It’s back to business on the Venetian lagoon with a new season of bespoke cruises (with an art twist) on Eolo, the 75-year-old traditional bragozzo Venetian fishing barge with standout russet sails. The lagoon around Venice is a vast enclosed bay of the Adriatic Sea (at 550 square kilometers, it is two thirds the size of the New York City). Exploring its dozens of islands, historical sites and fascinating ecosystem is a must for anyone visiting the city.
Mauro Stoppa ([email protected]; 011-00-393-497-431-552) skippers his 56-foot boat (for up to 10 guests) and knows every nook and cranny of this captivating water world. He crafts his cruises to highlight the best of the natural beauty, history, folklore and cuisine of the area. Now he is joined by L.A.-Swiss writer and artist Allison Zurfluh ([email protected]; 011-41-76-345-3554), whose charming paintings depict Venice’s ever-changing watery scenarios.
Guests are given travel journals and invited to join Allison, using the watercolor sets provided to capture the magic of the lagoon. At the end of the expedition everyone — even those who did not dabble in paints — is presented with one of Allison’s acquarellos, wrapped to safely take home in a suitcase.
A typical day includes stopping at old glass-blowing factories and ancient churches, talking to fishermen and admiring the lagoon’s wild scenery. Mauro stresses that no two cruises are the same, because of the tides and winds and because he tailors each one to suit guests’ interests.
Good food is a focal feature on board and mid-morning, Mauro drops anchor in beauty spots or on quiet waterways where swans and wild ducks nest. Days are sunny from May to October (in July and August it gets really hot) and lunch is served on deck (there is also a long table downstairs). Using the best of the lagoon’s produce, chef Mauro introduces guests to handed-down family recipes and wines like Orto, a white matured for a year in a gondola sitting on the bottom of the lagoon.
On multi-day cruises, overnights are in charming boutique hotels. On the lace-making island of Burano, where houses are painted every hue of the rainbow, Casa Burano has contemporary rooms in old fishermen’s houses. The Venissa Wine Resort on Mazzorbo, a wooden bridge distant from Burano, has comfortable rooms and a fine-dining restaurant.
Torcello is famous for the Locanda Cipriani, which has hosted glitterati from Ernest Hemingway and Greta Garbo to Queen Elizabeth and Stephen Spielberg. It also has a basilica with stunning Byzantine mosaics, and from the belfry there are views across the lagoon to the sea, and to Venice’s famous bell tower in St. Mark’s Square.