A Fennel Orange Salad

from my Cookbook

'Naturally Vegetarian'

Hortus’ 2016 Gift Guide

This year, I decided to put together a little list of Italian-inspired gifts, paired with some of my American favorites.
This idea was born from my days roaming the shelves of New York stores, full of excellent products that I wished like crazy someone could just drop before my door.
There is a little known fact, and one I am almost intimidated to say out loud to my fellow countrymen: many of the most excellent Italian products I know, I discovered in New York. Wether it was at Whole Foods, in specialty stores like Di Palo’s, or even at a supermarket like Fairways, Italian artisanal products were everywhere to be found.

Fast forward to 2016, when I started to work with Italian food&wine export, and I discovered that most of our best products get shipped out to the US, China or the Arab Emirates. Of which, I must say, I am quite glad: I am glad that the rest of the world have access to some incredible food produced in this generous country, and I am glad that the world seems to appreciate it so much.

I have never stressed much over gifts – mostly because I’ve only ever made gifts to people I am extremely close to, but I understand that they can be a struggle for many. 

When in doubt, I resort to food.

It is usually a gift that can be made on a budget, and one for which you can really care about quality. After all, the best pasta you can possibly buy will hardly ever sell for over 6 ~ 8$.It is useful and hardly ever wasteful. And, if your edible gifts are carefully selected, they will make for an even more heartfelt gift. 

So, reminiscent of my experience in the States, when I discovered that brands such as Pasta Mancini and Italian truffles were to be found through Amazon if not at a physical store, I was inspired to put together a little list of Italian-inspired gift for the foodie who’s dreaming of Europe, ranging from totally affordable to slightly pricier but of very high value. This list aims to be a marriage of American and Italian finesse that would make every food aficionado, I am sure, very very happy. At least, I know for sure they would make me happy to say the least.

Furthermore, you can find some link love for further inspiration at the bottom of this post!

What are your favorite Italian products that you can find in your country? And what are some of your favorite homemade gifts to make? Leave a comment below!

GOURMET GIFTS
Food, Wine & Books

Hortus' 2016 Gift Guide | Hortus Natural Cooking

{ The Pantry }

1. /Bitterman Salt Co. Cervia salt
I was surprised to see, amongst Bittmann’s array of salts, one coming from Cervia. Cervia, a town in Romagna, not far from where I live, is famous for its high quality, hand-harvested salt. It will make a perfect finishing salt – as would most wonderful salts of the same brand.

2. /Pasta
I am fond of Pasta Mancini Pastificio, which I discovered for the first time in NY. They make small batch pasta with the wheat they grow themselves around their factory near Fermo, Marche. Their pasta has great texture, thickness and quality.
Other brands I like are Monograno Felicetti and Alta Valle Scrivia. If looking for a nice US-made pasta, have a look at Sfoglini.

3. /Aceto Balsamico (Modena Balsamic Vinegar)
Aceto Tradizionale di Modena, the real, aged balsamic vinegar which can only be made in the province of Modena according to Italian Law, comes in small bottles and kind of big prices, but it is well worth the money. It comes in silver label (aged 12 years) and gold labels (aged 24 years) and can be drizzled over meats, ice cream, fresh fruits, cheeses (especially Parmigiano!) and roast pumpkin. It is one of the Italian ingredients I love the most and one I think is really worth the money.

 { Teatime }

4. /Torrone
Torrone, the Italian nougat made of egg whites, honey and nuts, is one of the most traditional Christmas eats. Ones by brands like Sorelle Nurzia and Barbero come in several different coatings and flavors and in some very pretty packaging to boot. You can find these at Eataly or at a specialty Italian shop. 

5. /Chocolate
I love Venchi’s chocolate – both for the flavor and for the vintage wrappings, reminiscent of Piedmont’s old glory. My favorite has got to be their Chocolate Caviar and Gianduja, the Italian chocolate and hazelnut mix from Piedmont.

6. /Smith Teas
I am a mad tea lover, and have tried several brands throughout my life. None has struck me as much as Smith Teas did. The boxes are also very elegant, making them perfect for gifting.}

Hortus' 2016 Gift Guide - Bitterman Salt Co | Hortus Natural CookingHortus' 2016 Gift Guide | Hortus Natural CookingHortus' 2016 Gift Guide - Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena | Hortus Natural CookingHortus' 2016 Gift Guide | Hortus Natural Cooking

{Wines}

7. / Wines from Northern Italy

My favorite wines in the world are those from Friuli and from Veneto, in northern Italy. If you love scented, fresh, intense still whites, then wines from these regions are for you. Eataly Vino has a nice selection that can be found pretty much all around the US, and so does wine.com. The unmissable bottles are Ribolla Gialla, Friulano (ex Tocai), Soave, Moscato, and Malvasia (NOT sparkling), my favorite. These wines are one of our best kept secrets, even though Bastianich is doing a good job at spreading the word.
Moving south to Tuscany to pick some Reds, one of the best cellars sold in the US is Félsina. You could pick just about any wine and be sure it will be a hit (just look at the ratings).
Two of my other favorite cellars which make killer whites, and some of my favorite wines, are Aloïs Lageder and Stag’s Leap.

Hortus' 2016 Gift Guide - Wine from Friuli | Hortus Natural Cooking

KITCHEN
Tools & Table

8. /Fog Linen Works home goods.
Perfect for the design lover: these scissors are beautiful and affordable, and so are these linen napkinsAn alternative for all your friend who love gardening or foraging are these Japanese shears (I love my scissors dearly).

9. /Fog Linen aprons
When Betty got me and Zaira one, I couldn’t believe my eyes. If any foodie you might gift it to is half as happy as we were, you’ll know you’ve found the gift of the year.

10. /Freaky Raku bowls
My friends Zaira and Francesco handcraft their beautiful dishware in their makeshift lab in the countryside right outside of Venice. Get one of their bowls before they become crazy famous and you will have to wait a year before they can make one for you – which is happening soon as they have a rather long request list already.

11. /‘Il Coccio’ Terracotta cooking vessels
These have been the discovery of the year. Use them to cook stews, vegetables, soups and even meat like you’ve never done before. They are healthy, sustainable, quite cheap, and allow for cooking with very little fat. I Have two, and plan to invest some money in more shapes and sizes. This, this and this are some of my favorites. I saw them on sale at Chelsea Market and in pretty much all major cities I’ve been to. 

LIFESTYLE  

12. /Happy Socks
They have some rather whimsical underwear designs, sure to make any boyfriend with a sense of humor rather happy!

13. /Klasse14 Watches
These watches are made by a company in Hong Kong, but are entirely designed and produced in Italy. I’ve been loving the rose gold color of mine and I’ve been wearing it religiously.

14. /Scented Candles
Both Le Labo and L’Objet sent me their candles to try out, and I fell in love with all of them. I actually started the habit of lighting a candle in the evening to unwind after learning about theirs. Le Labo’s fragrances are unique and somewhat whimsical, in an extraordinarily pleasing way, and seem especially focused on musky, earthy, almost masculine, intense scents. L’Objet candles are more on the traditional side, though the selection is small and well curated, with scents ranging from flowery to woodsy.

15. /Aesop Oils
I immediately fell for these as soon as Christiann made me try them. They will add a whole different mood to your home and life.

Hortus' 2016 Gift Guide - Le Labo Candles | Hortus Natural CookingHortus' 2016 Gift Guide | Hortus Natural CookingHortus' 2016 Gift Guide - Wrapping | Hortus Natural Cooking

{ Books }

15. / There are many great Italian cooking books on sale. My favorites are: Frankie’s Spuntino for super simple Italian fare for beginners and  fuss-free cooks (and quite veggie friendly too); Emiko Davies’ Florentine, about the author’s experience in Tuscany with local recipes; Tasting Rome, the work by Katie Parla & Kristina Gill on Roman cuisine; and Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, the real bible for mastering all the best recipes of Italian cuisine. Of course, another Italian bible cookbook would be The Silver Spoon (2000 recipes anyone?).
Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine is a lovely book, as well: it has a thorough guide to all Italian ingredients, kitchen tools, perfectly cooking pasta and vegetables, and plethora of nice, everyday recipes. It is one of those fuss-free cookbooks with no photos but tons of good tips and cute illustrations!

Finally, the book from which I got my choice of cookies for this year: Alanna Taylor-Tobin’s Alternative Baker, which I am loving like I hardly ever did a baking book and from which I made Chestnut Chocolate & Cherry cookies to share on the blog (recipe soon)!

GIFT GUIDE LINK LOVE
Stunning gift guides, Wrapping, & Edible gifts ideas

{Gifts Guides & Wrapping}

~ Local Milk’s 20142015 & 2016 gift guides

~ Eva Kosmas Flores’ 2015 & 2016 gift guides

~ I Am A Food Blog’s cute + design-y 2016 Gift Guide

~ Beth [Local Milk]’s Floral Gift Toppers & 2016 Gift Wrapping

{Homemade Gifts Inspiration}

~ Linda Lomelino’s DIY Edible Gifts in Jars & Swedish Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies

~ Again, Linda Lomelino’s Homemade Flavored Sugars

~ My Flavored Infused Honeys (the lemon one is to die for!)

~ And my Infused Oils and Ointments (I LOVE the vanilla + lemon one for blemishes)

~ Valentina has these beautiful blends for herbal teas to soothe sore throats, painful periods, and aid digestion. They’d look so pretty in a jar!

~ These Ginger Viennese Swirl Cookies by Jenny would look quite classy in a nice box.

~ Sophie has a *swoon* giftable Chocolate Gingerbread Granola + cute gift tags!

{Christmas + Lifestyle}

~ Christiann Koepke published a guide with the most beautiful photos about setting some Christmas mood in small spaces <3 

My personal cookie choice this year fell with Alanna’s cookies, of which – as mentioned above – I will be sharing the recipe soon. They are hands down some of the best cookies I’ve ever had and the world needs to know about them.

Happy gifting & wrapping!

A Venetian Celery Risotto, & A Freaky Raku Giveaway!

Venetian Celery Risotto | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniVeneto, a land situated in the northeast Italy of which the large plains turn abruptly into mountains or meet the north of the Adriatic, is a land of misty dampness, blessed with some of the best vineyards in Italy, and with beautiful cities, reminiscent of the Austrian empire that once ruled this area. Veneto is a land of villas, of ghosts of lords who ruled overthem and whose presence almost seems to linger amidst the fog. It is a land of canals and ancient royalties, of shipyards and seafood and the preserving culture connected to it.

Amidst this wonder, Venice stands alone, yet blends beautifully into the common traits of Veneto.
And, in this regard, Venice – just like all of Veneto, is a land of rice.
The abundance of water, fog and dampness made it a perfect spot to grow rice, making the whole region famous for its risottos.

My great-grandmother, a native of Chioggia, right off the coasts of Venice, has spent her life bent over a rice field, her feet constantly wet, picking fresh grains of rice.

So, even though Veneto indefinitely not the only place in Italy famous for risotto, to me this special preparation will always connected to this region.

After writing my little post on how to spend a winter day in Venice, I was inspired to replicate a Venetian recipe and, even though there are several to choose from, I could’t help but think of risotto once again.
In venice, risottos tend to be soupier, or ‘all’onda’, as we say (literally ’at the wave’, romantically recalling, I like to think, its proximity to the sea. 

The recipe I chose to share this time is so simple I almost felt it wasn’t worth sharing. I found it in a book called ‘A Tola coi nostri Veci’, which in venetian dialect means ‘At the Table with our Elderly People’, and is an old book of recipes from Veneto, entirely written in Venetian dialect! 

Venetian Celery Risotto | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniVenetian Celery Risotto | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniVenetian Celery Risotto | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina Solfrini

When I talked to Zaira, she confirmed that this recipe is definitely very popular amongst Venetian people, and that her parents still prepare it quite often. After Zaira’s confirmation, I felt even more attracted to this recipe. Risotto is meant to be a simple, fuss-free comfort food, which takes pride in its creaminess and texture rather than its ingredients: you will find that most traditional risottos have as little as five ingredients, and usually one defining vegetable. Choose these ingredients wisely, and your risotto will be worthy to be served to royalty. 

In the case of this risotto, the one vegetable that defines it is celery.
In my home, celery has always been a rather neglected vegetable – save for its classic use in mirepoix along with carrot and onion. Anise-y flavors have started grow on me just recently, but even so, my favorite way to enjoy celery was cut into sticks and eaten raw with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic and a touch of salt.
It was a Hungarian lady I was working forth years ago who taught me how to use it: she would use it in stir-fries, in stews, roasted with cheese, braised. She would use the leaves to add flavor to soups and to make pesto (a recipe I will definitely share at some point).
In this risotto, the celery adds a hint of freshness and turns wonderfully aromatic along with the shallots. For this recipe, use the tender heart of white celery if you can find it. Otherwise, just use the heart from regular green celery – leaves and all. 

Last year, I wrote a guide on how to make the perfect risotto. Give it a read if you need some extra guidance, but this recipes is so simple that it does not need that much preparation. 

Butter and cheese, which are of really high quality in northern Italy thanks to our free-range, grass-fed pastures, are paramount in this preparation. Choose high quality butter and real Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, which you will very likely find in most cheese counters. 

I have recently discovered the most wonderful way to finish risotto, thanks to a friend of Gabriela who kindly invited us to dinner in their home in Bologna, and who works as a chef: he prepared a beautiful pumpkin risotto – common preparation in all of northern Italy – then finished it by stirring in some baccalà mantecato. I discovered that this preparation, which is a very Venetian one indeed, is used to finish risotto a wide area of the Padan plain, from Parma to Mantova and all the way to Veneto. Its creaminess melts into the risotto perfectly, and its high-fat content makes for the best of Sunday dishes for a winter day. If you can find or make baccalá mantecato, it is a treat well worth the effort. I believe that cod brandade would be a good choice as well, should that be easier to find or make.

NOTE: sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can find semi-brown risotto rice, which has a little more nutritional value. Unfortunately, brown rice does not really turn creamy, so using risotto rice for this recipe is really important. 

NOTE 2: The cheese you see pictured is actually neither Parmigiano nor Grana. It is Pecorino Romano, which is one of the tastiest cheeses in existence but probably a little too strong for this risotto. Please forgive me for forgetting to stock up on Parmigiano!

Venetian Celery Risotto | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniVenetian Celery Risotto | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniVenetian Celery Risotto | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniVenetian Celery Risotto | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina Solfrini

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THE GIVEAWAY! 

There is no one who embodies the essence of Venice like Zaira and her family: the art, the Old Masters, the elegance, the slight air of mystery, the ancient-yet-perfectly-modern style, the overall feeling of noble decadence of the furniture of their home, the neutral grey and blues of their clothes, and humble yet poised warmth of their table. I am convinced that there is an old Venetian duke in the shadow of their past lives. 

The same simple elegance shows through the beautiful ceramics she and her boyfriend Francesco craft under the name of The Freaky Raku. I am honored to be able to use their ceramics in my posts, and I am honored to give one away to you  – specifically, the speckled bowl you see in this photo. 

Follow @valentinahortus @thefreakyraku @thefreakytable on Instagram to be kept posted!

Venetian Celery Risotto | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina Solfrini

Look out for a post on Instagram about it in the next couple of days! 

And now, onto the recipe!

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Venetian Celery Risotto
 
Serves 4
Author:
Recipe type: Risotto
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 50 g (a little less than half a stick) butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 small shallots (weighting about 60g / 2.5 oz.), finely chopped
  • The heart of a white or green celery, with its leaves (use about ¼ packed cup leaves), finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 320g Risotto rice, preferably ‘Carnaroli' or 'Vialone nano’ varieties
  • ¼ cup Marsala wine or white wine
  • 1 lt / 4 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt
  • 60g / 2.5 oz grated Parmigiano or Grana cheese, or more to taste
FOR SERVING
  • A touch of grated lemon zest
  • Chopped parsley
  • A good tablespoonful of baccalá mantecato or cod brandade
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter and oil in a pot, preferably a sautéuse or a pot with a handle and tall edges.
  2. Add the shallots and stir-fry for a couple minutes, until they turn translucent.
  3. Add the celery and sauté for couple minutes, stirring every now and then.
  4. Add the tomato paste and melt it in the fat. Stir it for a minute or so, until the tomato usefully blended into the mix. You can use as little tomato paste or as much as you like: I used very little, as I wanted my risotto more on the white side, but adding a full tablespoon makes for a very tasty risotto.
  5. Add the rice, and stir it around for a minute to toast and release the starch. Add the marsala or wine and let it evaporate. If you do not have any wine, feel free to skip this step.
  6. Start adding the stock: add one cup first, and wait for it to be fully absorbed before adding the next. The liquid should simmer slowly, on a medium-low fire. To stir the risotto, swirl the pot rather than mixing with a spoon, so the risotto will have the best consistency. Only use a wooden spoon every now and then to check the bottom and make sure it doesn’t stick. Add salt to taste - use about ½ teaspoon.
  7. The rice should be left slightly ‘al dente’, but it should not be tough. A regular white rice will take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook. Once of the stock has been absorbed and the rice cooked, you should be left with a creamy risotto that is slightly on the soupy side. If you’d like it more soupy, add half a cup more stock.
  8. Stir in the cheese to finish the risotto. Check for salt, and adjust to taste. If you like, you can finish with a touch more oil or butter.
  9. This super simple risotto can be finished in a variety of ways. Stir in lemon zest and/or parsley, which complement the buttery, cheesy flavor perfectly with their hint of freshness. Or, try my favorite way to finish this risotto and make it even more Venetian: add baccalá mantecato, or cod brandade, whichever you can find or make the easiest.

 

LINK LOVE

~ Valeria Necchio has several risotto recipes from Veneto: check out her recipe for Risi e Bisi (rice with peas), Risi e Suca (rice soup with pumpkin), and Risotto with Girolles and Speck.

~ Emiko Davies has a wonderful recipe for a ‘Risotto in Cantina’ (Cellar risotto), made with wonderful white wines from Veneto, along with a story of how it came to be. 

~ Giulia Scarpaleggia has a recipe for one of the best risottos out there – though it may not be exactly in season right now: whole wheat risotto with wild asparagus. And, speaking of spring risottos from Veneto, Skye McAlpine has a recipe for vegetable and mint risotto up on her blog. 

~ Aside my basic risotto guide, last year I also published a simple Fennel Risotto, another Venetian recipe. 

~ Zaira has a plethora of Venetian recipes up on her blog, none of which are risotto but all of which have a little bit of Venice in them, I believe. Plus, they are all served in beautiful Freaky Raku dishware, of course. 

A little final note
I believe that my true calling, as well as the true calling of this blog, is to share the story and recipes of Italian food. Much as I love researching vegetarian and vegan recipes, sometimes I feel like this restriction is limiting in regards of the stories I would love to tell. After all, I eat close to no meat at all, but I am no vegetarian: I grew up next to the sea, and fresh seafood on the table is still a thing in my household.
Of course, I won’t suddenly go showing meat on the blog – the main focus of this blog will still be vegetables and whole foods –  but I will suggest pairings or flavor accents that belong to the omnivore world – like I did here with the Baccalá, because that’s what I do in real life, and I hope you do not mind. 

A Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice

A Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniIt was January the day I saw Venice again after several years of forgetting about the existence of this city. Zaira invited me to visit her, and I clearly remember the foggy day we met, walking around in a sort of first-date happiness. Maybe I fell in love with Venice in winter after that day. I have visited this city in great company, with Betty and Skye, and with Valeria and Valentina… but ever since meeting Zaira, and after visiting in all four seasons, winter remained my favorite time to enjoy Venice.

One of the best things to do in Venice, especially if you only spend a day there, is to just walk around and breathe in as much of the city as possible. This little guide was born from my personal experience with the best local guide one could possibly hope for, and I hope it will be of some use to you, as well. Check the bottom of the post for some useful link love and venetian recipes to try at home!

Venice is split in half by the Canal Grande, and divided in neighborhoods or, in Venetian, ’Sestieri’, to the north and south of it. The northeastern sestiere is Castello,mostly occupied by the Arsenale, a mighty shipyard from the XIIth century, and by the only gardens in Venice, all the way south.
The most central sestiere is San Marco, which hosts the famous square and basilica, as well as the Theater La Fenice, the Fortuny Museum, the Bridge of Sighs, and many other famous sights. Moving north, on the same side of the Canal Grande, is Cannaregio, my favorite: its narrow, confusing alleys are not as attractive to tourists as the rest of the city, and the Jewish Ghetto is one of the most beautiful areas to just get lost and walk in. Cannaregio is also where the train station is. Moving south of the Canal Grande, you will find Santa Croce to the west, the part with the bus stop that connects to the land; then Sestiere San Polo, the bustling heart of the city there the Rialto Bridge and market are. Finally, all the way south, Sestiere Dorsoduro, with its beautiful air bohemienne, the Art Accademia, and many other incredible museums of art. 

Venice MapA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniVenice rendition by Tintoretto(Venice rendition by Tintoretto)A Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina Solfrini


1. MORNING

  • Winter mornings in Venice are crisp and shrouded in the almost exoteric aura of an early fog, afloat above the canals. The sounds of the water splashing against the walls and your steps echoing in the ‘calle’ caress your ears.
    As you wake in this magical atmosphere, set out on a hunt for breakfast.
    You can stop at one of the several Rosa Salva pastry shops, and enjoy the most traditional Italian breakfast of cappuccino with pastries. Or, since you’re on vacation, stop at one of the many ‘pasticcerie’ and grab a local delicacy like ‘pan del doge’, a thick sweet bread loaded with dried fruit, nuts and honey, or ‘Baci in gondola’ (gondola kisses), two fluffy meringues glued together with dark chocolate.
  • Get lost amongst canals and Calle and, when ready, head to Rialto, where you will find the wonderful seafood and produce market, open until 12 PM. There, you will witness old Venetian ladies searching for ripe fruit, locals and fishmongers talking and shouting in Venetian dialect, and a variety of Italian seafood you might not have witnessed before. 
  • With all that food and walking, you will probably be hungry now. Venice is a place of street food and wine, with many bacári (local rustic eateries) offering quick bites and cheap yet great glasses of wine. Right there, close to the market, you can have the most traditional stand-up lunch at the bacáro Al Mercá: you will find several cicchetti (finger foods) to choose from, but do NOT miss the panini with baccalá mantecato (salted cod, slow cooked in milk and oil until as creamy as a dip)! 
  • Slightly more to the west there is another excellent bacaro called Cantina Do Mori, with its old, characteristic hanging polenta pots and large wooden wine vats on display, where you could stop for just a drink as well. While you are in Venice, do try some world-famous Veneto whites, such as Soave, or Recioto ‘della Valpolicella’ or ‘di Soave’, or sweet Moscato, three of my favorites. 

A Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina Solfrini

2. AFTERNOON

  • Time to cross the bridge – which will not be crazy crowded in the winter – and head to Gelatoteca Suso and enjoy some of the most delicious gelato ever for dessert. Their forte is Gianduja with salted pistachio, which is every bit as good as it sounds and it would be worth the detour even if you were not in the area. 
  • At this point, you could pay a visit to Fontego dei Tedeschi, an ancient palace-turned-luxury shop, which would be of no special interest if it weren’t for the fact that its rooftop terrace, with a view on all of Venice, is absolutely worth the trip. This beautiful palace right on Canal Grande is packed on weekends, so make sure to book your spot. Me and Zaira just dropped by there on a Monday afternoon and found but a very small crowd, and enjoyed a wonderful sunset over the rooftops, altane and crips breeze. 
  • You are very close to one of the most wondrous places in Venice: Libreria Acqua Alta. Here you will find old books and prints stacked in piles, in old gondolas, in messy heaps that smell like mold and sea and paper and is absolutely magical. There is no place I would recommend visiting more than this one. 
  • Let us take the large walking tour, and head down south to San Marco. When the days are short, the sight of Piazza San Marco sparkling over the water, with its porticos and huge lamp posts, is absolutely breathtaking. At this point, you can double up on coffee and stop at one of the Rosa Salva here, if you didn’t already try it for breakfast. Or, if you have a good amount of disposable income, you can try sitting at one of the fanciest cafés in Italy, the fresco-ed, gilded, baroque Café Florian, right under the porticos of St. Mark’s place. 
  • Head all the way west to Ponte dell’Accademia, and cross over to reach Dorsoduro. If you like art (and if you do you are in the right place), consider visiting Gallerie dell’Accademia, a beautiful museum home of paintings by Tintoretto, Tiepolo, Veronese, Tiziano, and all the most important exponents of the Venetian School. I, who have such deep love for art and have been studying it my whole life, have not been here yet and dying to go. 
  • It is aperitivo-time. Do not miss your chance to try a good Spritz (a Venetian cocktail made with Campari, Prosecco and Seltz), or a really good Prosecco, at yet another bacaro. In this area, try one of the oldest in Venice: Bottegon giá Schiavi. You will immediately recognize its tattered wooden front, and might incur into a small crowd at the entrance.
    In case you feel like doubling your gelato intake, head all the way south to the coast – the area known as Le Zattere – to Gelateria Nico . This gelato shop is not just any gelato shop: aside the classic flavors, you can order a tall cup of Gianduja with cream: a thick slab of solid Nutella-like creamy chocolate, topped with fresh whipped cream. I decline any responsibility for any clothes you might not fit into after this one – wear loose pants. 
A Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina Solfrini

Pardon the flare!

A Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina Solfrini

(Valeria Necchio‘s Spritz and recipe for Polpette di Baccalá)

A Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina Solfrini

(Pardon the flare in this photo!)

3. EVENING

  • If you’re longing for a nice sit-down dinner, do your research first and beware of the many unfortunate tourist traps Venice is famous for. Seafood will definitely rob your wallet, but it is a nice experience if you decide to go for it. For something more chill, try Osteria Bancogiro back in Rialto, or Al Mascaron, a place Zaira told me she really wants to try at some point. Wherever you decide to go for dinner, make sure to book your table in advance.
  • In my numerous trips to the city, I have never stayed overnight, but if I did, I would definitely look up the concert and opera program at La Fenice, or the shows at Teatro Goldoni, or – my dream – a concert in one of the churches where camera ensembles play Vivaldi.
  • End your day with a nice nighttime stroll through the lights floating above the water and the silence, as the lull of the waves etches the very soul of this ethereal city into your heart.

A Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina SolfriniA Small Guide on How to Spend a Winter Day in Venice | Hortus Italian Cooking by Valentina Solfrini

LINK LOVE

~ Valeria Necchio wrote a *wonderful* guide to Venetian eats, which you should check here.
~ Read Emiko Davies‘ article about the ‘Art of Cicchetti-ing‘ to eat vicariously through her words and photos.
~ Again by Emiko, a little guide to walking through Venice (with little ones) with more ideas and suggestions.
~ A beautiful guide to shopping and eating in Venice’s Sestieri by Skye McAlpine.
~ I have no doubt that the most beautiful photos of Venice belong in the gallery of Marco Paris, on Instagram @ilchiaroscuro_ .

VENETIAN RECIPES TO TRY AT HOME

~ A Classic Venetian Risotto (Recipe coming soon!)
~ My Winter Fennel Risotto
~ ‘Scartosso de Fritolin‘ (fried seafood in a paper cone) by The Freaky Table
~ Mussel Gratin & Venetian Style Octopus Salad by The Freaky Table
~ Venetian-style Artichokes by Valeria Necchio
~ Bigoli in Salsa (long pasta with anchovies and onion sauce) by Betty Liu
~ Giulia made Zaletti (corn cookies) from the same book I took my Venetian Risotto recipe from, so they are sure to be a hit.

Have any suggestion for places you loved in Venice? Have you ever been? How was your experience like? Leave a comment below!

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