A VISIT TO THE OLDEST BOTANICAL GARDEN OF THE WORLD

A VISIT TO THE OLDEST BOTANICAL GARDEN OF THE WORLD


Giardini Papadopoli once was one of more tha 400 botanical gardens in town - there are still a few traces left .. it's one of the first green plots you encounter when you enter town.
Is there a place where all the knowledge on plants, collected by the Venetians since the 11th century, has been handed down to the successor generations of gardeners, researchers and plant lovers? For there is still a remarkable trace of the work done by Venetians .. a  remarkable collection of research, pictures, books on plants which was started in the year 1222.
Every merchant in Venice, returning from business and/or discovery voyages, also had to make sure he brought back exotic trees, medicinal herbs and spice plants, to "embellish the town of Venice". In Padua, located about 50 km southeast of the Lagoon, Vencie created a site where to grow this abundance, experiment with it and save it in case the plants and seeds were in bad shape after the long voyages. So there was a real interest taken in plants by the State, in addition to the 400 plus private gardens, of nobles and tradesmen, scattered in Venice and on the islands.
Seen from above (I took this picture from the belltower of San Giorgio Maggiore), you can see how many green patches there still are in Venice ..
So it was in Padua where all the knowledge on plants from all the corners of the world was collected in the oldest botanical garden of the world, elaborated on, and finally made available to Venetians and to the European countries the Republic was doing business with.  
Botanical garden impression, Padua
To this day, the orto botanico di Padova, opened in 1545, is the first in the world which has been located on this very site ever since (the botanical garden of Pisa had been opened in 1544, one year earlier, but was shifted twice to other locations). 
Click here for the new website of the Botanical Garden
This former botanical garden of the Republic of Venice has made it to the UNESCO heritage site, on the following grounds as you can read on the Garden's new Website:
The basic arrangement of the garden grounds has not been altered ever since, as the Unesco site describes:
So here we really have a jewel that has been passed on to us from the past. To make the most of this unique heritage, for quite some time now, a project of enlargement has beeon going on, as a nearby convent sold its grounds to the Botanical Garden. Greenhouses are being erected that will house plants of various climatic zones of the earth - within the framework of the Biosphere garden project, a renewal and extension of the garden after 450 years !!
Still, the focus of the garden will be on the ancient valuable collection of know-how, unique in the world, with first-hand insights to discover on which plants and when they arrived in Venice for the first time.
When I was first on the grounds of the garden, as I had to retrieve some material for my studies from university, it was late September, and after a particularly dry summer, the huge gingko trees were already turning yellowish. It was late afternoon, not much before closing time, yet the patrimonio florale did look inviting, so I bought a ticket and went for a swift walk through the formal part of the garden. But there is so much more to discover, to dive not only into Venetian, but European garden history, so I will be back on that topic to share the results with you ..
Here is another beautiful time-lapse video on the Garden:
Currently, somewhere in this Botancial Garden must be growing a very special rose, that was mentioned by Andrea di Robilant in his book "Chasing the rose" ... but that will be the topic for another post on this blog.



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