Purple Artichokes of Sant’Erasmo

A short boat ride across the lagoon from Venice is the agricultural island of Sant’Erasmo. It is a large area of farmland known as the ‘orto di Venezia’ the garden of Venice. Here for generations local farmers have provided vegetables for the citizens of Venice. Each morning, at day-break, boats leave Sant’Erasmo bound for the markets of the Rialto and Tronchetto.

These days Sant’Erasmo is most famous for its ‘carciofi violetti’ purple artichokes. These delicious vegetables thrive in the warm, humid conditions on the island. The fertile soil is slightly salty and gives these delicate plants a delicious and unique flavour. The plants start to grow in early March and by late April the first buds or shoots (i primi germogli) are carefully harvested by hand. They are known as ‘castraure’. These early shoots are incredibly tender and prized on the tables of restaurants and homes. By cutting these early buds the farmer is effectively pruning the plants and encouraging growth. The early buds are only available from late April until early June. Then the plants start to grow very robustly and numerous artichokes are produced. These are served throughout the season. Next time you are in Venice take an early morning trip to the Rialto Market and look out for the carciofi violetti di Sant’Erasmo – there is a treat in store for you.

The carciofi violetti are best served raw in a salad, lightly sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper. The tender, delicate flavour is distinctive and delicious.

In recent years the islands of the Venetian Lagoon have undergone a revival. On both Sant’Erasmo and Mazzorbo vineyards have been replanted. The local wine on Sant’Erasmo is known as Orto. On Mazzorbo the Bisol family (of prosecco fame) have been instrumental in replanting vines and opening a stylish restaurant. You can take a boat to Sant’Erasmo from Fondamente Nove, Venice. In the summer months the island is a delightful change to the hustle and bustle of Venice. A cycle path skirts the island and gives wonderful views of the fields, filled with artichokes and vines laden with grapes. There’s even a family run trattoria or two, several with charming gardens. Next time you are in Venice don’t miss the islands…….


You can get to Sant’Erasmo from Fondamente Nove, Venezia – by public boat.


  • The Annual Artichoke Festival takes place on the island of Sant’Erasmo on the second Sunday in May each year. In 2016 the tenth anniversary of the event introduced a new type of ‘artichoke beer’ I personally did not try it!
  • Italy’s Slow Food Organisation promotes the production of high quality, locally grown foods, they have a very nice article about the artichokes of Sant’Erasmo and the producers The Slow Food Organisation 
  • Mazzorbo, Burano and Torcello are also well worth a visit when you are out and about on the lagoon. Other articles I’ve written about the lagoon of Venice:
  • Venice – The lagoon of Venice
  • Venice, Italy – The kindness of women
  • Happy Reading!



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