Finding an address in Venice has long had the reputation for being difficult. Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice, puts the following speech into the mouth of someone being asked directions to the character Shylock’s house :
12th Century nightmare
Roberto Tiraboschi, in his novel La bottega dello speziale set in 1118, paints a picture of Venice very different from the city we know today. As soon as it gets dark, the calli are filled with gangs of people intent on bloody murder and general mayhem. It reminds me very much of NYC of the Will Smith movie, I am Legend.
Castello di Santa Severa
The castle of Santa Severa, a few miles up the coast from Rome, looks like an enormous sandcastle left behind by a giant child for the sea to wash away. Its form is every child’s idea of what a castle should be. Huge round towers rise solidly from the beach and at high tide the water laps around their bases.
Autumn in central Italy is sagra season. These are local food festivals and with so many typical products coming into season in September and October—grapes, mushrooms, olives, and truffles to name but a few—there’s a choice of sagra to attend every weekend. The two last weekends of October are the time of for the small Tuscan village of Caprese to have its chestnut sagra: the Festa del Marrone di Caprese.
Let’s start with a proverb
As a Venetian proverb puts it, ‘chi ga santoli, ga bussolai‘ (if you’ve got godparents, you’ve got bussolai). Judging by this, they are something worth having, and indeed they are. Bussolai are delicious butter cookies from the Venetian island of Burano which achieve their golden yellow colour through the use of egg yolks. They are definitely one to add to my list of 10 of the best Italian pastries.
Bigoli in salsa
Even if the legend of Marco Polo bringing pasta back to Italy from China weren’t disproved by the documented presence of pasta in Sicily exactly 100 years before his birth, the fact that there is only one truly traditional pasta dish from Venice might do the job. If the famous Venetian had introduced the delicacy, you’d expect it to be Venice’s national dish. Venetians are always proud of their contributions to general Italian culture and would be telling it to anyone who’d listen. But no. Bigoli in salsa, long pasta cooked in a tasty fish sauce, is the only inclusion of pasta in the city’s traditional cuisine. Sorry Marco Polo fans.