Interesting post on the threat Venice faces.


Read this post in its original published form here on The Quad

by Thea Di Giammerino


Venice, Italy is often referred to as the sinking city. A mercantile island originally intended to provide refuge from invaders, the city flourished in a location where no one would have planned a settlement.

According to NOVA, a PBS program, when Venice was originally settled, sea level was more than six feet lower than it is today. Venetians have been unable to live in ground floor apartments for decades, because they never know when a high tide could flood the city.

As Professor Jodi Cranston of Boston University’s Department of Art History put it, Venice may have never been meant to last. Despite that, the city is working fervently to save itself through a variety of projects, from building and art restoration to creating massive floodgates to prevent high tides from flooding…

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Sassi Pottery

Sassi Pottery

We Sassi folk are multi-talented, I dare say. In addition to having forgotten more about Italy than most tour guides have ever learned, Doug Sassi is also a career professional potter with an MFA from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. His functional pottery has influenced an entire generation of ceramicists far and wide.

While there’s certainly more to Italy tours than museums and architecture and historical sites, you really do get a deeper understanding of what you’re seeing thanks to Doug’s art and art history background.

Carbonara with Facon (instead of bacon or guanciale)

Decided to slack off tonight and use the whole grain semolina noodles from Barilla instead of making homemade, and I feel guilty over it already.  But it was tasty!

Molto Squisito! Vegetarian carbonara.

I like to chop the facon (fakon?  fakin?) pretty small as it mixes better.  It really does taste better with homemade noodles, but it was late and the kids were cranky, so the rare box of Barilla was broken out.  If you make it with homemade noodles make sure to leave them firmer than al dente as they’re going to absorb a lot of moisture from the egg and cheese and the heat from the pan will keep them cooking, and you don’t want mush.  But like most rustic, peasant inspired Italian dishes, it just tastes better with the homemade egg noodles.

My harshest critics, however, found tonight’s pasta quite satisfactory.

The kid likes to eat!

Sitting on Grandma’s lap, eating my pasta!  Sitting here apparently made it taste way better than actually sitting in the high chair.

veggie carbonara sawyer
Who needs a fork?

Venice’s Lions

Venice's Lions

Doug Sassi told me a story he’d learned in his Venice travels about how the Austrians, after getting the Veneto handed over to them via the Treaty of Campo-Formio, deciding to humiliate the once proud Venetians by chiseling off the lions from the town’s wellheads. Scattered around the city in various piazze, the Venetians had sculpted–as a symbol of their prowess, naturally–lots of wellheads with these gargoyle-ish lions. The Austrians figured they’d give the Venetians what-for by knocking them all off.

They only missed a few. And as Doug had been told by his Venetian friends, they were on the more remote islands in the lagoon.

Doug challenged me to find one on a trip back in 2001; I was there for a week and didn’t see any and had largely given up.  Needing to make room for more risotto and gelato, I went out for a run in Venice one evening to see the city and get lost on purpose, and spotted this guy out of the corner of my eye.

The kicker:  it’s located only steps from Piazza San Marco in a quiet corner of castello.  For me it felt like finding another version of the Mona Lisa in a coffee shop next to the Louvre; how had the Austrians missed this guy, right here in the heart of Venice’s decadence?

No extra charge on one of our tours for us to let you in on the secret of where to find this rare little treasure.

Florentine Market

Florentine Market

Doug leading a tour around a street market in Firenze. I think Tony Bourdain nailed it: more Americans would eat vegetables if our produce was more commonly of the quality you can get from street vendors in Italy.

Respect for doing things the old way is a good thing sometimes. Especially when it comes to what you eat.