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“The route of spices:” the flavors of spices in Venetian cuisine

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

The word spices derives from the late Latin “species”, that is a special thing (food); the term drug, used for a long time as a synonym for spice, derives from the Dutch ”droog” which means dried plant.


Spices are aromatic substances of vegetable origin (pepper, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.) generally of exotic origin such as Africa, Asia and Brazil.

They are different from aromatic plants, among which the most common are: onions, garlic and parsley and are plants produced in the Mediterranean area.

Since the Middle Ages, spices have been used in cooking to preserve and flavor dishes. They were also used in medicine as well as in pharmacies to prepare drugs.

The development of the spice route was born thanks to the commercial traffics of the Republic of Venice. The Venetian ships returned loaded with this precious item called “black gold”.

Despite Venice lost its monopoly in the 1500s, spices did not abandon Venetian cuisine. It is estimated that around thirty spices are used in its cooking.

Recipes with spices are “sarde in saor” and the” pastissada di manzo”.

The first one includes marinated sardines with onions and raisins, while the second one is based on marinated and spiced beef.

Vin brulé

In winter in Venice when it is very cold it is a tradition especially during Carnival to drink a hot glass of wine called “vin brulé” in which sugar, citrus fruits and spices give the red wine an unmistakable and delicious flavor.

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