20 Things to do in Venice – 15/20 Acqua Alta Bookshop

As you walk in the Acqua Alta bookshop you will be greeted by Luigi and one of his cats Luigi and one of his Cats at Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice (Marco Secchi)

Walk in the labyrinth of interconnected rooms, and you will see the full-sized gondola in the middle of the shop, overflowing with books then along to bathtubs filled with books and sleeping cats you will find a doorway leading straight out onto a canal where the water level seems a precarious few centimeters away from spilling into the room. It happened to us to get there in a rainy day and the owner was moving all the books from the floor to bathtubs and shelves because of the danger of high water level!

Keep searching (for books and memorable shots) and you’ll find yourself in a tiny quiet courtyard which hosts a staircase made entirely from books. Climb up to the top for a lovely view onto the Venice canals.

You may feel literally overwhelmed by books. New and old, romance and science fiction, best sellers and b-series novels, you can find anything here if you are patient enough to search. It’s possible that you won’t be able to find any specific books given the bizarre nature of the piles, or you may don’t like the smell of humidity or second hand books, but you should include a visit to Acqua Alta into your Venice tour anyway.

Libreria Acqua Alta Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa (Campiello Del Tintor) | 5176 - Castello, 30122 Venice, Italy

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If you are looking for unusual, rare, incredibly interesting books about Venice a REAL must is 
Libreria Editrice Franco Filippi Castello, Casselleria 5284 Venezia 30122
FRANCO IS A WONDERFUL GUY AND AN AMAZING LIBRARIAN AND EDITOR!

The Befana in Venice

Every child of Italian heritage has heard of La Befana, a character in Italian folklore who delivers presents to children throughout Italy. It is believed that the legend of La Befana may have originated in Rome, then spread as a tradition to the rest of Italy. Some believe her name is derived from the word Epiphany, but others say La Befana descended Roman goddess named Strina.

In folklore, Befana visits all the children of Italy on the eve of the 6th of January (the Epiphany) to fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad. Because she is a good housekeeper, she will sweep the floor before she leaves. The child's family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with a few morsels of food for La Befana.She is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick through the air wearing a black shawl and is covered in soot because she enters the children's houses through the chimney. She is often smiling and carries a bag or hamper filled with candy, gifts, or both.

Christian legend has it that La Befana was approached by the magi (the biblical three kings) a few days before Christ's birth. They asked for directions to where the baby Jesus was, but she did not know. She provided them with shelter for a night, as she was considered the best housekeeper in the village with the most pleasant home. They invited her to join them on the journey to find the baby Jesus, but she declined, stating she was too busy with her housework. Later, La Befana had a change of heart, and tried to search out the astrologers and Jesus. That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the baby Jesus. She leaves all the good children toys and candy, while the bad children get coal or bags of ashes.

Venice  Regata della Befana at Arzana..***Agreed Fee's Apply To All Image Use***.Marco Secchi /Xianpix.tel +44 (0)207 1939846.tel +39 02 400 47313. e-mail sales@xianpix.com.www.marcosecchi.com (Marco Secchi)

Another Christian legend takes a slightly darker tone. La Befana was an ordinary woman with a child whom she greatly loved. However, her child died, and her grief maddened her. Upon hearing news of Jesus' birth, she set out to see him, delusional that he was her son. She eventually met Jesus and presented him with gifts to make him happy. The infant Jesus was delighted, and he gave La Befana a gift in return; she would be the mother of every child in Italy.

Italians believe that if one sees La Befana one will receive a thump from her broomstick because she doesn't wish to be seen. This aspect of the tradition may be designed to keep children in their beds while parents are distributing candy (or coal) and sweeping the floor on Epiphany Eve.

Traditionally, all Italian children may expect to find a lump of "coal" in their stockings (actually rock candy made black with caramel coloring), as every child has been at least occasionally bad during the year.

S Martin's Cake

  The Saint Martin Celebration is an old traditional popular celebration in the North East of Italy that is rooted into the territory and has very old traditions

S. Martin xe 'ndà in sofita a trovar ea nonna Rita nona Rita no ghe gera S.Martin col cùeo par tera E col nostro sachetìn cari signori xe S.Martin

San Martin's short pastry cake

This short pastry cake is made in Venice to celebrate the feast day of Saint Martin, on 11th November every year, and it is a favourite with Venetian children who receive one from their grandparents and parents. The cake is in the shape of Saint Martin on horseback with his sword and, if you come to Venice in that period, you will see it in confectioners’ windows, decorated with sugar icing or coated with plain or milk chocolate and decorated with chocolate drops and candies

 

Oven-proof paper mould Download it here Prepare the paper mould used to cut out the cake. Cut a sheet of oven-proof paper measuring about 30x40 cm. Draw the shape of Saint Martin on horseback with his sword on the paper, cut it out and set it aside.

Alternatively, in Venice, during the period of the feast day, you can buy the cake mould in shops specialised in household goods.

Ingredients for a “Saint Martin” of 20x30 cm

For the short pastry: 250 gr flour 150 gr butter 100 gr sugar 1 egg yolk + 1 whole egg ½ sachet vanillin or vanilla flavouring

For the icing and decoration: 250 – 300 gr icing sugar 1 egg white 5 drops lemon juice 100 gr mixed sweets: chocolate Smarties, sugar sweets, candies, chocolate drops Cooking time: 15/20 minutes at 180°C

Preparation Light the oven. Prepare the pastry base by putting into a bowl, in this order, the flour, the sugar, the softened butter cut into small pieces, the yolk and the whole egg. Keep the extra egg white to one side in a bowl. Start mixing the ingredients by hand, crushing together the eggs, butter and sugar. Once they are fairly well mixed, add the flour and vanilla flavouring. Knead the mixture with your fingertips until it is homogeneous as regards both consistency and colour, working into a ball. Sprinkle some flour on a sheet of oven-proof paper and roll out the pastry into a rectangular sheep measuring about 30x40 cm and cut the outline of the cake. If you like, you can use the trimmings to make a round biscuit. Put the cake in the oven and bake till golden (it will take about 15/20 minutes). When the short pastry is ready, leave it to cool and start to prepare the icing. Put the egg white in a bowl and add the icing sugar, a teaspoonful at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon. When the first teaspoonful has been absorbed, add the second and so on, until you have added half the sugar. At this point squeeze 5 drops of lemon juice into the icing and keep stirring and adding the icing sugar as before. At the end the mixture will be quite thick and you will have to stir it energetically for a minute until it is nice and shiny. Pour the icing into a bag with a medium star-shaped nozzle and start decorating the biscuit. Scatter the biscuit as desired with chocolate drops, sweets or candies. When you have finished decorating it, let the icing “dry” for about 12 hours at room temperature.

An extra idea If you want, you can cover Saint Martin with melted chocolate or colour the icing with food colourings, choose the sweets for decorating it with your children, or change the shape of the cake, for example making biscuits with a hole at the top that you can decorate and hang on the Christmas tree.

Baccalà Mantecato Recipe

  baccalà mantecato is one of the signature dishes of Venetian cuisine and a staple of those wonderful hidden-away Venetian bacari, or wine bars.

The name of the dish comes from the verb mantecare, which is a culinary term meaning to 'beat' or 'whip' or simply to 'stir vigorously' so as to create a creamy consistency. It is the same word used to describe the final stage of making a risotto, when you stir the rice vigorously to incorporate grated cheese and butter, to creating that luscious creamy consistency that we all know and love. The technique serves the same purpose here, but in a wholly different context.

Baccalà Mantecato 

250gr salt cod, rehydrated. I think this involves a lot of soaking and changing of water over several days – we bought ours already soaked. A pinch of salt – the salt cod once soaked isn’t super salty 1 fat clove of garlic A handful of parsley 2 tbsp milk A squeeze of lemon juice

Oil, for emulsifying (we used vegetable as that’s what we had to hand; groundnut would also work but don’t, whatever you do, use extra virgin olive oil as it will overwhelm the cod)

Simmer the cod in water for 5 minutes, then leave to cool. While warm, break into pieces as small as possible.

In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and parsley into a paste. Add the cod and mix vigorously. Roll back your sleeves and get pounding and smooshing as someone else dribbles the oil in, until you get a thick, smooth paste. It needs quite a bit of oil. Add just a squeeze of lemon juice, then loosen with the milk – add on tbsp at a time until it is incorporated – if you feel it’s necessary. Serve with toasted bread.

Vini Sfusi...Wines by the pump!

Where can I buy wine in Venice? It’s easy. You enter the store advertising Vini Sfusi with your bottles ( not always necessary!), peruse the selection, noting the alcohol and the types of grapes used, and then, if possible, taste what you think you might want to buy. After than you just hand your bottles over and the rest is done by the shopkeeper. Prices in Venice range from 1.20 to 2.50 Euros per liter. Here are a few of the shops which specialize in "vino sfuso", most of which I think are still active:

Nave de Oro: Cannaregio 1370, rio terà San Leonardo (041 719 695) recognizable by a barrel out front, usually with a model ship atop, also a good selection of reasonably priced wines selected by near by producers. They also have the following shops:

  • Nave de Oro: Castello 5786B, calle del Mondo Nuovo (041 523 3056);
  • Nave de Oro: Dorsoduro 3664, near campo Santa Margherita (041 522 2693)
  • Nave de Oro: via Lepanto 24D, Lido (041 276 0055)
  • Nave de Oro, Cannaregio 4657, rio Terrà dei SS. Apostoli, near the Giorgione Theatre

Enoteca in Fondamenta Ormesini on the corner of Calle del Forner Very nice place and good choice of wines all very nice. They have most of the time Raboso, Raboso frizzante and Prosecco Frizzante. In season they stock Fragolino

Vini Sfusi S Polo 59 Small shop under the arcades in front of the church of S Giacometto. Smallchoice of Vini Sfusi but great quality!

La Cantina  S Polo 970 (041 523 5042) My Local!!  A short walk from Rialto and Rialto Market in a side alley. Wide choice of Vini sfusi very good quality. They also sell some specialty foods oils, jams, biscuits

Al Canton del Vino: Castello 3156, Salizada San Francesco, Very good choice and lot of wines by the pump!

Enoteca Vino e...vini: Castello 3566 , Salizada del Pignater (041 521 0184, enoteca@vinoevini.it)

Fondamenta di Cannaregio (near the Guglie bridge)

Rio Terà di Cristo and Calle di Cristo (entrance on two opposite sides) also has a wide selection of bottled wines and speciality foods

P.S. the Nave de Oro is not really a "chain" as much as a sort of expansion which started out many years ago as two brothers with two shops, then a third, then one of the first ones got sold, then a cousin got into it, and then one of the brothers moved across town... ... ...

Bacari, Ombre e Cicchetti - Venice Osterie

If there is a tradition I got accustomed very quickly since relocating in Venice is the custom of the  "ombra" (a glass of wine)....and you cannot possibly have an ombra without some cicchetti...that are small snacks or side dishes. Please do not call them "tapas"! I usually end my Venice Photo Walks with my clients in one...or two of them ;-) VENICE, ITALY - JUNE 17:  Two Venetians women enjoy a drink with "cicchetti" in front of a traditional bacaro on June 17, 2011 in Venice, Italy. The bacari are the local down to earth version of wine bars, they serve  "cicheti" a sort of Tapas, traditionally washed down with a glass of wine, and Venetians stop to snack and socialize before and after meals. ... (Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

Few photos form Bacari around Venice are here

The bacari, open just for lunch and dinner, are the local down to earth version of wine bars which serve 'ciccheti, a kind of snack  traditionally washed down with a glass of wine, and Venetians stop to snack and socialize before and after meals.

May be would be a nice idea to write in the comments a list of YOUR  favourite Bacaro!

I am working on a list of Restaurants in Venice and in the Lagoon....and is here

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Cantina Azienda Agricola or Da Roberto in Rio Tera San Leonardo in Cannaregio. Very good wines and Excellent cicheti all using top products

My review Wine 9/10 Food 9/10 Prices ££ Friendliness 9/10 Value for Money Excellent

Al Volto Calle Cavalli 4081 San Marco Venezia Having  moved not even “a ponte e una calle” from them, decided to test this Bacaro Choice is really good as is the quality. The Risotto was out of this world!

My review Wine 9/10 Food 9/10 Prices ££+ Friendliness 8/10 Value for Money Excellent

Do Spade Just behind Rialto Market Sestiere San Polo 860, 30125 Venice, Italy Another bàcaro dating back to the 15th century, Do Spade offers a great selection of traditional Venetian cicchetti in a cozy if not somewhat dark atmosphere. It is a busy little place and it is full of locals. It’s on a little calle between the Rialto Bridge and Calle dei Bottieri

My review Wine 9/10 Food 9/10 Prices £ Friendliness 7/10 Value for Money  Very Good

Ca’ d’Oro/Alla Vedova. Calle del Pistor, Cannaregio 3912. One of the most famous bàcari in Venice, this one’s both away from the city’s crowds and on the cheap (€1) end of things, ideal if you’re on a budget. Don’t miss the polpette, meatballs made of pork.

My review Wine 8/10 Food 9/10 Prices £ Friendliness 6/10 Value for Money Brilliant

Osteria Al Portego. Calle della Malvasia, Venice, Italy The place is tuck away in a quiet area near S Lio and the Ponte delle Paste. It is owned by a group of young guys. Cicchetti are nice and really fresh, wine is good and staff is very courteous. My only remark is that the prices are on the expensive side if you seat at a table, May just be me...I am used to  drink on the other side of Rialto!

My review Wine 8/10 Food 810 Prices ££ Friendliness 8/10 Value for Money Ok (I suppose)

Do Mori. Sestiere San Polo 429, Calle dei Do Mori. Myth has it that Casanova frequented this bàcaro, also near the Rialto Bridge. Even if he didn’t, it’s still thought to be the oldest in Venice, dating back to 1462. Ask for the “francobollo” (postage stamp)—a tiny sandwich with various fillings, it’s the house specialty.

My review Wine 7/10 Food 7/10 Prices £+ (Polpette are quite expensive) Friendliness 7/10 Value for Money  Good

Cantinone–già Schiavi. Ponte San Trovaso, Dorsoduro 992. This family-run bàcaro, located across from a gondola workshop, boasts raw fish, meats, more than 30 wines available by the glass, and much more. Crowded with Venetians in the evening!

Al Ponte. Calle Larga Giacinto Gallina. One of the cheapest bàcari—and, therefore, places to eat—in all of Venice, Al Ponte has pasta and fish plates and a welcoming atmosphere.

Banco Giro. Campo San Giacometto, San Polo 122. A Grand Canal view, a variety of cheeses, fish, and wine, and a lively atmosphere. What’s not to like?

All’Arco. Calle Arco, San Polo 436. Another one of Venice’s most-loved spots, All’Arco, near the Ponte Rialto, is packed at lunchtime with shoppers from the local fish market. Everything from calamari to liver to shrimp is on offer, and if it’s available, don’t miss the hot sandwich of boiled beef sausage and mustard.

My review Wine 9/10 Food 9/10 Prices £ Friendliness 9/10 Value for Money Excellent

Osteria La Ciurma Calle Galeazza, Venice,  this is a nice little wine bar on a quiet alleyway a short distance from the Rialto Mercato vaporetto stop. Wines are very drinkable and mostly 2 Euros per glass; some less, some a little more. Food offerings are tasty morsals from 1.30 Euros. A great place for a drink among neighborhood people.

My review Wine 9/10 Food 9/10 Prices £+ Friendliness 9/10 Value for Money Very Good

Osteria Ai Osti Sestiere Cannaregio, 3849 Strada Nuova, Venice, A really welcoming ( I think family run) tiny restaurant with no frills but full of real Venetian character. Great traditional food and a good chance to meet the locals

My review Wine 7/10 Food 7/10 Prices £+ Friendliness 7/10 Value for Money Very Good

Diavolo e Acquasanta San Polo 561b, Venice, Italy, Located a few steps away from the more famous restaurant "alla Madonna", this tiny Osteria is geared toward locals rather than tourists. Do not expect upscale atmosphere, or welcoming nice english-speaking waiters. But if you go beyond the unpretentious appearance and the rough manners, you'll find some genuine home-style food, priced below the Venetian average.

My review Wine 8/10 Food 8/10 Prices £+ Friendliness 8/10 Value for Money Very Good

Al Vecio Penasa (not even worth my proper review!)

If they think you are a tourist...they will try to hit you nicely. Been twice and will never get there again. I am Italian but from a different area so the accent is different... both times they charged me the wrong amount. First time was 2 Euros out of 5 E!!!  Today they asked me if I wanted a Tramezzino and Wine at the table and I said NO  still they tried to charge me the price of table service. NOT nice at all  Tramezzini can be nice but do not want to be taken for a ride!

The Dragon and The Snake

 (Marco Secchi)

I never would have found this thing if I hadn't seen it in a book first...and a colleague in helping me with good directions!! It's very tucked away and even with directions, I had a hard time finding it.

"This work has an interesting symbology. The figure brings together in a single symbol two aspects of the Cosmos: the dragon is yang, active principle and divine power; while the serpent is yin, the principle of reproduction and primordial water. The intertwined double spiral represents two directions of one movement: balance and imbalance, birth and death, the initiation of death and the rebirth of new being. The rings thus mark the mid-line between yang and yin, an alternative twofold expansion and the point of balance between two opposing cosmic forces."

Tabarro (Cloak)

Tabarro (cloak) is a type of loose garment that is worn over clothing and serves the same purpose as an overcoat; it protects the wearer from the cold, rain or wind for example, or it may form part of a fashionable outfit or uniform. Cloaks are as old as human history; there has nearly always been some form of long, unstructured outer garment used to protect people from the weather. Over time cloak designs have been changed to match current styles and textile needs. Cloaks generally fasten at the neck or over the shoulder, vary in length, from hip all the way down to the ankle, mid-calf being the normal length. They may have an attached hood, and may cover and fasten down the front, in which case they have holes or slits for the hands to pass through. However, cloaks are almost always sleeveless.

Osti e Tabarri d Asolo in visita a Venezia..HOW TO LICENCE THIS PICTURE: please contact us via e-mail at sales@xianpix.com or call our offices in Milan at (+39) 02 400 47313 or London   +44 (0)207 1939846 for prices and terms of copyright. First Use Only ,Editorial Use Only, All repros payable, No Archiving.© MARCO SECCHI (Marco Secchi)

Member of Osti e Tabbari walks in Venice today 25th January 2012

Historic Atelier Pietro Longhi

This is a Magical place...with a capital M. They make the costumes for nearly all the Venetian theatres, Museums, and also for many historical TV and cinema films made in the city. Costumes can be custom made and ordered for the Carnevale. There is even a selection for rent.

VENICE, ITALY - JANUARY 20:  Choreographer Raffaele Dessi (L) and tailor Francesco Briggi (R) of the historic atelier Pietro Longi check few costumes on January 20, 2012 in Venice, Italy. This is one of the busiest periods of the year for the atelier as the next few weeks the streets and canals of Venice will be filled with people attending the carnival,  wearing highly-decorative and imaginative carnival costumes and masks. (Marco Secchi)

VENICE, ITALY - JANUARY 20:  Choreographer Raffaele Dessi (L) and tailor Francesco Briggi (R) of the historic atelier Pietro Longhi check few costumes on January 20, 2012 in Venice, Italy. This is one of the busiest periods of the year for the atelier as the next few weeks the streets and canals of Venice will be filled with people attending the carnival,  wearing highly-decorative and imaginative carnival costumes and masks.

There is a wide range of costumes available, but the majority are linked to the city's history. They even made a replica of Henry the VIII  dress, exactly identical to the original; the only problem is that it weighs in my view more than 3 kilos.

They make the three cornered hats, "zimare"  etc etc! Everybody is really lovely, helpful and they have so many stories to tell you that you do now want to leave!

Venice Canvas and Fine Art Prints

Venice Canvases, Photographs and Venetian Fine Art Prints featuring the Grand Canal, St. Mark's Square, the Bridge of Sighs, famous and unknown landmarks and Venetian Gondolas.  These Venice Prints on Canvas are also available in larger sizes on request. You can now buy them directly here


Venice Canvas and Fine Art Prints - Images by Marco Secchi

 

Minimalist way of life

Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.

Henry David Thoreau

crayon portrait of Henry David Thoreau as a yo...

I have blogged before about my challenge to 100 things. While I still own more than 100 items...if you take off the equations my work stuff, items I jointly owned with my wife....I am getting very close!

A minimalist lifestyle is the one that is free of complications, clutter,confusion and distraction. Its where you have taken your life and streamlined it to make it the most efficient it can possibly be. It is also more of a process than a destination, minimalism is something that you will need to continually work on as many other factors in life are constantly going to try and complicate things for you. Why ? because the rest of the world has not stumbled onto this way of thinking yet. The vast majority still believe that if something is more complex and complicated then it must be better, rather we as minimalists prefer to look for elegant simplicity as the deciding factor of quality.

Minimalist living, in simplest terms, is to live with as less as possible, mentally and physically until you achieve peace of mind. The concept is simple but achieving it is hard. Just look at the the room where you are now or at the desk you are sitting on: how many items does it contain? Is your desk surrounded by papers, notebooks, books, pens and pencils?

What about your closets, living rooms and bedrooms? How much joy does all this clutter bring you? What clutters you physically also disables you mentally.

While I am no expert at living minimally, it is something that I practice. I know how it is when I started and I believe will free you of the excess baggage that nothing else can bring.

What should be your first step? Get rid of excess. Go through your closets and pick out all the things that you don’t need any more. Donate all clothes to a charity of choice. I promise you, this might seem tiring but at the end of it all, you will feel ecstatic for not only helping yourself, but helping others. I will be writing about how to make this process a bit easier.

What was once considered ‘cheap’ (with a negative connotation) is now expressed as ‘minimal’ and ‘smart’ thanks to this economy.

10 Things I do not own

Television,  DVD player,  Stereo system, remote controls,  Entertainment center or TV stand ( No need for it when you don’t have a TV), Car (Ok I live in Venice...quite easy), Bookcase, Coffee Maker, BBQ, Magazine Rack, Video Games.........

5 Minimalist Quotes I love

1. “In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple.”

2. “If you want to become full, let yourself be empty.”

3. “If you want to be given everything, give everything up.”

4. “If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.”

5. “When there is no desire, all things are at peace.”

The Glass Alchemist

VENICE, ITALY - DECEMBER 18:  Elena Rosso a glass  artist in Murano blows glass next to a glass furnace on December 18, 2010 in Venice, Italy. There are only few female glass artists is Italy and they face continuous challanges in a traditionally male dominated field. (Marco Secchi) Elena a glass artist in Murano blows glass next to a glass furnace on December 18, 2010 in Venice, Italy. There are only few female glass artists is Italy and they face continuous challenges in a traditionally male dominated field.

There are not many people (and things!) that I admire and that I could watch for hours while they work, without losing concentration after few seconds. I have seen them all...and often better.  Elena is an exception, seeing her at work with glass is unreal....

Elena Rosso Website