Aug 292017

If you imagine that Venice has become all about cruise ships, crowds, and tourist traps, you’ve never seen the real Venice I know. It is the Venice behind the spectacle. I can take you there, on a 7-day, 6-night culinary-sailing tour with no more than ten guests. Together with Venetian native Mauro Stoppa, long-time friend and owner of the Eolo, a restored historic fishing boat, I’ll show you Venice in a respectful way—the unfrequented islands, the natural life on the silent lagoon, the nooks and crannies of native dwellers. And along the way, you’ll feast on the bounty of the lagoon, its fish and seafood, its seasonal vegetables, its wine. Here’s a diary of our last 7-day, 6-night May cruise. It’ll give you a taste (literally and figuratively) of what our Venice-by-Boat is all about—and oh, we still have a few spots left for our next sail. We’re about to shove off again for our September 16-22 sail, so if you’re foot loose and fancy free and would like to join us, contact us right away! Itinerary and price details, and information about next year’s dates (we sail in the spring and fall), continue here.

Arriving in Venice in May, a few days early, excited to meet our guests.

Meeting up with our host, Mauro Stoppa in Mazzorbo, our first stop.

Crossing over onto the adjoining island of Burano. There are technically 180 islands in the lagoon, but if you figure the ones in that are joined like this, there are only 130.

A stroll  with our native guide.

Umbrellas out, but it’s only a misty rain.

Crossing over onto the adjoining island of Burano. There are technically 180 islands in the lagoon, but if you figure the ones in that are joined like this, there are only 130.

Crossing over a Burano canal to the other side of the street..

Burano’s buildings were painted in vivid colors to enable returning fishermen to see their houses from a distance. This one, an artist’s house, is illustrated to show water levels from flooding over the years.

The boats along the canals are tied up like domestic animals.

Back at our inn, the Venissa, a converted monastery on the Mazzorbo canal, for dinner and overnight. The sun came out, and a rainbow.

Our digs at the Venissa.

The view from our breakfast table, the Venissa vineyard.

Leaving Burano. . .

. . . and studying the chart with our guide.

Heading for Torcello this morning.

Along the way, a wave and a “buon giorno!” to a local fisherman checking his crab traps. Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in the background.

Church of Santa Fosca, 11th century, in the piazzetta adjacent to the original cathedral.

Locanda Cipriani, on Torcello. Hemingway famously hunted here—and decimated the entire duck population.

Beatrice pours a little Prosecco aperitif before lunch. . .

Back on board and a little snack from the galley—the local white and wild asparagus, and tasty crab morsels.

In the meantime, it’s the season for fresh peas and Mauro is making lunch, “rice e bisi,” rice with peas, Venice’s anticipated spring dish. . .

. . . while Chef Marta and Beatrice work on the mantis shrimp course.

A toast to the Eolo.

Mauro’s “risi e bisi.”

Next course, canocchie, mantis shrimp, and fresh lagoon artichokes.

Plates empty. . . .

Our host explains our course and next destination.

Back under sail in the silent lagoon, the Dolomites way in the distance.

We arrive in Cavallino, at the Locanda delle Porte 1632, the old customs house, converted to a lovely inn and fine restaurant.

Locanda delle Porte 1632, it doesn’t get any more charming than this.

Our table set for dinner at the Locanda delle Porte 1632.

The next day, we’re off and with a little wind, Mauro decides the sail goes up.

Our skipper, Davide does the unfurling—he’s agile, like a squirrel!

After it comes down, it’s team effort.

Back in the galley, Chef Marta’s making spigola, bass caught only a few hours before, cooked in salt.

Guests can help, if they like.

Fresh Adriatic anchovies for appetizers. . .

The Eolo at Mallamocco on the Lido, our next stop.

They sure like their dogs here!

A sitting room at our beautiful hotel, Ca’ del Borgo, Mallamocco.

Our guest, looking happy with his digs on the second floor.

The following morning and motoring past one of the islands used to quarantine cargo and passengers for 40 days before anyone was allowed into port in the days of the plague.

We disembark at Lazaretto Nuovo, the main quarantine island in the 16th century.

Exploring this corner of Lost Venice on the roof at Lazaretto Nuovo.

And inside, where a third of the population of died from the plague in the 1500s. The writing on the wall tells of their ordeal.

Our local guide on the island, an archeologist working on the site.

The habit of the “medico della peste,” the doctor of the plague. The face was covered with cloths and sponges soaked in vinegar underneath it, which they believed helped protect them from protracting the dreaded disease. The doctor was paid well for his services, but typically had a survival rate not much higher than the people confined there.

Chef Marta welcoming us back to the boat for lunch.

Mauro making fresh pasta for lasagne. . .

While the rest of the crew preps the asparagus.

Dropping anchor for our last gorgeous lunch on board.

Look who’s coming for dinner. . . Luigi Divari, friend, fisherman and artist.

A well known Venetian artist, we asked him to bring his paintings with him—what gorgeous mementos of the lagoon to take home.

Diana showing us a gorgeous bottle of Sardinian wine Mauro selected to have with our dessert.

After lunch, on our fourth day, heading for Venice.

Gondoliers, the church of Santa Maria della Salute in the background.

Our hotel in Venice on the Grand Canal, the 16th century Palazetto Pisani, still in the same family’s hands.

Walking the back streets of Venice with Laura, knowledgable local guide, friend and fellow sailor.

It’s the year of the Biennale. This was my favorite installation, a statement on global warming and the fragility of Venice.

Some of us at lunch with Laura at one of my favorite Venetian restaurants, La Zucca.

One of my favorite dishes at La Zucca, the vegetable lasagne.

No visit to Venice would be complete without a stop  at the famous ancient market in the Rialto (our feathered friends concur). . .

…and the famous sights. . . San Marco with its gilded bronze horses (stolen from Byzantium when Venice ruled the seas).

Inside the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace).

And lesser known nooks and crannies—Bevilacqua Textiles. Established by Luigi Bevilacqua c. 1499, descendants of the original family continue the city’s ancient tradition of weaving velvets, brocades and damasks by hand.

The fabrics are still made on the original looms in the workshop here.

The weavers choose this highly skilled craft straight after graduating school and learn as apprentices to the master weavers.

But it’s time to go after three days in Venice proper. Arrivederci, Venezia and lovely guests, a presto—see you again soon!












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Jul 162017

Christie’s came on board just a few days after our recent May sailing and culinary tour of Venice and its lagoon and did this story on our salty host and his historic boat. We have a few spots left on our upcoming September 16-22, 2017 cruise. And plenty of room in June 2-8 and September 15-21, 2018 (maximum, 10 people). Here’s the Christie’s story—apologies for the fuzzy images, but I think you’ll get the idea. Join us! Details here.

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Christie's Loves Our Sailing and Culinary Tour of Venice—Still Openings in September!
May 012017

Back in the day when nouvelle cuisine was firing up the new chefs of Europe, I wrote in the introduction to my first cookbook, published in 1986, that Italy, a country that has complained about the excesses of French cooking since the 16th century, would never succumb to it. Take, as an example, the words of Gerolamo Zanetti, a 16th century Venetian, which are still uttered by modern Italians: French cooks have ruined Venetian stomachs with so [many] sauces, broths, extracts… in every dish… meat and fish transformed to such a point that they are scarcely recognizable by the time they get to the […more…]

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Forget About Pasta, Pizza, and Smiles: Meet La Nuova Cucina Italiana
Feb 182017

I know relatively little about wine. I was once ashamed of saying so in light of forty years as a food writer—but that changed recently when I admitted as much to world-renowned wine educator, Kevin Zraly. “It’s not surprising,” he said, adding that the same is true for most chefs he knows, and vice versa for wine authorities. As he writes in the introduction to his newly re-issued best-selling Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, “Studying wine isn’t merely learning about a beverage but also understanding the history, language, culture, and traditions of the people and countries where each […more…]

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Learning by the Book with Wine Legend Kevin Zraly
Feb 152017

“I want people to see the lagoon as I see it. So many people come to Venice and never really understand what is out here.” —Mauro Stoppa, host of the Eolo As recommended by The New York Times, Saveur, Elle, The Herald Tribune, Travel & Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, The Guardian, Tatler, The Daily Meal, Marie Claire, Gente Viaggi, Meridiani, Yacht Digest, Gala, Côté Sud, and other prominent publications. Join our remarkable culinary tour of the city built on water and its lagoon islands. Our May 2017 tour is fully booked, but we are now offering these new dates: 2017 September 16-22 2018 June […more…]

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Venice by Boat Culinary Tour: New 2017 & 2018 Dates
Jan 282017

Last Call! On May 15, 2017, our vessel, the Eolo, will shove off for a singular culinary and cultural tour of Venice and its lesser known islands. She is one of the few remaining purpose-built, flat-bottom boats left that were designed during the time of the doges to navigate this fabled city of 100 islands and 150 canals. Here is our itinerary, offering our guests an intimate experience for cruising by day, and first-rate accommodations in historic inns and hotels at night. We invite you to come on board for three days of island hopping, followed by three days of immersion in Venice […more…]

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Venice Culinary Tour, September 16-22: Itinerary
Jan 232017

Our culinary tour this Spring will take you to the undiscovered side of Venice that the typical traveler rarely sees. Even if you’ve been there before, you’ve probably never experienced this “most secretive of cities,” to quote author Victor Hazan, who with his wife, Marcella, ran a cooking school there for many years. That’s because it is a city of more than 100 small islands in a lagoon separated from the Adriatic Sea that cannot be reached by foot, but only by canals. To experience Venice behind its touristic facade, you have to get on a boat built to navigate the shallow waters […more…]

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Sail, Eat, Sleep Venice: Preview Our Video Now
Jan 232017

We’re some four months away from my upcoming culinary tour to Italy, immersion in Venice and its lagoon. For those of you who are new to my blog, my new venture will take you to the undiscovered side of Venice that the typical tourist never sees. Even if you’ve been there before, you’ve probably never experienced this “most secretive of cities,” to quote author Victor Hazan, who with his wife, Marcella, ran a cooking school there for many years. That’s because it is a city built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon separated from the Adriatic Sea that cannot […more…]

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Dec 312016

This is a shortie, but it occurred to me to pass this festive little recipe along to you all for ushering in the first day of 2017. It’s from my Venetian friend Mauro Stoppa, host and skipper of the Eolo, who learned it from a local contessa and well-known cooking teacher, Fulvia Sesani. He serves this liquorous treat on board when the weather is nippy, and of course, during the winter holidays. You could say that zabaione is Italy’s answer to eggnog (which some etymologists place in the Middle Ages), except that its origins go back at least as far as the late Roman period, to […more…]

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For New Year's Morning Cheers, Zabaione alla Veneziana
Dec 302016

Lentils and pork sausages, the first to represent coins, the second for abundance, served up together, has long been considered an auspicious dish with which to usher in the New Year in some parts of Italy. Take Modena’s lenticchie di Capodanno, braised lentils crowned with zampone, a delicate mixture of finely ground pork subtly seasoned with nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, and black pepper stuffed into a pig’s trotter; or cotechino, a similar sausage, sans the trotter. One or the other is obligatory eating when the clock strikes midnight everywhere north of Rome—sumptuous eating, but not easily reproduced outside of Modena […more…]

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For New Year's: Lentils and Sausages for Luck and Plenty