A Rock Star Moment In Venice (or, a thank you to Anthony Bourdain)

da romano kitchen

As close to a rockstar moment as I’ve had recently would certainly be the invitation to set foot in this kitchen (though let’s be fair, the invitation was owing to Doug’s reputation, and my lovely wife and I just got to go along for the ride).  If you’re not a foodie or fan of Anthony Bourdain, it might not register just what an honor this photo op was, but indulge me the explanation that follows.  This is one of the most important kitchens in Europe for good reason, and we got to stand there.  Some folks’ knees knock together and their hearts race when they meet their favorite actor or musician; mine do that when I get to set foot in a famous kitchen where greatness happens, and needless to say I was having one of those joyous moments!

Trattoria da Romano is another prime example (Mama Isa’s kitchen being another we’ve touched upon recently) of the Italian culinary traditions that do not just deserve preservation but rather require it for Italy to remain true to herself; Sassi Italy Tours has been dining here and taking clients here for more than 20 years, and it is no accident that Doug gets the velvet glove treatment here—the fine folks who have kept da Romano thriving for four generations and counting are gracious hosts, and are truly, openly, and to the bottom of their hearts grateful for guests who genuinely take an interest in their traditional methodologies, recipes, and tenacious attachment to doing things the “old way” not merely as a gimmick but as embodiment of pursuing culinary passion.


In short, they still do it the way Venetian fisherman and residents did it a century ago, and they are onto something not to be missed.

After a walk around Mazzorbo and then the lace making shops full of le nonne  tatting together luxurious pieces of lace finery that make Burano, well…Burano, it was time to munch.  Heading to our favorite spot, I reflected upon few years ago when Tony Bourdain did his Venice episode (click here if you missed it–Massimo and other our other favorite waiters are featured prominently, and it’s great to see these guys year after year as they’re not only friends, but consummate professionals who treat presentation and preparation like the art that it is) feeling almost violated; that was *our* “secret spot” he was telling the world about, a spot Doug had discovered while Tony was still sous-cheffing his way through NYC’s infamously treacherous restaurant scene, easily a decade or more before he was anything approaching a celebrity.  His good word was going to land cruise ships full of us tourists on Burano’s vaporetto stops clogging up our favorite restaurant…but a humbling, food-snobbery eliminating realization struck me:  Venice and Italy generally cannot sustain their food traditions merely on the strength of foodie Italophiles and art history guides.  They need travelers to find the authentic goodness, the rustic charm, and the classical recipes in their native environments to sustain what is the original slow-food locavore movement.

This isn’t lost in the slightest on Gigi (proprietor and fourth generation in his family to run Trattoria da Romano), and as he opened a bottle of brolettino for us and engaged us in conversation (this itself was no small honor, to have the proprietor of one of the most important restaurants in Italy opening our wine for us) he made a point of saying that he still appreciated Anthony Bourdain’s feature on their restaurant and how it helped bring international attention to their efforts to preserve traditional Veneto cuisine.  It’s no small thing, and while I’m sure there was never any doubt, Tony, rest assured you are still very much appreciated on Burano.  They’re grateful, and so am I that this little corner of foodie heaven got the exposure it deserves.

After a ridiculously amazing meal of local mussels and clams, their famous risotto, and branzino grilled over a woodfire with garlic, local olive oil, and lemon, it was time to hunt down some gelato and grappa before shooting some more Burano shots (every ten paces on that little island is another breathtaking photo op, no exaggeration), but not before Massimo invited us to take a pic with him in this mecca of food.


Sassi Italy Tours takes clients there a lot, but it’ll never, ever, ever get old, and to Massimo and Gigi, we can’t wait to dine with you again.  Ci vediamo a presto!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life


The Travel Lady In Her Shoes

Since we have been touring Italy here are some street life scenes I thought you might enjoy!

And here is the video of the Festa del Corpus Domini, that takes place the end of May in Orvieto, Italy. Enjoy! And the blog post!  http://cadyluckleedy.com/2013/08/09/festa-del-corp…omini-may-2013/

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The cat with a corkscrew tail

Hello World

With an acqua alta of 140cm forecast, my landlord was worried the water would enter the apartment I was renting. He needed to raise the furniture off the floor, to prevent damage. This meant he had to get rid of me relocate me for at least one night. So, as I told a couple of friends, I had a little vacation within my big vacation. The temporary apartment was only a few minutes away, and very near to the bar where they make the best darn spritz in Venice! 

Although the forecast high tide didn’t eventuate, and the apartment was thankfully not affected, the one night turned into 3, as this happened at the weekend, and the apartment would need a good scrub when the cleaner came to work on Monday. 

The move gave me the opportunity to meet this charming little cat, with a tightly coiled tail. He/she was most friendly, and…

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Big News From Rizzoli And Amazon

This is no small honor–Sassi Italy Tours Drawing from the Masters instructor Raphael Sassi‘s work is to be featured in an upcoming release from Skira Rizzoli about contemporary figurative art called The Figure.”   You can go here and pre-order your copy now for the upcoming release.  We could not be more proud of Raphael’s work and stand in awe of the success he’s had, and recognize that having him on staff sets our offering apart.  Any tour company can find a museum for you, and some even have artists and art historians on staff, but I’m unaware of any that have a talent like his to guide you to the masters, and fewer still a  comparable ability to show you the masterpieces of the Renaissance with his astute eye.

This is a big deal.  Yes, I’m bragging. 🙂

Check it out.  We’ll be releasing some pricing information on the Drawing from the Masters tour offering here shortly for the general public; given the talent Raphael brings to the table and how much less our offering will be than comparable offerings, I must say it’s a powerful bargain for any student or academic institution looking to offer students something unique and compelling.



No More Cruise Ships…Or Maybe Not?

Darn it.

When we were in Venice last week, I noticed that the water was clearer than I’d ever seen it, and it was no accident–the massive amounts of moving water and turbidity from mega cruise ships passing through the lagoon hurts Venice and the ships themselves are frankly eyesores in this magical, ancient place.  Hopefully the suspension of the suspension will only be temporary.


The video for the tiramisu class is up, and it’s a fun watch.  Mama Isa is preserving the old ways of doing things (Italy really is the original slow-food movement) and artisanal approaches to food preparation.  You can’t tell from watching, but rest assured that soggy four day old processed mess of a tiramisu you’re getting at the Macaroni Grill is *nothing* like the light, airy, to die for tiramisu Isa and my wife made in Padova.  I tried not to give away all of her trade secrets here, but you will see her talking about the simple ingredients list that comprises this elegant dessert.

Can’t wait for the SO to make some more. 🙂

Drawing From The Masters

portrait of a dude

In case you haven’t seen the new page we added, check out Drawing From The Masters.  If you’re an arts enthusiast who appreciates Italy’s contribution to the Renaissance and the modern art world alike, this is the experience for you.  You’ll have an extremely talented professional portrait artist and his art historian father guiding you through a series of drawing classes and art experiences in the perfect Italian setting.  And don’t worry, all the good food and wine experiences that are a must in Italy are par for the course!  Imagine seeing the classics by Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Tintoretto, Donatello, Bernini, etc and then learning the historical and intellectual backdrops for them…and then getting professional instruction on how to incorporate the classics into your own artistic expression.  If you’re an educator at the secondary or collegiate level, this might well be something your school should offer, and we’d be happy to help you arrange it.

A Night At The Opera

ceiling at the opera

What an experience!   The wife researched and found a place called Musica Palazzo before our recent trip, and I’m so glad she did–Musica Palazzo offers a very intimate opera experience where, for a reasonable fee, you see a three act opera performed right in front of you in a palazzo on Venice’s storied Grand Canal (it’s known as Palazzo Barbarigo and is just blocks from San Marco). The palazzo is part of the attraction, as it’s dark, mysterious, and elegant in the way only a baroque Venice mansion that’s decaying beautifully can be.

You’re led upstairs and seated in the middle of the “piano nobile” (noble’s floor), where the handful of performers and the four piece orchestra appear and deliver a two hour version of a Verdi classic like La Traviata or Il Rigoletto. Having professional opera performers belting out classics only a few feet from you in the confines of a Venetian plaza on a spring evening in Venice? Remarkable. Even if you’re not a huge fan of or familiar with opera, rest assured you’ll enjoy the heck out of it. Dramatic, emotional, and moving.

You realize quickly what a talent it is these folks have, and how important it is here in the home of opera itself for this old tradition to be preserved. For a night, you get to pretend you’re a 17th century Venetian patrician and think about what life in Venice’s heyday would have felt like in the most intimate way imaginable; the three acts (we saw La Traviata) are each performed in a different room of the palazzo, and prosecco and red wine are served during the intermission.  An elegant, luxurious experience.

You really do feel like the show is unfolding right in front of you, and if you have the good fortune to spend a few nights in Venice, you really should include this as part of your itinerary.

(You weren’t allowed to take photos of the performance, but I did sneak a shot of the wife and myself and the ceiling of the palazzo.  Don’t tell anyone, hehe…though I doubt they’ll mind).