Jun 302016
 

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.

Eolo from afar

The Eolo plies the waters of the Venetian lagoon. | Credit: Nevio Doz

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.

Gondole, and Palladio's San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. | Photo: Greg Mitchell

Gondolas, and Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. | Credit: Greg Mitchell

Mauro

Host Mauro Stoppa in his galley.

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.

I began my cooking career on a 50-foot sailing ketch.

I began my cooking career on a 50-foot sailing ketch.

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. 

Hemingway decimated the wild duck population on Torcello, where he hunted and wrote. Photo: Foto Graziano Aric

Hemingway decimated the wild duck population on Torcello, where he hunted and wrote in 1948. | Credit: Foto Graziano Aric

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?

Mauro Stoppa, skipper and chef, on board his beloved Eolo. Photo: Photo: Paolo Destefanis for Veneto: Authentic Recipes From Venice and the Italian Northeast, by Julia della Croce (Chronicle Books)

Host Mauro Stoppa on board his beloved Eolo. | Credit: Paolo Destefanis for Veneto: Authentic Recipes From Venice and the Italian Northeast, by Julia della Croce

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.
Experience the magic of the lagoon, its history and culture; natural life, music, and rich local traditions.

Experience the magic of the lagoon, its history, natural life, and rich local traditions. |Credit: http://www.cruisingvenice.com

Day 1

Mazzorbo and Burano

Locanda Venissa, Mazzorbo. Photo: Paolo Spigariol

The island of Mazzorbo and our lodgings, Locanda Venissa. | Credit: Paolo Spigariol

  • 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.

Venissa portico. | Credit: Paolo Spigariol

Day 2

Torcello and the northern Lagoon

Our first stop, the island of Mazzorbo. | Photo: Paolo Spigariol

The Eolo sailing for Torcello. | Credit: Paolo Spigariol

  • 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.
C, 09 23_0218 copy

Flamingoes in an estuary of the lagoon.| Credit: http://www.cruisingvenice.com

  • 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.
16 008_0129 (1) copy

Inside the Locanda alle Porte 1632. |Credit: http://www.cruisingvenice.com

Day 3

Lazzaretto Nuovo and Malamocco

Venetian mask representing the doctor of the plague.

Venetian carnival mask originating from the quarantine representing the doctor of the black plague. Vinegar-soaked cloth was wrapped on the face and covered with the long-nosed mask to avoid the infection.|Credit: http://www.cruisingvenice.com

  • 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.
Mauro teaches how to stuff zucchini blossoms on board the Eolo. Photo: Paolo Spigariol

Mauro shows how to stuff zucchini blossoms on-board the Eolo. | Credit: Paolo Spigariol

  • 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.
Under sail in the lagoon.

The Eolo under sail in the lagoon. |Credit: http://www.cruisingvenice.com

Day 4

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.
Fishmonger, Chioggia. | Photo: Julia della Croce

Fishmonger, Chioggia. | Credit: Julia della Croce/Forktales

  • 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.
Last night in Venice: THe Palazetto Pisani. | Photo: Courtesy of Palazetto Pisani

Our accommodations in Venice: The Palazzetto Pisani. | Credit: Palazzetto Pisani

Day 5

Venice

 

On our walking tour of Venice. | Photo: Julia della Croce/Forktales

On our walking tour of Venice. | Credit: Julia della Croce/Forktales

  • 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.

Day 6

Venice

Piazza San Marco. | Photo: Greg Mitchell

Piazza San Marco. | Credit: Greg Mitchell

  • 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.

Day 7

Depart Venice

Farewell and thank you from the Eolo. | Photo:

Farewell and thank you from the Eolo. | Credit: Paolo Destefanis for Veneto: Authentic Recipes From Venice and the Italian Northeast, by Julia della Croce (Chronicle Books)

  • Airport transfer by water taxi.

Rates and Particulars:

  • 3,950 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.

Not Included

  • 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.

Contact

  • For information and reservations: Write to Mauro Stoppa at the following email address info@cruisingvenice.com.
Winner of the 2004 World Gourmand Awards.

Julia della Croce’s Veneto: Authentic recipes from Venice and the Italian Northeast, with photography by Paolo Destefanis (Chronicle Books) won the 2004 World Gourmand Awards.

“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.

with Mauro at Met

Mauro lands in NYC to cook for a private party at Sotheby’s, bringing his own ingredients with him from Venice. We met at the Met for some down time. | Credit: Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Nov 032015
 
Photographer Paolo Destefanis

Photographer Paolo Destefanis | Photo: Sebastiano Tecchio

It was this time of year in 2000 when Italian photographer Paolo Destefanis set out with my manuscript in hand to shoot images for Veneto: Authentic Recipes From Venice and the Italian Northeast, a title I wrote for Chronicle Books. I had gone with him earlier in the year to capture the magic of the Venice and its waterways in springtime and to explore locations in some of the mainland provinces. But I missed the second trip the following fall, and had to satisfy myself with being there vicariously through the vivid photographs he took. Veneto bookWhile I love the fieldwork, research, and recipe testing that is the writer’s task when producing a cookbook, I have always been drawn just as much to the design and illustration of its pages. Housebound after multiple surgeries and subsequent therapies, it was a melancholy autumn, lost to me forever, but Paolo’s painterly images were a consolation. Looking at them again today, it occurred to me that my readers have been deprived of seeing many of them, as the budget for the book allowed for only some twenty-five.

Here, with Paolo’s permission, is a gallery of photographs, both unpublished and published, that evoke the spirit, the flavors, and the experience of Venice and its beautiful region at this glorious time of year.

Skipper Mauro Stoppa on the Eolo at San Giorgio, Venice

Skipper Mauro Stoppa on the Eolo at San Giorgio, Venice

Gondolas, Venice

Gondolas, Venice

A cook cleaning baby cuttlefish at the celebrated fish restaurant Corta Sconta, Venice.

A cook cleaning baby cuttlefish at the celebrated fish restaurant Corta Sconta, Venice.

Antipasto di mare, Corte Sconta, Venice.

Antipasto di mare, Corte Sconta, Venice.

Antipasto di mare, Corte Sconta.

Antipasto di mare, Corte Sconta Restaurant.

Frittura di mare, Venezia Lido.

Frittura di mare, Venezia Lido.

Fondamenta Ostraghe, Venice

Fondamenta Ostraghe, Venice

990418_014_Santo_Stefano_Venice

Santo Stefano, Venice

Fondamento Barbieri, Venice.

Fondamenta Barbieri, Venice.

Pumpkin truck, Veneto.

Pumpkin truck, Veneto.

Pumpkin, Veneto.

Pumpkin, one of Veneto’s adored foods.

Chioggia pumpkins, considered the best for their sweet, compare and juice flesh, Bardolino.

Chioggia pumpkins, considered the best for their sweet, compact and juicy flesh, Bardolino.

Pumpkin truck, detail, Veneto.

Pumpkin truck, detail, Veneto.

Roast pumpkin, once popular street food hawked on the piazzas of Venice.

Roast pumpkin, once popular street food hawked on the piazzas of Venice.

Pumpkin soup.

Pumpkin soup.

Pumpkin risotto

Pumpkin risotto, Bardolino.

Treviso canal.

Treviso canal.

Radicchio farmer.

Radicchio farmer, Treviso.

Up close.

Radicchio in the field, Veneto.

Various radicchios at market, Rovigo.

Various radicchios at market, Rovigo.

990412_002_Bortolan Bakery sign_Treviso

Bortolan Bakery sign,Treviso.

Risotto al radicchio rosso, Loggia Rimbaldi, Bardolino.

Risotto al radicchio, Loggia Rimbaldi, Bardolino.

Bigoli contadina (bigoli "peasant style") served in a silver platter, another primo at Loggia Rambaldi, Bardolino.

Bigoli contadina, (bigoli “peasant style”), another primo at Loggia Rambaldi, Bardolino.

Villa, Rovigo.

Villa, Rovigo.

Cane and reed huts, Po River.

Cane and reed huts, Po River.

Cabbages, Venezia Lido

Cabbages, Venezia Lido

Laverello, sweet water fish of Lake Garda, all "acqua pazza," steamed in "crazy water."

Laverello, sweet water fish of Lake Garda, “all’acqua pazza,” steamed in “crazy water.”

Baccalà, dried and salted cod, Rovigo.

Baccalà, dried and salted cod, Rovigo.

Baccalà alla vicentina, Fontana Fredda.

Baccalà alla vicentina, Fontana Fredda.

Ristorante Il Capriolo dining room, Vado.

Ristorante Il Capriolo dining room, Vado.

Rural house near Cortina.

Rural house near Cortina.

Cortina panorama. Land of polenta, potato, and Lamon beans.

Cortina panorama. Land of polenta, potatoes, and Lamon beans.

Sign for beans, Lamon.

Sign for beans, Lamon.

The famous beans of Lamon.

The famous beans of Lamon.

Woman shucking beans, Lamon

Woman shucking beans, Lamon

Practiced hands.

Practiced hands.

Church, Lamon.

Church, Lamon.

Salviata, eggs scrambled with sage.

Salviata, eggs scrambled with sage.

"Cornetti," flat beans, with anchovy.

“Cornetti,” flat beans with anchovy.

Pomegranates, a favorite fruit of the Veneto.

Pomegranates, a favorite fruit of the Veneto.

Hen turkey with pomegranate, a classic harvest dish of the provinces.

Hen turkey with pomegranate, a classic harvest dish of Vicenza.

Apples of Lamon.

Apples of Lamon.

 

All photos Copyright ©Paolo Destefanis, www.paolodestefanis.com

 

 

 

Oct 132015
 
Blazin' Jack-o'-Lanterns!

The Hudson Valley, just upriver from Manhattan, takes Halloween very seriously what with its famous one-time resident, Washington Irving, having written “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” America’s first ghost story. Besides the usual Halloween parades, the towns up and down the river host vampire balls, real haunted house competitions, the Headless Horseman’s night ride reenactments, and tours to the cemetery where the author himself and the once flesh-and-blood Katrina Van Tassel are buried. But best of all is the Great Jack-o’-Lantern Blaze, an artistic spectacle that even grownups can love. If you can’t make it, have no fear. Feast your eyes […more…]

Apr 042015
 
Celebrating Easter Sicilian Style

Special dolci are an essential part of Easter celebrations in Italy and Sicily in particular, where the Arab sweet tooth pervades. At this time several years ago, I was in Agrigento sampling the island’s quiddities with the legendary restaurateur Tony May (Palio, Gemelli, San Domenico, SD26) and a group of Italian chefs. We had lunch al fresco one afternoon at the estate of olive oil producers, where this traditional Easter sweet dominated the dessert table. Called pecorelle, “little lambs,” these artful confections are fashioned of almond paste and decorated with chocolate and tinted sugar. The lambs represent eternal life, the Easter theme, with the red flower symbolizing the Resurrection, Jesus Christ rising from the tomb. Despite […more…]

Dec 102014
 
To Sotheby's to see TBTW

The other day, I published an article in Zester Daily about the monster truffle that was found in Umbria. What I didn’t say was that it wasn’t until the night before it was to be previewed at Sotheby’s that an invitation landed in my inbox. At close to midnight I was waking my husband up to see if he wanted to play hooky from his work the next morning and take a drive into New York City to look at it. After all, it’s not every day that we have the chance to see a four-pound truffle, even if we wouldn’t be lucky enough to […more…]

Nov 022014
 
Rocky Mountain High

Boulder is a serious food town where you can find everything from Colorado bison ragù to mule foot pork chops, local pecorino to real Venice-style gelato. I was there recently for the Chefs Collaborative Summit, a meeting of renowned chefs and like-minded professionals who are in the business of food—growing it, producing it, cooking it, selling it and writing about it. Many I spoke to told me that they have learned their trades from Italy’s artisans whose ancient food traditions have inspired them. Why that is, will be the subject of future articles, but here are some of the highlights of […more…]

Oct 082014
 
There's Good News in the World, Too: Gelato Explosion!

In my recent article for Zester Daily, I wrote about the gelato explosion. One thing is for sure, gelato is on the move from its Italian home base as more and more entrepreneurs set up shop all over the world using Italy’s state-of-the-art equipment, designed for small-batch, artisan production. Following up on my last post about Rimini, here’s the scoop about why I was in that famous beach resort last month. No, it wasn’t to sunbathe or take in the nightclubs. It was to join the World Gelato Tour which, after circling the globe and picking finalists along the way—including […more…]