Many people like to drink it, but few know the origin of its name. We are talking about “ombra“, the glass of wine in its typical Venetian version. Indeed, it seems to be difficult to determine with certainty the origin of the term, and there is no lack of more or less imaginative hypotheses.
Among all of them, the one that seems to be the most plausible, is the one according to which the term “ombra” (shadow in English) would derive from the custom in vogue during the time of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, of storing wine in the shadow in order to keep it cool and not to let it deteriorate. It is said that in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, in the shadow of the bell tower of Saint Mark’s square, there were street vendors who during the day moved their banquets and the containers of wine following the shadow of the bell tower which moved in the square as the sun moved.
Another interesting hypothesis would date back the origin of the name to the end of the nineteenth century in the ancient tavern “Alla speranza” in the San Polo district: the measure of wine corresponding to a tenth of a liter was called “ombra“.
The fact the term “ombra” had been in use for a long time, to the point of being officially used as a unit of measure, is well known and brings us to a third and interesting hypothesis, made in 1973 by a journalist, according to which the term would derive from a further Italian meaning of shadow, understood as a minimum quantity, usually abstract (not even the shadow of doubt, no shadow of malice). In short, an “ombra“, a shadow of wine, a quantity enough to “dirty the glass”.
Location: St. Mark’s Campanile, Venice