Close to the St. Mark's area, this green ‘lung’ satisfied the desire of the French rulers to have a green space near their residences.
Its construction was not without issues, as it required sacrificing the Terra Nova Granaries, buildings that were of social and economic importance for Venice and its inhabitants.
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The Royal Gardens of San Marco are of relatively recent origins, dating back to the 19th century, when Venice fell into the hands of the French with the Treaty of Campo Formio.
There were numerous changes to San Marco area during the Napoleonic period, including the demolition of the church of San Geminiano, designed by famous architect Sansovino. This decision was made by Eugene Beauharnais, viceroy of Italy, who, despite already living in St Mark’s Square where the Procuratori worked during the Serenissima, was thrilled to expand his home and built the Napoleonic Wing on the ruins of the church - a prestigious building featuring an imposing entrance staircase and a wonderful hall for dances and balls. The innovations of the time are represented in the different uses of the Marciana National Library (which became a place of importance) and the reduction of importance of the Doge's Palace, which fell from being the Doge's residence to become a mere container of the offices of the Exchange, the Chamber of Commerce and of the Marciana National Library.
In 1807, the creation of the garden - in the French stye - brought the demolition of the Squeri (boatyards) and of crenellated Gothic building of the Granai di Terra Nova, named as such because it was built on top of backfill. The latter was built in the 14th century and hosted the Magistrato di Sanità e delle Legne, a fish market, a meat market and a furatola shop - a small food store that sold soups, fried fish and bread at ridiculously low prices to common people. These activities were considered indecorous and thus closed, with a consequent loss of jobs.
Today the garden, albeit far from the splendor of the past, consists of: equally divided flower beds, tall trees, rows of Pines that protect the park from the salty winds, iron railings that defines the boundaries, a long pergola from the Austrian Era (now inaccessible) refreshing those who passed under, a small pavilion (bordering on the old Mint) and the Coffee House, built in a neoclassical style adjacent to Calle Vallaresso. The two ponds at the back of the gardens were once filled with goldfish and with water gushing into them but are now sadly empty. A small drawbridge, (which still exists today) connected the back of the garden to the Royal Palace within the Procuratie Nuove. Among the flora of the garden you can still find Elm, European nettle tree, Beech, Ginkgo, Honey locust and many other species.
An act granting the restoration of the landscape and historic areas of the Royal gardens, including it enhancement, maintenance and management was signed with Venice Gardens Onlus Foundation at the end of 2014. They have been recovering the green spaces and restoring of the pergola, drawbridge, gates and railings, balustrades and furnishings since 2015. Specifically, the project includes: historical research, careful and thorough investigation of the botany in order to understand the evolution of the Royal Gardens and the state of its vegetation, the reinstatement of its historic restoration use and management of the Coffee House in the Padiglione del Santi for coffee, designed and built in 1815 by the architect Santi. They have also overseen the construction of a new greenhouse to shelter plants, equipment for garden maintenance and the technical installations of the Coffee House and cultural and research activities, as well as general maintenance of the entire area.