The Bells from three or four different churches ring outside. From my window on the second floor, I can see the water of the Brenta canal running smooth and swift, swollen from ten days of gray and rain. But today, the sky is blue and clear, the curtains are pulled back and the windows are open. I’m back onto the hand-crafted, Italian Bialetti moka-pot coffee after a week of indulging on those little pungent Nespresso capsules that make such predictably good stuff. I’ve mastered the stove-top milk frother, I’ve identified the best of the seven neighborhood pasticerias from which to get my breakfast Pastry (Crème-filled Brioche for those keeping score), and I’ve broken in my new Atlas-150 Pasta maker with a batch of fresh Tagliatelle. It’s a different Italy, but it is still Italy, and I’m going to be here a while.
My summer in Tuscany has come and gone. I’ve watched the full cycle of Tuscan garden vegetables; sprouted, harvested, cooked and eaten. I’ve watched and learned the persnickety ways of frittata and risotto and gnocchi. I’ve pressed olive oil and decanted table wine… and I’ve watched many orange sunsets, some from the garden with a shovel in hand, some sat at wooden table under the grape vine arbor with Campari in hand.
Now it’s November and I’m in a Villa outside of Venice.
I’ve been here two weeks, and I will be here many more – indefinitely as it were. I’m working with my Italian Cooking mentor Enrica Rocca, to turn this Villa – Villa il Granaio – into a world class culinary destination. It’s already a stunning guest house, with three massive, private apartments, (you can see them here) so half of the work is already done for me. But the challenge – the goal – the vision! is to make it amazing; a place where people come for days at a time to learn about the cuisine, culture and wine of Venice.
Venice is a bit of a second home, so in some ways, I feel back in the swing of things. In other ways I feel out of sorts: Trading the rolling Tuscan hills for the flat canals of the Vento; trading humble vegetable and bean fare of the stoic Tuscans for the seafood and sausage indulgence of the flatlands; Getting used to reliably good cheap northern wine. Small differences that make it a new place, a place that needs settling into and getting used to.
But, here in Venice, besides marketing and brand-building and PR, I am back to my passion of teaching cookery. Villa il Granaio has a stunning kitchen that is just begging to be filled with the sounds of cookery, laughter and learning. So that is what I will do. I would love for you to follow along. And if you’ve got some free weekends, pop on down to Venice and let’s visit the markets, sample some wine and stop for a prosecco and a bit of Baccala Mantecato.
But at the very least, stay tuned, and let’s see how it unfolds.