Want to know the best tips for exploring Venice? There’s no better way to get to know a place than to chat with the locals.
We check in with Venetian food blogger Nicoletta, who blends her passion for local food heritage with beautiful photography and storytelling over at Naturally Epicurean.
Hailing from the Lido area of Venice, Nicoletta first cultivated a love of food and wine whilst working in a wine bar in the Rialto as a student. She’s a graduate in Conservation of the Cultural Heritage and now works in the city as a freelance photographer and English teacher.
Read on to discover Nicoletta’s city of prosecco and purple artichokes, pink flamingos and sherbet sunsets . . .
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INTERVIEW WITH NICOLETTA OF NATURALLY EPICUREAN
Ciao Nicoletta – tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi! My name is Nicoletta, I live in Venice and write the blog Naturally Epicurean, a personal diary about all things food and life in Venice.
Where do you live?:
I live in a tiny attic in the neighbourhood of Castello, five minutes walk from Saint Mark’s square. From my living room window I can see the Archangel Gabriel on the top of the Tower Bell, while from my bedroom window I can see the bell of Santa Maria Formosa. I’m lucky because the house is located in a small campo (and not in a calle), so it’s bright and full of light; plus it’s close to everything I need and in a quite busy area, so I’m never alone!
What inspired you to start a blog? What will readers they find there?
I started Naturally Epicurean to share my love for Venice and good, simple and seasonal food. In the blog, visitors will find restaurant reviews, an updated food guide, information and tips on farms and markets, some recipes and photographic reportages of my lagoon wanderings. It’s addressed to curious and adventurous travellers that wish to go beyond the mainstream experiences, frequent visitors and also Venetians and foreigners that live here. In short, an unconventional Venice guide!
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What do you love about Venice? What makes it unique?
In Venice, everything is unique, from the name of the streets to the way houses were built. I love the fact that it’s a city with an international breath but a human-friendly dimension, where there are no cars and people walk everywhere, where we inhabitants all know each other and it’s very easy to make friends. And, of course, it’s indescribable beauty.
What do you miss most about it when you’re not there?
Although I have a love and hate relationship with Venice, the truth is that whenever I’m away, after a couple of days I start to miss my everyday life, the ease of getting around without having to commute, the ongoing ‘ciao bella, bevi qualcosa?’ (‘Hi, want to drink something?’) in the street and the unique dawns and dusks we get to see everyday! With regard to food, it’s always the veggies and the fish, or anything prepared in saor (usually sardines -but not only- she floured, fried and covered with sautéed onions, raisins and pine nuts).
Where’s your favourite place for a trip to the countryside?
I have three:
One is definitely the island of Sant’ Erasmo, the vegetable garden of Venice. Located in the north lagoon, it is the second biggest island in Venice and it’s famous especially for the purple artichoke. It takes 30 minutes by vaporetto (number 13) from F.ta Nove to reach and it’s pure countryside. If you decide to go, expect to spend a relaxing day immersed in nature, walking or cycling (there is a bike rental) around the various crops, gardens and elegant villas overlooking the lagoon and the marshlands and to eat simple and traditional dishes like spaghetti alla vongole (spaghetti with clams) at Il Lato Azzurro (booking recommended).
The second spot is Mazzorbo, annexed to Burano by a bridge. Mazzorbo is extremely quiet and has a magical atmosphere typical of simple places. A visit to the Church of Santa Caterina is a must, then for lunch I would head back to Burano and stop at Trattoria al Gatto Nero for a risotto di go (risotto with goby fish).
Last but not least, Torcello, where I suggest going early morning and visiting the home/museum Casa Andrich, the only place from where you can see the pink flamingos that live in the Palude delle Rose.
What’s your favourite cultural site or attraction in Venice?
Ca’ Pesaro, the museum of modern art. I am very attached to this place because it’s strongly linked to the history of our local art of the XIX and XX centuries. Initially, it worked as a sort of Musee de refuse of the Biennale, therefore it has lots of different masterpieces, among which are Klimpt’s Giuditta. I visit almost every week and, with my husband, we like to sit in the cafeteria overlooking the Grand Canal to read the papers and relax! Highly recommended!
What does your perfect day in Venice look like?
Early rise to watch dawn in Saint Mark’s Square, a relaxed breakfast seated in Rosa Salva in San Giovanni e Paolo and a walk to escape the crowds towards Dorsoduro, where for lunch I would seek refuge in a cosy wine bar like Adriatico Mar and for dinner I would treat myself to a gourmet meal at Riviera.
During the day, depending on the weather, I would either visit the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, with its marvelous Tintoretto paintings, or Ca’ Rezzonico, where in addition to Tiepolo’s frescoes, I enjoy looking at Longhi’s paintings depicting the life of Venetian nobles and people, or go for a walk along the Zattere, enjoy a drink at the kiosk overlooking Giudecca and visit the recently opened VAC Foundation.
The best thing to drink in Venice is . . .
Wine. The Venetian wine market is among the most important in Italy and wine lovers will be delighted to find an incredible variety of choice, from historical labels to more contemporary and fully natural wines. If you like prosecco, try the one ‘sui lieviti‘. My favourite places are Cantina Arnaldi in Santa Croce, Al Prosecco in Campo San Giacomo, Bancogiro in Rialto and Salvmeria in Via Garibaldi.
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The best thing to have for breakfast in Venice is . . .
The real breakfast experience, though, is savoury and based on cicheti. My suggestion is to go to Rialto from 10am onwards and undertake a tasting experience stopping at all the different bacari, among which my favourite remain All’Arco (go for the fried baccalà or the half boiled octopus, called folpetto) and Cantina Do Mori (try the half egg topped either with pickled onion or anchovy).
The perfect place to watch the sunset in Venice is . . .
For me, it’s Sant’Elena, mainly because it’s a quiet residential area with few visitors and a beautiful park. I enjoy sitting on one of the red benches facing the lagoon and just watch the sky change and go from blue to orange and pink. Amazing!
The best time of year to visit Venice is . . .
Mid May or late September, when the weather is warm but not too hot and there are fewer day trippers and cruise shippers.
For a day at the beach, I like to head to . . .
There’s just one answer to this question and it’s Lido di Venezia, a 12 km long island that resembles a sort of Eden, a happy place where people cycle everywhere and the everyday life is simple and easy. My favourite beach is Alberoni, a natural oasis of peace with a super cool kiosk called Macondo Alberoni.
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Thank you to Nicoletta for sharing her side of Venice. I definitely recommend checking out her website, which is full of tips for visitors and lush photography to get you daydreaming. It’s like having a foodie BFF help you dodge the tacky tourist restaurants and uncover Venice’s unique food heritage.
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All images © Nicoletta Fornaro, with the exception of Venetian gondolas (top) by Dmitry Sovyak via Unsplash