January 12th 2016: a chilly but very sunny and early morning on the City of Water.
Carmela Sereno Hayes of Carmela’s Kitchen enjoying the winter sun in Venice
The first two bloggers, of the 10 participating to A Taste of Venice Food & Travel Blog tour, have arrived in Venice: Beatrice Sartori of Select Italyand Carmela Sereno Hayes of Carmela’s Kitchen.
From Piazzale Roma, Venice Bus Terminal, I (Monica Cesarato, creator and organizer of the blog tour A Taste of Venice) guide them through the maze of alleyways and canals all the way to Zattere, the location of two of the apartments which Views On Venice has kindly offered us to use throughout the event.
View on Venice has put at our disposal two very well spacious and very modern apartments overlooking the Squero of San Trovaso, the place where they build and restore gondolas – so every morning our bloggers get an insight view of one of the oldest workmanship in Venice.
Apartment Ca’ dello Squero 1 and apartment Ca’ dello Squero 2, are located just a few step from the shores of the Fondamenta delle Zattere, just a bridge away from Gelateria da Nico, one of the best ice cream parlours in Venice. They are both composed of 3 double bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and large living room. Both apartments have free WiFi access and the kitchens are brand new.
Ca’ Dello Squero photo by Views on Venice
We are met by Marta of View on Venice, which shows us around and offers a very warm welcome, explaining in details how to use the various facilities of the apartments, where to go and what to do in the area and much more. The apartments have also one of the best welcome/instruction books I have ever seen in rental apartments in Italy.
Soon after I leave Beatrice and Carmela to settle in their rooms and I head to Santa Lucia train station to meet up with Liz Knight of Rome If You Want To and Silvia Donati of Italy Magazine.
As soon as the girls arrive, I rush them (and already set the pace for the rest of the tour, poor things) through the little calle of Venice, amongst their exclamations of delight and amazement at the views which welcome them! The sun is bright in the sky, no clouds, simply a perfect day in Venice!
After a quick check in for the remaining bloggers, we all settle down in the main living room of Ca Dello Squero 1 and have our welcome briefing and the official opening of what will be later defined by some bloggers, an “epic” blog tour in Venice!
Venice Food And Travel
I start by explaining to all present what A Taste of Venice Food & Travel Blog tour is, why it came about and how I would liked for it to develop.
Glass Blowing photo by Vivo Venetia
A Taste of Venice was born out of love for Venice. I wanted people to understand that there is a new Venice which is being reborn, composed by local passionate artisans who are struggling and fighting everyday to show the world that Venice is not just cheap tacky masks and fake glass and overpriced and horrible food. There is a real Venice out there, you just have to take the time and effort to go and look for it. A Taste of Venice wants to show people how easy it is to find it and to enjoy it! So, after gathering a group of local trusty people, including artisans, entrepreneurs, food and wine people and with their total support, I organised a 4 day event aimed at the discovery of a Venice which is often missed and overlooked by the masses!
So, after thanking both bloggers and sponsors alike for their incredible support, I leave my audience to Francesca and Francesco of Vivo Venetia, co-organisers of the event.
Murano Glass by Vivo Venetia
Vivo Venetia is a brand new start-up, the brainchild of Cécile Rousset,a young French woman who has been living and working in Italy for many years now. Cécile wants to achieve exactly the same as I do with my blog tour, but on a larger scale: the aim of her company is to put in touch directly, through her very well designed and user friendly portal, the tourist with the artisans, by allowing the visitors to book classes, demos, visits and much more directly online. The site allows the clients also to build a day itinerary and book the various unique activities in Venice on line and with one click! The site gives full visibility to all those artisans and local Venetian activities that do not own a website or who do not have time to follow the internet market as much as they would. Vivo Venetia offers the opportunity to live the city with a unique point of view, in a very authentic way, meeting the real people of Venice and creating personalized experiences. A great idea which I sincerely hope will bring her lots of success.
After a quick presentation and video, it is the turn of Ursula, the representative of Views on Venice, who introduces us to the company, which manages and rents a large number of modern deluxe apartments and palaces in Venice. Views on Venice is a Venetian company, founded in the late 90s by Filippo Gaggia, a local Venetian whose aim was to rent his family properties and those of friends to an international clientele, to allow them to enjoy “living at home like a Venetian”, with the freedom and comfort which a hotel room does not offer. Now boasting more than 70 properties among its portfolio, including many locations on the Gran Canal, Views on Venice is the leader in the short rental property business in Venice, putting customer care always at the forefront of its services.
And after all the introductions, we finally set off to start what would turn out to be a whirlwind of activities and memorable moments in Venice.
Our first stop is Il Forcolaio Matto, aka Piero Dri, an astronomer turned oarlock maker who, armed only with his passion and hard work, has set up his own artisan shop in the area of Cannaregio, one of the six districts of Venice.
Piero Dri aka Il Forcolaio Matto
We arrive at Piero’s shop late afternoon where we are greeted by his huge smile – which I think is brought along by the fact that I turn up with a group of 10 and more good looking women – any man’s dream, I suppose!
Il Forcolaio Matto meets DreamDiscoverItalia and Select Italy
For the next hour he explains with his nice methodical but yet passionate way of speaking what an oarlock maker is, how and why he started this craft, how hard it is to operate such an old art in such a modern world (he has to make his own tools because many are now obsolete) and what keeps him going. Talking to Piero is like breathing in fresh air: the love for his job, the passion for the boats and the wood, the respect of the old Venetian ways but at the same time embracing new ideas – all of this is exactly what A Taste of Venice is all about. It is for people like Piero and all the others, who the bloggers will meet in the next few days, that this blog tour was organized.
This is the Venice which visitors and tourists should discover and learn to love, this is the Venice which we should all be proud of and make every effort to protect!
Anyway, after our lovely, interesting and invigorating chat with Il Forcolaio Matto, we take a short walk towards Campo San Lio, where, in her brand new shop, is waiting for us Mariangela Penzo, the owner of Vizio Virtù, the best artisan chocolatier in Venice.
Mariangela founded Vizio Virtùchocolate shop 10 years ago near Campo San Tomà, against everyone’s negative opinion, She was not a trained chocolatier and people thought she was crazy in starting such a demanding enterprise in a particular place like Venice. But against all odds and a lot of hard work and studying, Mariangela has proven everyone wrong, and ten years later, after moving location for a bigger place, she can boast to be the proud owner of one of the best artisan food shops in Venice.
She greets us with a big smile, as she always does when people walk through her little chocolate wonderland, and all ten bloggers greet her with a face of awe and wonder: the smell of cocoa, chocolate and spices is overwhelming and we all feel like little kids in a candy store. I am pretty sure not just one blogger, and I won’t mention any names, you know who you are, felt like just grabbing everything, curl up in a corner and simply munch away and die and go to heaven!
Vizio Virtù Amazing Pralines
Mariangela prepares a mixed set of her delicious little pralines for us to taste whilst she explains the history of cocoa, how cocoa is extracted and how chocolate is made. She is very passionate about her work and I always wonder how she can keep so thin working in such close contact with chocolate, nuts and all goodie thingies!!! She is very strict on the choice of the quality of the products she uses for her recipes and she only uses the Cruz of cocoa and chocolates.
After the chocolate tasting we get to sip also on some hot chocolate, a particular recipe which Mariangela has developed from an old 1700s recipe by Carlo Goldoni, the famous Venetian gourmet playwriter, and which contains no milk, but it is made of a concussion of cocoa, water, sugar and spices. Thick, delicious, filling but not sickly sweet. Perfetta!
Struggling to get the bloggers out of the shop, I finally drag them all out and guide them over Rialto Bridge heading for Campo Santa Margherita, the area for our next stop.
After a slow but enjoyable walk, we finally arrive at our destination in Calle San Pantalon: El Sbarlefo, a lovely bacaro aka wine bar, aka hole in the wall.
Oysters and Prosecco at El Sbarlefo!
It is run by Alessandro, Andrea and Lorenzo, a trio of young Venetian men, who own also another branch in Calle del Pistor near Campo Degli Apostoli.
On our arrival we are greeted by Andrea who immediately starts us off with a nice glass of Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, much needed after such an eventful day.
We start to relax and realize that we have all the place to ourselves! Great, we can make as much noise as we want! And then the food starts appearing, beginning with huge trays of fresh oysters, which gets all washed down with lots of glasses of Prosecco!
It is then the turn of the beautiful raw Scampi, directly from the Rialto Market and freshly caught in our Venetian lagoon. Andrea then brings along another tray of very local Venetian fish: a trio of carpaccio, composed of octopus and celery, tuna and swordfish.
We are then delighted by the arrival of the King of Venice: the baccalà. Andrea surprise us with three versions of the so much loved dried cod: baccalà mantecato, a creamy mousse, baccalà in umido, cooked with tomato sauce and baccalà alla cappuccina, boiled and marinated with garlic, olive oil and parsley – all served on squares of white polenta.
King of Venice – the baccalà by Vivo Venetia
By now we are totally full and we much appreciate the bottle of Pinot Grigio Doc which arrives quickly to our tables. But the feast is not finished and soon Andrea brings along another tray full of Sarde in Saor and rolls of smoked salmon stuffed with Robiola Cheese. When he is satisfied that we have finished everything, he give us the coup de grâce and brings to the table a tray full of fried scallops and marinated sardines.
After this, we all struggle to get up and stand up straight, due to the large glasses of wines we drank and the huge amount of food we just ate. Arghhhh, the hard life of food and travel bloggers! You know, it is a hard sacrifice we are happy to endure it for you readers!
A Taste of Venice Bloggers at El Sbarlefo – end of day 1
So Day 1 of A Taste of Venice Blog Tour has come to an end: I send all my lovely bloggers back to their accommodation and wish them all a good night!
Have a good rest girls, tomorrow is Day 2 and you have no idea what is waiting for you!!!!