L’arte degli spezieri a Venezia
With the loads of spices coming to Venice from the 7th century AD, amongst the Venetian arti e mestieri, one profession dedicated itself to food and cooking and to health at the same time. Lo spezièr – which we could translate as “the spice expert”. During the times of the Republic, they worked in their laboratorio, whose front part was at the same time the spice store and apothecary, called spezeria.
They didn’t just mix the sachéti venexiáni – Venetian spice creations, made from spices, herbs and blossoms from the Indian Ocean fringe countries, India, China, Persia, Syria and Egypt. They were responsible to keep the Venetian – and European (!!!) population healthy until well into the 18th century.
The Venetian spezieri were the source of expertise taken up in the Middle Ages in German-speaking Europe by Paracelsus and Hildegard von Bingen. Venetian spice bags were traded all over Europe by the Venetian spice merchants – mercanti di spezie.
The spezieri, from the 15th century, onwards started specializing in their respective field of expertise and interest.
Some spezieri went into producing little pills and powders containing ground herbs and spices for their patients. Others, as spezieri da conféti created little artworks made from sugar, nuts, blossoms and spices.
Finally, in Venice the first farmacie (pharmacies) opened, and sold products from both, given that both ranges of products bear health benefits due to their carefully selected natural ingredients.
Drogheria Mascari can be considered a modern successor of the ancient Venetian spice masters. Read more about them and the Venetian spice heritage on La Venessiana: