Many of the vacations we have taken and are taking now are somewhat exotic in the sense that they are not what an average traveller would do, Will is always finding vacation options and ideas based on articles he has read in magazines like Gourmet or Condé Nast and I have to say in the last 40 years it has always been exciting and very different, never mundane. This exclusive cruise to unknown areas of the greater lagoon of Venice is just one example.
Eolo is the name of wind and air in ancient Latin and the symbol of the flat boat cruise on the larger Venice Lagoon. The owner Mauro Stoppa has been operating this cruise to the greater lagoon of Venice since 1998. The greater lagoon of Venice is rarely seen by tourists and few can even imagine it exist. Venice is a lot more than San Marco Square or the Rialto Bridge most people are satisfied in seeing on a day excursion. Little do they realize that they have seen nothing of the real or for that matter ancient Venice. How many go to Torcello or even know it exist? What about all the other islands and farms in this greater lagoon?
Mauro Stoppa who is a retired businessman from the Veneto region, has developed a cruise of 3 to 4 days over the greater lagoon of Venice, using one of the last Venetian flat bed fishing boat, called a Bragozzo and turned it into a cruise boat taking people around various islands and sites and presenting the story of La Serenissima, which is the name of Venice. The boat is used to bring you to various points and also to prepare wonderful meals always served in various ever changing dish ware with colours to go with the theme of the day, in other words very elegant. You do not sleep on the boat, at night we stop in various Palazzi, all truly in magical and exotic settings on the great lagoon.
The cruise we were only had us and another couple from California who were delightful well travelled people. But groups of up to 6 people can be accommodated which makes for a unique and intimate experience. On the first night we stopped in Torcello where the original city of Venice stood, nothing remains today except for the great Cathedral built in the year 1000 for the first millennium and everyone thought then that the world would end, funny we thought that in 2000, little changes obviously.
The Cathedral with its 1000 year old mosaics is impressive and one feels the legacy of the ages, of all those centuries of faithful who came to pray or seek sanctuary. That night we stayed in the great Villa of an Italian Senator who only comes to Torcello in August every year, the villa had wonderful gardens with roman ruins and its own vineyard. We tasted this wonderful wine slightly frizzante and a little salty, the vines drink the water of the lagoon, thus the taste. The house was filled with rare books, art works and beautiful furniture, in the morning Mauro’s mother had sent by boat fresh pastries stuffed with apricots from her garden, all of it her creation.
The previous evening we had dinner on the boat, at the back, moored to the dock of the villa on a quiet private little canal by candlelight. Mauro had invited two fellows, one was a surgeon and the other a professor who had jointly written a photo book of the great lagoon in Winter, with stunning photos, Giuseppe Frigo and Paolo Spigariol.
On another day we visited on a lonely little island, not open to the public and ancient monastery founded by Saint Francis of Assisi around 1200. One friar received us, this old fellow had been a missionary in China before 1949 and the communist take over. We also visited a hunting preserve and a fish farm, the farm house dated from the 14th century and had the most impressive stone kitchen where our food was cooked in the same way it would have been during the Renaissance, on a great stone table. Our meals were either fish or a variety of seafood. One day out of the blue a shipment of baby purple artichokes arrived, delivered by a friend of Mauro, who brought his boat alongside ours. Mauro made a tasty risotto with them.
We visited many islands and got the story of each, many stood no more than a foot above the water level. To the South of the lagoon is the City of Chioggia (pronounce KIO JIAH). There Mauro invited us to join him at 04:30am to visit the Fish market when the fisherman return and open the market. There was all manner of sea food, most I did not know the name, but Mauro explained the dishes he could prepare with this or that fish or sea food. He bought whatever we wanted and prepared dishes for us.
You can consult the site of EOLO at http://www.cruisingvenice.com/the-lagoon/
Eolo at the Island of Torcello in the great lagoon of Venice