For the Venetians they are simply "the gardens", because although there are many gardens and green areas in the historic center and on the islands, these are the gardens by definition. "We are at the gardens" or "At the garden stop" are common expressions that always refer to this green area.
Being located in the Castello district, still one of the most popular areas of the city, they are still often used as an area to cool off in the hottest period, chat about this and that, take the children to the playground inside. But also read a good book, or listen to good music.
What strikes you upon entering the Gardens, especially in the hottest period, is the enveloping scent of flowers and plants that combines with the visual richness of the colors of the houses in the background and the decorated flower beds.
Also known as "Napoleonic gardens" for having been built under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte or as "gardens of the Biennale" as a good part of them represent one of the venues of the International Art Exhibition.
Work on the area was started in 1808 on a project by Gianantonio Selva in collaboration with Pietro Antonio Zorzi; at that time, part of the area had been drained while another housed churches and convents dedicated to San Domenico, San Nicola di Bari, Sant'Antonio Abate and the Conception of the Virgin. In order to complete the construction of the gardens, the religious buildings present were razed to the ground and many of the resulting materials were used to create a hill on which a bar was built which was then transformed into a pavilion of the Biennale d'Arte.
Today the Gardens occupy an area of about 60,000 square meters. and include the green area of Riva dei Partigiani, Via Garibaldi and Viale Trieste. Of the total area, about 42,000 square meters. are assigned to the Biennale and it is precisely in this place that the first International Exhibition of Contemporary Art was held in 1895. In the Gardens of the Biennale there are the central pavilion and the 29 pavilions belonging to the related countries hosted, designed by some great contemporary architects such as Alvar Aalto (Finland, year 1956, who built a prefabricated building completely in wood), Josef Hoffmann (the father of the Austrian Secession, year 1934), Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (master of the Dutch Neoplasticist movement, year 1954) and the famous Italian architect Carlo Scarpa who he was in charge of the "Garden of Sculptures" project around the central pavilion, the ticket office and the Venezuela pavilion. The central pavilion, dating back to 1894, initially concentrated all the exhibition activities of the Biennale within it but, when the event saw its prestige recognized, the nations began to build their own independent pavilion, starting with the Belgian one built in 1907.
The remaining part of the Gardens of about 18,000 square meters, in the hands of the Municipality, retained the intended use of public green; there are just over a hundred natural species present inside (among others, lime trees, hackberry trees, plane trees, privets, laurels, pittospores and eponyms), some of which are rare.
The various natural arboreal beauties are beautifully mixed with some statues of relevant personalities and sculptures in memory of important historical events. In particular, inside the public gardens, there are, among others, statues dedicated to: Giuseppe Verdi (by G. Bortotti), Francesco Querini (by Achille Tamburini), Pier Luigi Penzo (by Francesco Scarpa Bolla), Riccardo Selvatico (by Pietro Canonica), Richard Wagner (by Schaper), Giosuè Carducci (by Annibale De Lotto), Giuseppe Garibaldi (by Antonio Benvenuti). As for the commemorative monuments of heroic and / or historical enterprises, the following stand out: the Monument to the soldiers of land and sea, created by Augusto Benvenuti in 1885, which commemorates the intervention of the army on the occasion of the disastrous flood of 1882 and which since 1951 it also remembers the flood of Polesine, the Monument to the Venetian Partisan that pays homage to the four Venetian women who participated in the liberation from Nazi-fascism (sculpture created by Augusto Murer in 1961) whose base, on the surface of the water, was designed by Carlo Shoe.
In 1894, next to the Gardens, a greenhouse known as Serra Margherita was built which had the purpose of constituting a "glass and iron tepidarium" to house the palms and other decorative plants used for the International Exhibition of 'Contemporary art. For about a century, the place gave work to generations of gardeners and allowed to keep alive rustic species sensitive to the cold that otherwise would have died during the winter, to take care of plants destined to the communal flower beds and to satisfy the floral desires of the Venetian nobility of the era.
In the 1990s, the greenhouse was decommissioned and for the next 10 years it suffered a rapid decline. The recent restorations carried out by the Municipality succeeded in returning the greenhouse to its former glory, ensuring the inhabitants the opportunity to use the place not only for botanical or naturalistic activities but also as an opportunity for cultural entertainment and as a moment of meeting.