to find peace in Venice
So here you are. 🙂
Finally in Venice, totally overwhelmed by the beauty and uniqueness of this city, but also from the mass of people who every day pours in its endless labyrinth of streets, squares, but especially gathers in Piazza San Marco.
Maybe it is a summer day. The typical Afa, the Venetian sultry sticky weather, is making you dizzy and all you want is a nice cool drink, preferably containing a large portion of alcohol, to enjoy in the shade of a beautiful tree, away from the tourists, the souvenir vendors and the horrible selfie-sticks!
But where can you find a real green oasis in Venice, a park smelling of honeysuckle and where can you take a short break to recover from the summer crowds of the city?
Simple! At Serra dei Giardini, a short walk from the water bus stop Giardini, close to the Biennale.
Serra Dei Giardini – Just off the Biennale
I admit it; I actually went there in the middle of autumn, on a typical cold and dreary November day, when the green shades of Viale Garibaldi were now golden brown. I was not running away from the summer heat and the crowds, but from the autumn rain and the hordes of umbrellas and raining boots, but the idea is the same.
Yes, because Venice is now packed with people even in the cold months, with the only difference being that when people walk around with umbrellas, there is even more confusion.
Therefore to be able to find a nice quiet place, away from the crowds of tourists, where you can recharge your batteries (and I do not mean those of your mobile phones or I-pad) as Serra Dei Giardini, means really finding an oasis in the desert.
I stumbled there a few days ago with my dear friend JoAnn Locktov author of Dream of Venice and Dream of Venice Architecture, two of the most beautiful coffee table photo-books about Venice ever published.
We wanted to enjoy a quiet chat, about life and Venice, without too many people around and without that feeling of having to rush to leave the seat free for the next customer.
We were walking along Viale Garibaldi, the long tree avenue near the Biennale and we spotted the beautiful Liberty style architectural building of Serra dei Giardini.
As we walked into the garden, we were greeted by a beautiful glass building, the old Green House. Historically known as Serra Margherita, the Green House in the Giardini was built in 1894 with the intention to create a ” tepidarium of glass and iron “, to accommodate the palm trees and all the other decorative plants in use at the International Art Exhibition. It fell into disuse for a long time and then, in the 90s, the municipality of Venice transformed it into a meeting multidisciplinary center for the Venetian citizens.
A living room in the middle of Venice
Right from the start, we felt like we entered in an old English Tea Room or stepped into an episode of Friends, looking for a quiet coffee in Central Perk. Gardening books and magazines scattered everywhere, wrought iron tables and chairs surrounded by plants and colorful flowers, jazz background music and a lot of natural light from the windows, ornate with Christmas decorations, given the time – this is Serra Dei Giardini.
The atmosphere was very relaxed: there were people reading the newspaper or engrossed in a book, people who talked about the latest neighborhood gossip and someone simply sipping a coffee or a cocktail.
The Coffee Shop is frequented by local Venetians, as well as the tourists coming out of the Biennale and searching for a quiet corner to take a breather. Many local moms, from the Castello area, come here after school to let the children play in the garden area dedicated to the little ones, while they can enjoy a relaxing minute with a Spritz or Hugo, a very refreshing cocktail made with Prosecco wine, Elderberry Flower Syrup, Mint leaves and lime.
What’s on offer
We took a quick look at the menus: one for the hot chocolates (which are varied and many), one for the teas and infusions, one for the snacks and drinks, among which you can find Slow Food soft drinks, blended fruit and vegetables, alcoholic cocktails, craft beers and wines.
In short, the place is small, but the selection is definitely great!
Even though I really wanted to try a hot chocolate, being noon, I opted for an inviting aperitif, to accompany a toasted vegetable and a ricotta and spinach pie, while JoAnn chose a vegetarian pastry pie.
The drinks came fast, they were delicious and very well presented! Soon after the snacks were served, of good quality and very tasty.
Alvise, manager of Serra dei Giardini, explained that, where possible, he always chooses organic and quality products. He explained that, here, you can also enjoy a wide variety of International teas and infusions, that can be accompanied with some delicious homemade cakes.
So, we decided not to miss on this opportunity and we ordered a tasty cheesecake and a delicious chocolate brownie with a cup of good coffee.
And we did not forget to leave a Caffè Sospeso, a pending coffee, as required by the famous Neapolitan tradition adopted by this cafeteria. In other words you drink a coffee, but you pay for two, leaving a drink on offer for those who cannot afford it.
Serra dei Giardini is also a plant nursery and it offers a permanent exhibition of unusual plant species. It is also an educational space for schools, for adults and families, and is also a cultural center, where various events are organised. Many vernissage and parties are held here during the Biennale.
Between June and December, at least twice a month, you can participate in small classical concerts, accompanied by a ballerina in eighteenth-century Venetian costume while enjoying wine tastings and snacks.
I went back to the Serra dei Giardini a few days later with a bunch of friends, including Marisa Convento, who was kindly explaining the importance of the Venetian bead stringers in the area of Castello.
And the experience this time was exactly the same: this is the perfect spot to meet friends, have a relaxed chat, taste some good food and drinks – just like being in someone’s living room!
Serra dei Giardini is a true island of green, light and glass, completed with good food and wine!
I would like to thank 2nite for giving me the opportunity to visit this beautiful spot in Venice. You can read here my article in Italian on my experience at Serra Dei Giardini and here all about Alvise, the manager of this cafeteria.