enchanted by Venice, pt 1 of many

Have you ever been to Venice? Before February 2020, I had not. If you’ve been there, you know the magic spell she casts over you. I was not prepared for the enchantment. Even now, over eight months later, I am still enraptured. So much so that the “quick” blog post I intended to write about my visit turned into something much greater. It’s going to take several posts to share the best parts.

unexpected good fortune

As I mentioned earlier, this grand tour of Italy was planned around one dinner reservation. The rest was just good fortune. February is not the most popular time of year to traipse around Italy. Unless you’re headed to Carnevale di Venezia. That wasn’t part of the plan, it was simply our amazing luck!

Carnevale di Venezia

In Venice, Carnevale is an epic celebration of excess that runs for approximately two weeks, culminating on Shrove Tuesday, the same day as Mardi Gras. This is last day before the Catholic Church begins the season of Lent.

During this time, acrobats, jugglers, and street performers entertain the masked and sometimes elaborately costumed masses in the Piazza San Marco. And grand dinner parties and balls are hosted throughout the city. Carnevale is also popularly linked with Casanova who took full advantage of the Venetian penchant for mask wearing in his legendary exploits.

The origins of this festival date back to the 13th century and hit a peak of popularity in the late 18th century. So much so, that they were outlawed. Even the wearing of masks was illegal. In 1979 the Carnevale di Venezia resumed. Today, serious Carnevale attendees plan their extraordinary costumes sometimes years in advance. And at great cost (several thousands).

Our visit coincided with the early days of the festival and the weekend of the grand ball. Because of the looming world health pandemic, there were far fewer people crowding the Piazza San Marco in 2020. Still, the costumed and masked revelers were out in all their glory.

I heard the final ceremonies of the year were cancelled. I will always be grateful for the rare twist of fate that allowed me to experience this historic event.

art and architecture in Vicenza

Where will you go when you can travel freely again? I can’t wait to get back to Italy!

This post is part of a series highlighting a few weeks of wandering Italy in February 2020, from Rome to Venice and back. There are still a few more stories to come. I hope you’ll be inspired to wander along with me. And don’t forget to share your own stories in the comments below!

Vicenza was a late addition to our itinerary; a brief visit to have dinner with a wine industry acquaintance who lives there. The dinner never happened, but Vicenza became a highlight of the journey, nonetheless. No plan. No research in advance, just a lovely apartment with a well-equipped kitchen and a view. 

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The Butcher of Panzano

If you’re going to Tuscany, you must find him.  He was the reason we drove out of our way for the shortest overnight stay of our trip. (Remember what I said about chefs recently?) To say the visit was worth it is an understatement.

But first… Where are we going? Panzano in Chianti. To go to a butcher shop? Trust me. But, seriously, where are we going?

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Bella Toscana

We travelled from Rome through Tuscany to Modena, then on to the Veneto, Venice, and back to Rome. When we planned the trip, we had no idea that it would be the last time we’d see Italy before a world health pandemic closed borders and sent us all home for an extended time out...

Tuscany gets a lot of attention. Most of it is well deserved. Often, it starts to sound all the same. I’m going to switch it up a bit. Of course, there were cypress trees, fertile vistas, and good wine. But, I’ll share some things I didn’t think about when I thought about Tuscany. And I’m guessing maybe you haven’t either.

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La Dolce Vita in Modena

Chefs are extremists. 

When an ingredient, technique, or another chef’s work speaks to us, we become obsessive. I visited Modena with another chef, and we were on a pilgrimage. Modena is the home of Chef Massimo Bottura. We planned a trip from California to Italy based on the availability of dinner reservations. Our obsession: Bottura’s three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana. More specifically, one dish: Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano (above). Of course, there was much more. But it all started there. 

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Opera|02: Not That Kind of Opera

No divas, only deliciousness. You’ll find Opera|02 di Ca’ Montanari a short drive outside the city of Modena. This is the Emilia-Romagna region. What some consider to be the gastronomic heart of Italy. Home to Parmigiano Reggiano, real balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, and Chef Massimo Bottura (more about him soon!). It’s also the home of Pavarotti, Maserati, and Ferrari – you get the idea. The best of the best.  

Over the next several posts I will continue to share the best parts of a three-week grand tour taken in February 2020. Just before Italy and the world took an extended time out. As it turns out, that was, indeed, a once in a lifetime journey. This is the second of a multi-part series. If you missed it, Orvieto was part one

I hope you’ll be inspired to wander along with me. And don’t forget to share your own stories of personal grand tours in the comments below!

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Orvieto: Street Art, Food, and Wine

Io resto a casa – the Italian battle cry of Spring 2020. But, before Italy (and the world) took an extended time out in March 2020, I was able to spend a few weeks there. A friend and I drove from Rome to Tuscany and Umbria, on to Emilia-Romagna, and into the Veneto (and Venice, sans car) before returning to Rome.

As it turns out, that was, indeed, a once in a lifetime journey. I’ll share some of my favorite stories in a series here on Wander Eat and Tell. Orvieto is part one.

I hope you’ll be inspired to wander along with me. And don’t forget to share your own stories of personal grand tours in the comments!

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Honoring The Past

In April of 2009 food blogs were still the new big thing and many (including this one) more resembled basic diaries with photos than the stylized food-zines many have become.

Wander, Eat, and Tell began when I was a teaching assistant to the man who was often credited with being the father of food blogging, the late Steven Shaw. Steven co-founded the eGullet Society, a chat room for all things food and drink – the more obscure the better. My life is richer and more delicious for having called him my friend and colleague.

Steven encouraged us all to write and post every day, no matter what. A sentence with a photo was plenty. It was more important to post something real and true than to suffer over drafts and edits and footnotes. This was mind-blowing for someone who had just finished a Master’s degree in Gastronomy. It was liberating, and inspiring, and scary, and very difficult.

All posts previous to this are the unedited originals from 2009-2012, though many were removed. These posts do not represent my best writing. The photos are usually poor (and sometimes sideways or upside-down). But, they’ll give you a glimpse into a delicious history, if you care to take a look.

Now, as I return to the business of blogging with Wander, Eat, and Tell, I’ll build on that past – in honor of Steven, and in honor of my own history and evolution. Eleven years, more than 18 countries, and millions of sips and bites later, I am excited to continue to Wander, Eat, and Tell.

I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with me.

In loving memory of Steven Shaw, “Beloved Teacher”