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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The secret magical potion of Venice

My Venice has many legends, traditions and mysterious facts. There are so many corners of Venice that have very interesting past. Funny enough most of the tourists just pass by them without even notice them.

I always find it quite interesting. It’s like Venice is able still to keep those secrets for herself. Unless of course you are curious to find them, like me.

If you read this BLOG you know how much I love to share them with you. I love to know that you will be able to enjoy something “secret to most the of the people” next time you will be visiting my beautiful City.

Since it is Halloween, today to stay in tune with that I make you discover the "secret and almost magical potion" that cured every evil in Venice: the Teriaca.


Just opposite number 2800 in the corner between Campo Santo Stefano and the Calle del Spezier (a spezier was an "apothecary" in Venetian).
There you will find an overlooked detail from the past of Venice that still survives and tells a very interesting story.

Right there, about 5 meters from the facade of the former pharmacy there are three circular depressions in the ground. Basically three tiles with a circular engraving.

What are they?

They are circular holes that, over time, were left there by the heavy cauldrons used by the Venetian pharmacists during the preparation of the Teriacaa potion almost magical that was said to cure a large number of illnesses.

The production of Teriaca was a carefully-planned ceremonial.
Not all apothecaries were licensed to produce Teriaca. Of the 90 in Venice at the time, only about 40 had the licence to make it.  They were known as teriacanti, who made the potion in the street itself using bronze cauldrons.  The place where these cauldrons were set into the ground can still be seen in the city.

Its most common ingredient was vipers, that was said to have restorative properties for ageing skin. But other common ingredients were the unicorn horn (actually a tooth of the fish Narvalo, that you can still see at the Correr Museum at St. Mark square) and opium.

The Teriaca  was produced once a year, in the period when vipers were captured. That is towards the end of spring and into summer.

The success of the beverage led to an increase in demand, and some apothecaries were allowed to produce it three times a year. To guarantee the quality of the product, Venice imposed strict rules.  The portions also had spices imported from the East. So when making the Teriaca each apothecary was required to put all the ingredients he intended to use on public display outside his shop for three days to guarantee their authenticity.

For the public, the best part in all this was the sight of live vipers, writhing inside the cages. When the mixing of the ingredients began, the apothecary was watched by both the public and State officials. Then, in the eyes of the Magistrate of Health, the real alchemical manufacture of decoctions began, whose virtues seemed infinite and was said to heal from plague, scorpion bites, and many other diseases.

In the seventeenth century, Venice enjoyed quiet some fame for the preparation of the Teriaca, so far that the portion was exported to Europe, Turkey and Armenia.

I’m sure you would have never say it by looking at the tile, right?

Next time you walk around Venice look down for them. 
Take a picture and share them with me. 
It will be like a Caccia al Tesoro Segreto, 
like a Secret Treasure Hunt.

From Venice with Love,


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