Almost in the very middle of this little sea, enclosed between the water and the sky, lies Venice, a fairy vision, risen as if by miracle out of the water that surrounds it and like green shining ribbons, cuts through its beautiful body.
So wrote Giulio Lorenzetti, in his famous 1926 guidebook, Venice and its Lagoon: A Historical and Artistic Guide (updated in 1994 and still the most authoritative source). Yet there it is, the ancient “Serenissima,” a glittering city decorated with gold, arising out of the lagoon, firm and fixed. We can barely grasp how architects could have imagined its plan and how century after century, its stones were put into place.
Venice was born in the lagoon, though to outsiders, it seems somehow completely separate from it. To really experience la Serenissima, the ancient city of waterways and light, you must ply its inland sea and visit its tiny islands (there are 30 of them, and 150 canals in the archipelago). You need to go beyond the tourist route to find the bustling life of true Venetians that is hidden from the view of foreigners and to enter a quiet world of history, art, and nature surrounding the spectacle of Venice. What better way to explore the real Venice than alongside a native son with deep roots in the natural world of the lagoon, and with an award-winning American food writer, journalist, storyteller, and one-time sailor who has intimately explored Venice and its cuisine?
Come with me and Mauro Stoppa, a local hero and legendary skipper-chef on a unique six-day journey and see Venice behind the stage set for an experience of a lifetime.
Sail its secret estuaries on-board the Eolo, a flat-bottomed sailing bragozzo constructed to navigate the shallow waters of the lagoon. Built in the nearby port of Choggia in 1946, Mauro has lovingly restored the historic boat and appointed it for the comfort of an intimate group of guests. Be transported for six days on the archipelago’s waterways to the grace and rhythm of another time, far from the tempo of today’s battering pace and the throngs of tourists. Immerse yourself in the natural life of this magical and mysterious place, see its unique flora and fauna, savor its seafood, wild game, and the fresh harvest of the lagoon islands in Spring. Drink the delicious “salty” wine that is made from local grapes kissed by the sea air.
Discover nearby islands like Torcello, where Hemingway wrote parts of his Across the River and Into the Trees and hunted; refuge of royalty and international superstars seeking seclusion at Locanda Cipriani, the legendary inn still run by the Cipriani family. Visit Lazzaretto Nuovo with its Bronze Age ruins, where digs over the last 20 years have turned on its head the previously held notion that Venice was settled some 1,500 years ago by mainland tribes fleeing the Longobards. We will stop at Sant’Erasmo, a island of vegetable fields and orchards considered the “garden of Venice,” and untouristed Chioggia, whose ancient mercato puts the famous Rialto fish market to shame. Afterward, feast on sublime meals from the galley, dreamed up by Mauro using the fresh local bounty of the day delivered directly from fishermen to our boat. Dine in the best restaurants and stay in a Venetian palace belonging to one of the city’s noble families. You’ll never get any closer to the real and enchanting essence of Venice. Can you resist?
VENICE BY LAGOON, MAY 15-21, 2017
“…it’s hard to blame people for getting excited when they eat risotto with sea asparagus—the Venetian “salicornia”—or grouper cooked in peaches with a Byzantine basilica as a backdrop.” —Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times
- See the glittering city on the sea only as natives can while sailing aboard the historic and beautifully restored Eolo, a flat-bottom “bragozzo” whose design goes back to the time of the Doges and is the only one of its size still navagating.
- Experience the magic of the lagoon, its history and culture; natural life, music, and rich local traditions.
- Explore the bucolic, lesser known islands by boat and on foot with our native guide.
- Visit lace, glass, fabric, and food artisans who have been practicing their arts for generations.
- Eat the genuine local cuisine while under sail and dine in the best restaurants of Venice.
- Sleep in the islands’ charming inns and historic hotels.
- Finish with a sojourn in Venice for 3 luxurious days in a magnificent private palace and immersion in the art, history, and culture of this spectacular city.
Mazzorbo and Burano
- We will meet you upon your arrival at Venice Airport and take you by water taxi to the Venissa, a manor house-hotel and wine estate on its own bucolic island, Mazzorbo, top-rated by The New York Times, Michelin, and Travel + Leisure. The tiny, peaceful island, once an important trading center, is known today for its colorful houses, vineyards, and orchards. Settle in and eat a light lunch. After a rest, go for a guided walking tour to the nearby island of Burano, renowned for its lace making. You will have time to visit the artisans, do some shopping, or just stroll the ancient streets lined with colorful houses.
- Return to Mazzorbo for a rest and dinner at the Venissa’s acclaimed inn and restaurant.
Torcello and the northern Lagoon
- Breakfast at the Venissa, then board the Eolo and set sail for Torcello and the northern waters of the lagoon. The original site of Venice and famous haunt of Hemingway, the island has a rich and fascinating history. Visit its impressive Byzantine Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, built in 639 A.D., and the 11 th century octagonal church of Santa Fosca. Climb the bell tower for a bird’s eye view of the lagoon, and wander the island’s tranquil paths.
- Board the Eolo again and set sail for a quiet canal in a nearby saltmarsh richly populated with birdlife and carpeted with colorful native flora. Anchor. Lunch on the chef’s freshly cooked specialties based on splendid produce and seafood of the lagoon.
- Set sail for the pristine northern lagoon where thousands of flamingoes can be seen flying over the saltmarsh to join other wild fowl that inhabit the islands nearby.
- Sail to the Locanda alle Porte 1632 at sunset for dinner and an overnight stay. Constructed in 1632 between the lagoon and the Sile River, the building, once the customs house, controlled the entrance into the Grand Canal. There, Venetian officials collected taxes from both residents and foreigners doing business in Venice. Today it is an inn and a restaurant. Sunset dinner and overnight stay.
Lazzaretto Nuovo and Malamocco
- Breakfast at the Locanda alle Porte 1632.
- Board the Eolo. After local fishermen deliver their early morning catch to our boat, we set sail. Mauro and Julia will prepare lunch from what the lagoon has offered this morning.
- Drop anchor near the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo, which once serve as a quarantine facility. Venice appears in the distance. Lunch on board.
- Disembark on the island and find remarkable evidence of inhabitants who lived here well before the Romans. During the Middle Ages it was used solely as a place to quarantine goods and sailors for a period of time before they could enter Venice as a precaution against the spread of disease. Talk to local mask makers to learn about the origins of their craft. This is where the Venetian mask originated, elaborate cloth cover-ups soaked with vinegar to ward off disease. Today, the island is a beautiful and and peaceful respite.
- Board the Eolo again and set sail for the ancient village of Malamocco. Dinner and overnight accommodations in a beautiful 14th entry villa, Ca’ del Borgo.
Chioggia and Venice
- Breakfast at Ca’ del Borgo.
- Set sail for Chioggia and take a guided tour of the old port, considered a “little Venice.” See the vibrant fish market, where Mauro will buy the ingredients for our lunch. Stop at the grain store, dating to 1322, one of the most important historic buildings on the island. Visit the island’s Duomo with its masterpieces by Tiepolo, Carpaccio, and Tintoretto.
- Leave Chioggia for Valle Zappa, a remote island that was once a private hunting and fishing area where you will find a unique example of “mirror architecture.”
- Lunch under sail. The bell towers of San Marco, which once guided ships into the port of entry, will appear in the distance.
- Disembark in Venice. Transfer by water taxi to Palazzetto Pisani Ferri, a magnificent private 15th century palace in Piazza Santo Stefano overlooking the Grand Canal, Palazzo Barbarigo, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Accademia Bridge. It is still inhabited by descendants of the wealthy merchants who built it. Spend 3 nights in a suite facing the Canal with a private living room and bathroom.
- Dinner on your own. Recommendations for Venice’s most authentic and famous restaurants are for the asking.
- Follow your guide through the famous Mercato di Rialto with its beautiful vegetable and fruit stalls and colorful fishmongers. The famous market was once the trade and financial center of Venice. Wander your way through an intricate maze of narrow alleys, bridges and canals to Bevilacqua Textiles. Established by Luigi Bevilacqua c. 1499, it continues the city’s ancient tradition of weaving velvets, brocades and damasks by hand.
- Lunch in an acclaimed vegetarian restaurant nearby.
- Conclude your day with immersion in the city’s culture, including a stop at the imposing Gothic Frari church with its precious treasures, including The Assumption, the first public commission for a young Titian who would become the most important artist working in Venice. Also see the exquisite Madonnas by Giovanni Bellini and Paolo Veneziano, and Titian’s burial monument.
- Dinner on your own. Recommendations for Venice’s most authentic and famous restaurants are for the asking.
- Go with our guide to St. Mark’s Square, once the political and social nerve center of Venice’s wealth and power. See the city’s most iconic buildings and learn about their origins and history. Start off the visit at the Doge’s Palace with its perfectly preserved magnificent facade and interior. Adjacent is the opulent St. Mark’s Basilica. With its nearly 90,000 square feet of gold mosaics and precious oriental marbles, it is considered one of the best examples of Italian-Byzantine architecture.
- Lunch in a bacaro, a typical wine bar that serves “cichetti,” Venice’s answer to tapas.
- Free afternoon for exploring or shopping.
- Farewell dinner at the palace for a last taste of authentic Venice.
- Airport transfer by water taxi.
Rates and Particulars:
- 4,650 Euros per person including accommodations as detailed, breakfasts, lunches and dinners as described, private visits as per itinerary, all entrance fees, cooking class on board the Eolo, the service of your tour guide(s). Rates based on double occupancy; 20% more for single occupancy.
- 10% deposit upon reservation, refunded if the minimum of 6 guests is not reached.
- 40% upon confirmation, the balance 30 days before departure.
- Minimum 6 guests. Maximum, 12 guests.
- Possible extension of a stay at Palazzetto Pisani Ferri, Euro 300 per couple per night.
- Flights, travel insurance, items of personal expenditure (e.g. telephone calls, laundry etc.), discretionary gratuities to boatmen and guides, government levies or taxes introduced after publication of this program (July 7, 2017).
- Please note that if circumstances beyond our control necessitates some alteration to the itinerary shown, you will be notified of any such changes as soon as possible.
- To be sustainable, a minimum of 6 guests is required; maximum 12 guests.
- Payment terms: 10% to confirm your reservation; 40% when 6 reservations are booked; balance due 30 days before departure.
- For information and reservations: Write to Mauro Stoppa at the following email address email@example.com.
“Everyone knows Venice, but the Venetian cuisine has been somewhat of a hidden treasure. Rich in the use of unique spices left from its Serenissa years, the cuisine sparkles with surprise. Julia della Croce [in her book, Veneto]…has captured wonderfully [its] nuances and sparkle of this regional cuisine.” —Lidia Bastianich
Julia della Croce has been immersed since birth in the tastes and aromas of the Italian cooking she loves. After becoming disenchanted with a political career, she began cooking in the galley of a 50-foot sailing ketch for paying passengers. She is a journalist, and James Beard award-winning cook book author and cooking teacher. Among her thirteen titles, is Veneto: Authentic Recipes from Venice and the Italian Northeast (Chronicle Books), winner of the 2004 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. She writes about the culture of food and drink for Zester Daily and in this blog, and is a noted authority on the food of Italy.
Mauro Stoppa was born and raised on his family’s farm in a small village near Padua on the southern edge of the Venetian archipelago. He is an agronomist by education but his first love was always the world of the lagoon. In 1998, he pulled up his land roots and bought and restored the Eolo, a vintage bragozzo named after the Greek god of the wind, a flat-bottomed 52-foot fishing barge that is one of the last of its kind. There and then, he decided to fulfill his lifetime dream of living on the sea and to devote himself to the restoration of the Venetian waterways. Stoppa takes small groups on cruises to sail, eat his sublime food, and experience the magic of Venice and the lagoon he loves, a venture featured in the New York Times.