Our Venice

in Venice many streets take their name from the aromatic sweet wine.

In the Middle Ages, Venice began its production of aromatic wine importedfrom a small town in Greece called Moni Emvasis, therefore it was called Malvasia.

Crete / Candia

After a while Venice shifted its wine production to Candia, Crete, where the climate was more favorable for the growth of wine. Moreover, the transportation of wine barrels from the island to Venice was easier.


By the 1500 Venice was still one of the largest Malvasia producers in Europe and maintained its monopoly until Crete was surrendered to the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless, Venice never gave up producing it as it was the only city that had a license to export it to Europe. In order to give an example of how important this commerce was it is interesting to know that England exchanged a bale of wool for a barrel of wine.

Rialto, Riva del Vin

All types of wine, like many other goods, were discharged at the Rialto market, in Riva del Vin, and then sold to wine bars, the so-called osterie. In those bars no meals or local wine were served, just the Malvasia. I

When banquets and special happenings were organized in Venetian palaces, it was served with biscuits prepared with egg cream. (zabaglione). The tradition changed when coffee and chocolate were brought to Venice and the Venetian aristocrats changed their customs.

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Between 1348 and 1630 the Venetian government was busy fighting numerous plague epidemics like the rest of the world.

This deadly disease reached Europe from the East through the circulation of goods and people, and it spread out quickly, proving to be a scourge for the population. The worst plagues for Venice were those of 1576 and 1630 that decimated its population by one-third.

Which were the measures that the Venetian government took and put in place against it?

When the government of Venice understood the danger and contagiousness of this disease, the first decision made was to isolate their city by closing its land and sea borders.

In 1423 Venice was the first city in Europe to open hospitals for quarantine and for the treatment of plague victims. These hospitals were built on the edge of the city and its lagoon, away from the city center to avoid infections.

Later, in 1486 the Magistracy of Health was founded. Among all the measures it took, like monitoring the death rate, it traced the movements of merchants and travelers in Venice and its dominions. In this regard, it released medical passports certifying the holders’ health status as well as their place of provenance.

In times of plague brotherhoods also lent their help, offering their assistance to the plague victims. Alms and bequests were used to deal with these emergencies by paying for doctors and medicines.

For fear of getting infected, Venetian doctors harnessed themselves well. They wore a mask with a beak that was filled with spices and whatever else there was to protect themselves.

Through the mask you could only see their eyes which were in turn protected by glasses. They also wore a hat, gloves, a very long cloak on which wax was placed for protection and finally in their hands a stick that they used to touch their patients.

Unfortunately there were no immediate remedies to cure the plague because the origin of the disease was not yet known.The only chance people had, was to rely on faith. Starting from the Middle Ages, the Venetians addressed themselves in their prayers to the patron saints in charge of protecting them from the plague such as Saint Sebastian and Saint Roch, to whom they dedicated churches they constructed in their honor.

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In the eleventh century at the time of the First Crusade sugar arrived in Venice from Syria in the form of cane. It replaced honey which until then was the only known sweetener in Europe. Thanks to its introduction, a revolution in trade and food took place and a confectionery industry was opened in Venice.

Sugar made many Venetian families rich, such as the Corners of the Ca’ Grande, who let it dry out in their attics. Unfortunately due to those dangerous manufacturing processes, one day their palace caught fire and was completely burnt down.

Between 1500 and 1700 sugar was sprinkled on the dishes of the nobles or modeled beforehand in the kitchens to create sculptures used as embellishments.

Small table decorations were made as well as huge structures that followed particular themes drawn from literature, mythology and other subjects. Some of them were very big and reached the height of two metres.

For the breakfast of king Henry III of Valois, Jacopo Sansovino, famous sixteenth century architect known for his constructions around Saint Mark’s Square, prepared the drawings for the king’s sugar decorations of which nothing remains.

The techniques used for their realization came from sculpture. Sugar was prepared and then poured into a gypsum core which was destroyed when sugar solidified, leaving the created object intact.

Due to the perishable and precarious nature, all the objects created in sugar were given away at the end of the banquets to be eaten.

The only remaining evidences are the recipe books and archival sources. In 1700 the fashion changed and porcelain decorations replaced those triumphs made in sugar.

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