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Venice, built on water, is a city full of mystery and wonder. But many visitors skip through in a day, seeing the highlights but missing the shadows and subtlety and ultimately its people and soul. In this episode, we talk to Monica Cesarato, Venetian blogger and tour guide about what makes her city and its people unique.
The Venetian Republic lasted 1200 years and blazed a trail for city states and nations to come. Built on the successes of merchants who traveled east in search of fortune, proudly independent Venice grew wealthy and strong. Though its power as a city state diminished over the centuries, the buildings and beauty of this magnificent past remain. And the spirit of its people continues.
We talk to meet Monica Cesarato who is passionate about showing the world not just the monuments of her city but also its people and their passions. From artisans making centuries-old crafts to kids playing the squares or campi of the city, she believes they are the fabric of Venice that you shouldn’t miss when you visit.
Monica shares a unique crowdfunded project Anima Veneziana, a film to promote Venice as a living city beyond the glitz, glamor and crowds of St Mark’s square.click here to subscribe to podcast updates
What you’ll learn in this episode
- What makes Venice and Venetians so unique
- The best area to stay in Venice to escape the crowds
- Artisan crafts and their makers you can find in Venice
- Recommended artisans to discover in Venice
- Where to experience a typical Venetian campo (square)
- Some typical dishes of Venice to try
- The best time to visit Venice
- How you can be part of a film project that aims to promote Venice as a living city
About our guest – Monica Cesarato
Monica Cesarato, is an Italian food and travel blogger born near Venice. She has lived there most of her life, apart for a break of 11 years spent in the UK.
As well as writing about Venetian and Italian food and about Venice and Italy in general, Monica also offers culinary tours of the city and is a cooking instructor offering cooking classes.
She is a social media manager for various companies all based in Venice and loves to talk about food and Italy and share her experiences on social media.
You can find Monica and her blogs on these social media channels:
- Blog – monicacesarato.com
- Anima Veneziana project
- Facebook – Monica Cesarato
- Facebook – Anima Veneziana
Places and people mentioned in the show
- Castello – area of Venice that is a quiet place to stay away from the crowds
- Campo del Ghetto Nuovo – typical square in the Jewish ghetto area of the city
- Piazza San Marco – main square of Venice home to ritzy cafes, the basilica and Palazzo Ducale
- Rialto bridge – famous white bridge of Venice spanning the Grand Canal
- Alessia Fuga – artisan glass bead maker
- Mario Berta Battiloro – gold leaf specialists
- Venice: Recipes Lost and Found – Monica was quoted in this book.
Food and wine mentioned in the show
- Cicchetti – small bites of food, some say they are like tapas (but which came first?)
- Ombra – a small glass of wine you drink with cicchetti
- Baccala mantecato – creamed cod fish mousse typically served with polenta
- Sarde in saor – famous sweet and sour fish dish served with onions
- Panificio Volpe – bakery in the Jewish ghetto famous for cakes and sweet treats
Resources from Untold Italy
- Discover more in our Guide to Venice, how to enjoy Venice with kids, Hidden Gems in Venice and Off the beaten-track Venice
- Listen: to other podcasts on Venice in Episode #10 Highlights of Venice, Episode #48 Venice districts – Best places to stay and Episode #087 The story of the Venetian gondola
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step by step through trip planning so you can avoid our mistakes
- Italy Travel Planning – our FREE online community where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? Below is a full transcript of our episode conversation.
Ciao and benvenuti to Untold Italy. I’m Josie and I’m Katy and we’re here to help you plan your trip to Italy. Between us, we have many years of travel experience and we want to help you uncover your own as yet untold stories and adventures in Italy. Each episode you’ll hear practical advice, tips, and ideas to help you plan your own trips to the magical land of history, stunning landscapes, and a whole lot of pasta. We’ll have interviews from experts and focus on local destinations and frequently asked questions about travel in Italy. Thanks for listening and make sure to subscribe to our show. Now let’s get started on your regular dose of Bella Italia.
Ciao everyone! Katy here and today is a very special episode for me as I get to talk about one of my favorite places on earth, Venice. And share with you an exciting project that aims to capture the essence of the real city as it is lived in today by Venetians. Today’s guest is Monica Cesarato, a passionate Venetian who blogs about Venice and runs tours and cooking classes in the city. As Venice and Italy were struggling with the early phases of the pandemic earlier this year, Monica was inspired to work on a creative video project. She wants to show the world real Venetians living in the city as it is today. On today’s show, Monica will tell you all about the Anima Veneziana project and how you can be part of it. I’ve also managed to tease out quite a few secrets of Venice that I’m sure you love. So without further ado, let’s welcome her onto the show.
[00:01:53.590] – Katy
Benvenuti! Welcome, Monica, to the Untold Italy podcast. I am thrilled to have you on the show today to talk to you about my favorite city, Venice, and uncover some of its secrets.
[00:02:05.580] – Monica Cesarato
Hi, how are you? How is it in Australia right now?
[00:02:11.080] – Katy
Well, it is cold as I mentioned to you before, Monica, it is. And we’re in a little bit of a lockdown, and I know you understand how that feels.
[00:02:19.110] – Monica Cesarato
Well, we’re finally out of it. And I’ve got to say, this weather is fantastic. And I’ve never seen Venice as beautiful as now I’ve got to say, really, really beautiful.
[00:02:30.610] – Katy
Oh, wonderful. Monica, I know you’ve spent most of your life in Venice and around the region. Can you tell us a little bit about you and your background and what it is that you love most about your city?
[00:02:40.660] – Monica Cesarato
OK, so I’ve actually I’ve got a diploma in tourism. And when I was 18, after I got my diploma, I left the city, as you do, looking for adventure and ended up in the UK for 12 years. And then eventually I decided it was time to come back.
[00:02:55.270] – Monica Cesarato
So I’ve been back since 1999 and it’s amazing. Now in 20 years the city has changed so much. Well 30 years nearly, it is changed so much. I decided to start … originally used to have a bed and breakfast. Then when Airbnb arrived on the scene I closed it down and after that I started doing food tours and cooking classes. I still do nowadays, or at least I was until a couple of months ago, because we all know everything is stopped at the moment.
[00:03:29.710] – Monica Cesarato
And I am concentrating on trying to promote the city at a slow pace because I think Venice is way misunderstood. People don’t realise how much there is to do in the city and not just in terms of monuments, I mean in terms of experiences and on culture and other things to do.
[00:03:56.680] – Monica Cesarato
So I made it my mission, let’s say, to actually get people to understand that Venice is not a twenty four hour or a day destination. It should be savored, not visited, if you understand what I’m saying.
[00:04:19.250] – Katy
Yes, I do. It’s really a shame that people miss that essence of Venice if they only visit for a short while, because it’s just it’s such a magical place.
[00:04:30.460] – Monica Cesarato
Well, it’s such a unique place. You know, it’s a city where there are no cars. It is a city built on water. Oh, I’m pretty sure there are other cities built on water, but not as unique as Venice. This is the longest ever republic in the history of the world, with twelve hundred years of history of Venice being totally independent. This is a country that was never under the control of the pope, of a country or all the other states in Europe and Italy back in the Middle Ages. We’ve got more than one hundred churches. We’ve got more than 40 museums and exhibitions.
[00:05:12.940] – Monica Cesarato
And people come to St Mark’s square and Rialto. And I really wonder why that is. There is so much more to do. It is like saying if somebody goes to Sydney and only goes and walks to the harbour and then goes away. OK? Exactly the same thing is like going to a restaurant, looking through the menu and ordering a bread bun. Simple as that. It is.
[00:05:48.940] – Katy
It is. It sure is, I mean, I guess one on my very first trip there was when I wandered away from Piazza San Marco into a quiet campo and I just kept wandering. That’s when I really fell in love with the city. And I think Sam Marco is incredible. And, you know, you have to see it in your lifetime. But there is, as you say, so much more to Venice, I think. And it’s those quiet moments that are just quite magical really.
[00:06:18.080] – Monica Cesarato
There are also times that… I’m not saying don’t go to Rialto. I’m not saying don’t go to St Mark’s Square, but you don’t need to go at peak times. You can go first thing in the morning at eight o’clock when there is nobody around or you can go late in the evening. And it’s magical. It is that everybody arrives. They do like a 12:00 Rialto, two o’clock San Marco and then go around telling the world, oh my God, this is so busy.
[00:06:48.530] – Monica Cesarato
Yeah. So busy if everybody concentrates only there, but Venice is three square kilometers. It is true. It is a tiny little city OK? But it’s a city that was used to have 200,000 inhabitants. So we are used to the big numbers.But people used to spread, used to enjoy all of the city. The beauty of Venice is to throw away the map, to throw away Google Maps and just to go and get lost, literally lost. OK, you eventually end up where you want to go anyway because it’s so small anyway. But trust me on this. People have been coming over and over through the years and still don’t know the city. We live in the city and we still don’t know all of the city. And, you know, … I think that’s what people should understand. They should do less. But better.
[00:07:43.520] – Katy
Do you have some favorite secret places that you can share with us? I have to ask Monica, I wont tell anyone!
[00:07:53.740] – Monica Cesarato
Not all that’s fine. I’ll tell you, my favorite places as in those that I think really gives you an idea of what Venice can really be like if people want to discover it. OK, first of all, I love I totally love going through the Jewish ghetto.
[00:08:11.650] – Monica Cesarato
I can spend the whole day in bed and I did OK. I wrote about it on my blog. You can spend a whole day there. It’s the first ghetto, however, in the world. That’s where the word ghetto was born. You can visit the synagogues there, that are very interesting because they are slightly different from synagogues all over the world. This is a small little shop that is a fantastic bakery, the only kosher bakery in all of a city that does incredible cakes and pastries that you only see there. Nowhere else in the world.
[00:08:47.890] – Monica Cesarato
And you arrive at Campo di Ghetto Nuovo that is the main square. Campo in Venetian means the square. And literally it doesn’t matter what time of day you go, what day of the week, it’s always so nice and quiet. Apart from when the kids come out to play. And it’s amazing because you see all these children ranging from three years old to about 10 playing safely because there are no cars so that they’re playing football, playing skipping, you know, drawing on the ground. And seeing this beautiful and another part of I really love going to and so many, few people do, and that is Castello.
[00:09:35.350] – Monica Cesarato
Castello is the biggest area of Venice. So Venice is divided in six areas and the areas are called sestiere from number six, let’s say in Venetian and sestiere castello is the biggest sestiere in Venice. And it’s amazing because this is where all the fisherman used to live and it’s still a very residential area.
[00:10:03.160] – Monica Cesarato
So I always say, if you have to find an hotel, orif you’re looking for an apartment, Castello probably is the best option. It is way a little bit from the main parts. But then you so much enjoy the quiet, the people, but there’s still a lot of shops, there’s all the locals going in the morning for shopping and everything is fantastic.
[00:10:29.020] – Katy
Yes, I do like that area a lot. It’s beautiful and, you know, when you’re just wandering over these little bridges and you might not even see very many people at all. And you sort of it’s kind of surprising, isn’t it? Because…
[00:10:42.300] – Monica Cesarato
Yeah, I mean, you start seeing a little bit more during that period of the Biennale, but even then, not so many people. I can honestly say that even during Carnival I’ve been taking people around Castello and managed not to meet anybody for at least 20, 30 minutes.
[00:11:01.790] – Monica Cesarato
Because I repeat, everybody concentrates on St Marks and it is such pity, it really is a pity because I’m not saying St Mark’s is not beautiful, of course, it is beautiful.. but a Venetian cannot go to St Mark’s for a whole year. I mean, most of my friends, we will never pass through St Marks if we can avoid because of the crowds.
[00:11:27.720] – Katy
Yeah, And I mean, it’s kind of strange looking at the photos that are coming out this year. It really is so beautiful, but it is also kind of sad because, as you mentioned before, it’s missing the people. And, you know, a city is really nothing without people.
[00:11:44.310] – Monica Cesarato
Exactly. Yeah, yeah. And I think a lot of people the problem has been, for example, as well, all the video has been going around during the lockdown was all showing views of Venice from a drone, a very cold view, OK? Venice is not its monument. Venice, is its people. These are the people that made the monument and they take care of the monuments and we keep forgetting about it. You know, it’s like I didn’t see pictures of New York empty. I didn’t see videos of London empty. I didn’t see videos of Sydney empty. All we kept seeing was videos of Venice like saying Venice is dead. Well, it’s not. These people were there. They were on a lockdown like everybody else.
[00:12:33.300] – Monica Cesarato
But of course, Venice is tiny. So it’s easy, you know. But the point is they were just showing us the St Mark’s square. But I repeat this because the Venetian doesn’t need to go to St. Marks where, you know. You don’t have to go through the central square to go places. You can easily avoid it. So if you show me that and you show me the Rialto Bridge empty, you’re not really showing me the real city, do you understand? You’re showing me a fake kind of reality. You know, how can I say superficial. Very fake.
[00:13:10.980] – Katy
Yes you’re right. The people are what makes the city. And so what is it that’s really so special about Venetians, do you think?
[00:13:19.860] – Monica Cesarato
Oh, gosh. Twelve hundred years DNA of being merchants now. OK, well, great. OK, I think the biggest, let’s say, characteristic of Venetians I think is the resilience, of course, being the people that built a city on water. You have got to be resilient and to be crazy to do something like that. And I think for centuries, not so much in the last, say, 40 years, because I think since the 60s things have changed. But it has changed all over Italy. So it is an Italian thing is not just Venetians. But until the 60s, I think, there was a real …. Venetians were proud of being Venetians and everything they did was with the good of a city in their heart. Thinking of the future, thinking for their great, great, great grandchildren. What they will leave to the great grandchildren. OK, so whatever they be, merchants, artisans, noblemen or whatever artists, everybody, whatever you did, was for the republic because you were proud to be Venetian.
[00:14:35.070] – Monica Cesarato
And you know, Venice during a thousand years, history was a big power as well. So it was important. what change was the 60s, but change all over Italy, where people start thinking more on a day to day future rather than on a longer distance future. So I hope that with this pandemic, things change a little bit and we are more thinking of what we can how we can improve tourism and the situation in Venice rather than just thinking of the money. I hope so.
[00:15:10.680] – Katy
Yeah, sure. Because there are so many ancient crafts that originated in Venice and that continues today. So, I mean, a lot of people know the traditional masks. And unfortunately, you can get… people get dazzled by some cheap imports. But if you really go and look hard, the craftsmanship is incredible
[00:15:31.130] – Monica Cesarato
Oh my god, we’ve got amazing… for example, for the masks, what you should do. There is an association called the Associazone di Mascheri OK. And it is an association to which only historical mask making shops belong to. OK, so you know, you’re getting the real deal, and it is very easy to spot a good mask. It will not cost five euros, it will not cost ten euros. It cannot cost that money because just in materials and in time to make a masque you can take a whole day between, you know, preparing the papier mâché letting it rest, having to paint it, letting it set, the decorating and so on.
[00:16:21.870] – Monica Cesarato
It takes time. But you have to pay, it is materials but you have to pay. Obviously, a mask that is done with a machine. Obviously you can do for five euros, but it won’t be made in Italy. You won’t even be made… it will probably be made in China. So the price is the first giveaway. And the second is all you got to do is take in two masks that are looking the same. If they both got the same defect it’s a machine mask, OK? If you put them next to each other, they look similar. But you can see the differences when it’s handmade and this goes for everything. It goes for the glass, it goes for paintings, it goes for everything. Very easy to do. OK?
[00:17:08.700] – Monica Cesarato
Then you’ve got another beautiful thing … we have got the last gold beater in Europe, if not in the world, but definitely in Europe. It is called Battiloro. This used to be an ancient craft in Venice of people that used to beat the gold ingots to thin, thin, thin paper leaf, you know, gold sheets. And he is the last one left in… definitely in Europe.
[00:17:41.910] – Monica Cesarato
Then you have glass masters, you have the bead makers. With Venice everybody knows the Murano glassware is actually glass masters. But to be honest with you, it was the beads that were started before the actual big glass. And you can still come in Venice to learn how to make them. There is a fantastic girl she’s called Alessia Fuga. She makes amazing beads with antique technique of lam work, beading making. And you could even go into classes with her.
[00:18:19.340] – Katy
Beautiful. And I mentioned before, Monica, that a lot of people in our Facebook group were really keen to understand how we can help some of the glassblowers because we understand that some are struggling in this pandemic. Would she be able to ship internationally?
[00:18:37.360] – Monica Cesarato
Yes, she does. She’s got a beautiful website. Is very easy to find this – alessiafuga.com, but I’m pretty sure that we can give you the information. Yes, she does aship internationally. I’ve got to say, that is the problem. We were talking about it before. There’s a problem in Italy and above all, in Venice. It is hard to get people to understand that we need to go online. But they need to make themselves approachable online because of course up to now people were used to the big amount of tourists just walking into the different shops, in the furnaces, in the artisan shop and just buying. This pandemic, I think is showing them that they need to get themselve a bit updated and be a bit more modern.
[00:19:26.980] – Monica Cesarato
I think it’s going to take a bit of time because, you know, maybe the younger generations get it. But, you know, you have to remember, some of these artisans are in their 60s, 70s, and most of them just about managed to use the phone with WhatsApp.
[00:19:46.890] – Katy
They love WhatsApp, though!
[00:19:50.070] – Monica Cesarato
But what I’m saying is they don’t… they don’t have… they don’t even use a computer. When I say, oh, can I send you … can you give me your email? Well, look at me and say, oh, you find me on Facebook and I go , no! your email. It’s just to show you that we will need to change things. But it’s going to take time. It’s going to take time.
[00:20:16.810] – Katy
Sure. Well we’ll definitely share those details with our audience. But I do have another question about the goldbeaters. Is the gold used in things that people can buy or is it mainly used to restore the buildings or is it..
[00:20:28.840] – Monica Cesarato
It is used on everything. They do both gold and silver and I’m not sure if they do copper as well, but definitely gold and silver. And they’ve got a beautiful website. They also sell internationally and they’ve got even their own line of cosmetics using gold. Yes, OK, but you do gold leaf facemasks and it’s supposed to be very, very good.
[00:20:54.700] – Monica Cesarato
And then practically they give the gold to every single artisan in the city, you know, the gold leaf. But also internationally and oh no, no, they sell all over the world and is used for all different kinds of things.
[00:21:13.940] – Katy
What I love about Venice is you can just go into look at an unassuming building and you can go in and see some amazing paintings and all this gold leaf artwork. So I can imagine those people are quite busy constantly restoring all of that anyway.
[00:21:28.100] – Monica Cesarato
Yeah, it’s incredible. We’ve actually got two, not one, two universities of restoration in Venice. So we were we were always at the front in restoration and the safeguarding of monuments and it is really amazing. Sometimes, you know, I do my cooking lessons in a palace and it’s beautiful. But sometimes we also do door to door cooking lessons. So if somebody’s booked our cooking lesson says to me, oh, look, I’m renting this apartment in this palace, can you do the lessons? And we do and some and we also do dinners.
[00:22:02.810] – Monica Cesarato
So sometimes when we go and we walk in, my jaw literally goes into my feet. It is like, oh my God! Once we went to cook dinner in this palace and I nearly dropped dead because they had an original Titian. I was like, oh my God, the ceiling must have been at least three and a half meters, what’s that in feet, eight feet or something like that. Sounds about OK. It was amazing. It was like, oh my. It was beautiful. Totally, totally restored. Totally kept beautifully. And it was amazing. I’m thinking, oh my God, I’m cooking in a palace where the Titian has been through. You know, it was like, oh wow
[00:22:52.970] – Katy
That is what… that would make me gasp and would almost, almost make me forget about food. I mentioned before, I was reading a book, a wonderful book about Venice by an author, British author called Jan Morris. And the writing is beautiful. But I really disagreed with her on one point. And she’s quite… I don’t think she really likes food very much, but she actually doesn’t have much, or many nice things to say about Venetian food. I know what’s wrong?! I love it. Can you tell us a little bit about Venice’s food culture?
[00:23:31.640] – Monica Cesarato
Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say to you before about all these books out there. There are so many books written on Venice by foreign people, but so few books written on Venice by us locals and it is so wrong. And it is like food. I started talking about food in 2008 when I start my blog and I started my food tours for the simple reason that people came and stayed in my bed and breakfast and said – oh, we love Venice. Fantastic. We had a great time. We saw this and we saw that and we ate terrible food. And I go like, how can you have eaten terrible. The food is fantastic. And they go, no no. We ate very bad. And I realize this is because people didn’t know what to eat in Venice. What is particular about Venetian cuisine? Two, they were just looking for pizza and lasagna and of course they were ending up in the typical tourist places.
[00:24:26.330] – Monica Cesarato
And that’s when I thought, OK, maybe it’s about time I teach people about Venetian food and aside from my cicchetti tours. So there aren’t just cicchetti but I do cicchetti mainly. Cicchetti are the small little tapas (similar to tapas, but they’re not tapas) that you always have with an ombra that’s a small glass of wine. Ombra comes from the fact that in Venice, the Venetians used to sell the wine underneath the clocktower in the St Mark’s square to keep the wine cool. They used to move the stall with the shade ofthe church tower. As they did that, you know, they said andiamo ber un ombra. Let’s go and drink in the shade of a church tower. As the years went by, it became andiamo ber un ombra. Let’s go and drink a shade. And Venetians always drink ombra by having a small bite to eat. Why? Because we drink a lot in Venice. And if you drink and drink and of course, you get very hungry. Sorry, you get very drunk. And we would have had a lot of leaning tower of Pisas and loads of happy Venetians.
[00:25:33.830] – Monica Cesarato
So we realized that we couldn’t do that. And they start always, every time you take a small glass of wine, you always pair it with something small to eat. Because that soaks up the alcohol level in the bloodstream and doesn’t make you drowsy and you feel OK.
[00:25:52.790] – Monica Cesarato
And the cicchetti is something we’ve been doing for six, seven hundred years, even more than that. And it is a great way to explore the city. One, because you get to try all different things because in each place you go they’re all totally different. Two you don’t sit two hours in a restaurant wasting time, but you maximize your time in the city because there is so much to do.
[00:26:23.090] – Monica Cesarato
Another thing people don’t realize is that the main staples in Venice are fish, vegetables, risotto, rice and the polenta. OK, everybody comes here and they want the Pizza. Ha! You don’t get pizza in Venice. There’s no point. You go to Naples if you want the best pizza, ever. You come to Venice and you try risotto. Risotto – we cook with anything that can be cooked
[00:26:49.810] – Monica Cesarato
In a book I was… by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi called the Venetian Recipes: Lost and Found, I was quoted because I said that if it’s edible, it can go in a risotto. And it’s true. We can even make risotto with roses, with strawberries, you know, but our main staple polenta. Oh, my God. We put polenta with everything fish.
[00:27:19.920] – Monica Cesarato
Venice is a city built on water for centuries. That’s all they had and is always fresh because Venetians will never have frozen stuff. So you never go to a touristic restaurant. You always go to the real local ones because you will eat well.
[00:27:36.620] – Monica Cesarato
Of course, the prices cannot be as the mainland city. You remember Venice has got double the cost of expenses when we need to run things because everything needs to arrive by boat. OK, so you’re not going to spend ten euros like you spend in in a restaurant in Tuscany. But it’s totally worth it.
[00:28:02.060] – Katy
I agree. Absolutely. I can remember … I think I tasted bacala for the first time in Venice. And it was a bit of a revelation. I was like, hmmm smoked cod, no, no. But then I tried it, you’ve got to try it. And I loved it.
[00:28:18.420] – Monica Cesarato
Yeah, well, even bacala everybody thinks it is salt cold. It is not it is dried cod. And we are the only region, the Veneto regio,n that uses that because the rest of the world tend to use bacalao that is salt cod from Brazil, from Portugal and so on. But in Venice we only use, and in Veneto, we only use a dry cod from the Lofoten archipelagos in Norway. Long story there, but it’s is very different because it’s not so salty and we’ve got more than forty recipes with it.
[00:28:51.930] – Monica Cesarato
So it isn’t just bacala mantecato, the white mousse on polenta, there’s a lot of versions. So you can come to Venice and try so many things. We’ve got yhr sweet and sour sardines. That is, you take whichever, not just the sardines. You can do it with any ingredient really. You deep fry whichever thing you want to use. But let’s say the sardines and then you take double the amount of weight of white onions, slice them and braise them with olive oil, white wine vinegar and white wine.
[00:29:22.770] – Monica Cesarato
And then you do layers of ingredients.. for about an hour and a half.. then you do layers of ingredient, onions, ingredient, onions, cover them with onions and you leave in the fridge for 48 hours. And trust me, one of the best thing you have ever eaten. It is very delicious.
[00:29:37.650] – Katy
Yummy. Monica, did I read that you’re writing a book on cicchetti at the moment?
[00:29:42.930] – Monica Cesarato
You have a third person this week that has me that. Yes, I have been writing the book. The book is ready. OK, I’m just I even got an agent. We can’t find a publisher. Not because they don’t like the book, but because right now, right now, publishers are a bit like… not publishing so much.
[00:30:01.950] – Monica Cesarato
So if anybody out there wants to publish my book, come here. It’s ready to go. It is a mix between is the recipe book. So there are recipes about all the different type of cicchetti, but it’s also going to be a little bit of culture and history of the food of Venice. It is divided in chapters with a bit of background and everything. So, you know, you can just go in and prepare a recipe but you actually are learning why we eat certain things in the kitchen while we don’t eat others.
[00:30:32.160] – Monica Cesarato
OK, because a lot of people don’t realize that the Venetian food is very different from the rest of the regions of Italy. Because Venice was a city that was always in contact with different cultures. You know, it was a port.
[00:30:46.740] – Monica Cesarato
So whichever came over, we took it and made it ours, OK? But it was also a city that, remember, in the old days, it didn’t have fridges. So there was a big problem with preservation of food. So everything had to be fresh and very quick to cook. So we always gave a lot of importance more to the quality and freshness of the food. Rather than give it too many spices and stuff, the idea is that you have one main ingredient and the other two ingredients that you use are to enhance this ingredient, not to cover it. OK, so sometimes the cooking might look a bit plain, but it is not is because we concentrate on the fact that the fish, the vegetables, the meat that you’re using is going to be totally fresh.
[00:31:43.070] – Katy
Yeah, absolutely. Oh, I’m getting really hungry, Monica. I’ll look into this publishing. I don’t know, I feel like we need to make this happen and I need to read this book immediately.
[00:31:58.040] – Monica Cesarato
Yeah, I’ve been saying that for the last six, seven years. Yeah.
[00:32:01.890] – Katy
Well we’ll try and find a solution. Well, Monica is a very, very busy lady and apart from writing books, doing food tours and cooking classes she’s also starting up an amazing project to do a film about Venice. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, Monica?
[00:32:17.330] – Monica Cesarato
OK, well, we’ve got about 20 hours now. OK, it all started because during lockdown, as you know, we were all sitting here on the computer and watching videos and stuff. All we could see as Venetians was videos of Venice taken with drawings showing an empty city and showing a fake reality. That wasn’t the city. All you could see was empty, St Marks Square, empty Rialto and not enough people around. That wasn’t true. As I said before, you know, the Venetians were there.
[00:32:54.170] – Monica Cesarato
And, you know, they’ve always been there. Fifty two thousand people that live in the city. OK, so we were talking about this during a live chat with a friend of mine. She’s another blogger. We were talking about this on a live chat on Instagram because during the lockdown, I started a series of like chat to discuss with people from all over the world. And how they were actually handling the situation. And I went to talk about this. And when I went to bed in the evening, this thought was buzzing in my head. And I woke up at 3:00 in the morning all of a sudden startled because I had a dream. And in my dream, we were filming Venice with a proper story, it wasn’t just filming, but was a proper story, you know, real.
[00:33:42.590] And I thought, OK, I wonder if we can actually do this. So in the morning I called a couple of friends, and when I told them my project, they both cried. And we just thought, OK, that’s weird, as you do, maybe could be done.
[00:33:59.420] – Monica Cesarato
So I called another couple of people. And they all said to me, oh, my God it is a great idea, go for it. But, you know, one thing is having a dream. One thing is that I’m going to do a film. You know, you need to know what you’re doing. And I’m not so stupid to think like, oh, yeah, I’m going to.. So in the morning. I called a friend of mine in Los Angeles – he’s a film director. And I told him what I wanted to do.
[00:34:23.260] – Monica Cesarato
And I said to him, “look, be brutal. Just be honest with me. Tell me if it’s a good idea or not and if it is doable, because, you know, it might be a good idea, but it never can be achieved. I don’t know even starting and he said, “oh, my God, it’s a great idea and it definitely can be done.” And he said, “I’ll give you the name of a film director in Venice who probably will be very interesting to do this film.”
[00:34:48.830] – Monica Cesarato
So it turns out, I didn’t realize that, I knew the film director. We already worked together previously a couple of times during Carnival because he’s the official film maker of the during the carnival of the Festa delle Maria. You know the twelve girls who go around running around and in February we film together a cooking class. So when I called him, he was like, you know, I told him what I wanted to do, silence. And then he goes, OK, we need to do this with somebody.
[00:35:17.600] – Monica Cesarato
So I said, “Oh, I said, You think we can do it?” Oh, well, if you can get the money, we told a very well known director of photography. We told him what we wanted to do. And strangely enough, he agreed straight away, even though he’s really busy. But he said he loved the idea. And so we started and it is the idea is to make a film about Venetians, about everyday Venice, to show people that exactly. The city’s not just its monuments because it is alive and kicking.
[00:35:53.150] It is a vibrant city with people that built these buildings and take care of these buildings and they live in the city. And they live the city by working, by going to school and so on. So it’s going to be a film about the various categories of people that are in Venice. So it’s not a publicity video. It will be a promotional video for the city of Venice as a whole. OK? It will show you what you will see. It will be the details of the people, but you will not understand who they are particularly, but you will understand to which category they will belong to.
[00:36:37.970] – Monica Cesarato
So it will be about the artisans, about the old people, about the young people, about students, about shopkeepers, about restaurant people just to show you what Venice is really all about. And we will do it in two versions, one that is going to be available for everybody to see on YouTube and everybody will be able to use it and share it and do what they want with it, as long as it is for the good of Venice. And a longer version that we want to present it to the various international film festivals to promote Venice.
[00:37:15.970] – Monica Cesarato
To do this, we need to get a lot of money. So we started a crowdfunding and we are going to run it until the 15th of September. So we need everybody help. So whoever loves Venice, if they can donate even just 10 euros, you will make a huge difference to us.
[00:37:38.320] – Katy
Oh, I really would love to see that film and, you know, even just talking in this last half hour or so about the origins and the people that make Venice what it is today, those are some of the more kind of glamorous side of things. But I can tell you, when we took our kids there that, you know, they were just fascinated that the rubbish or the trash was being picked up.
[00:38:01.970] – Monica Cesarato
I know. I know. I know it was I think that. You know, one beautiful comment I received when I started this crowdfunding, it was from a blogger and it was very interesting.
[00:38:13.790] – Monica Cesarato
He said, “thank God that it is about time somebody stop showing Venice through people sitting in St Mark’s square, sipping on spritz.” I love that because I thought ok, yeah, we do that. OK, but that’s not what Venice is all about. It is one thing of Venice, but it is, like I always say.. It is like having a cake. You have it there and then you only pick on the little cherry on top, you know, what’s the point? You have your cake, go for it, you know, and the project is called Anima Veneziana. That means Venetian soul.
[00:39:00.050] – Katy
Beautiful. I love it and, of course, we will provide all the details on how you can support the project on our website.
[00:39:07.680] – Katy
Venice is really a city that has evolved and adapted to its environment that constantly over the centuries What do you think the future holds for your city, Monica?
[00:39:16.740] – Monica Cesarato
What what do I think will happen or what do I hope are two different things. I’ll tell you first what I hope. I hope that this was a wake up call. I hope is the time that everybody realizes that yes, we do live from tourism and we should OK, because there is nothing else in the city at the moment. But it doesn’t mean we have to. OK, we can build that. We can rebuild a city where tourism is part of it. But we should bring back residents. We should bring back companies to work in the city to make it possible for everybody to live like a real city, because so far at the moment, Venice has become like a theme park, OK, where everybody, everything goes around tourism.
[00:40:11.510] – Monica Cesarato
We need to go back to a system where, yes, tourism is part of a city, of course, but it is not the only thing we have. OK, and to do that, we need to promote tourism. We need to promote a system by which people stay in the city for more than four or five days. OK, and absolutely do not come just for a day. All right.
[00:40:37.310] – Monica Cesarato
What will happen? I’m not so sure because we have elections in September for the new mayor. I sincerely hope this mayor will go, because right now we have not authority, no one is doing anything in the city. There isn’t an objective, there isnt a goal, or at least the only goal is to make money. There is a clear way of promoting the city and educating people to come to Venice in a certain way. I hope and I sincerely hope that if he is not going to be reelected and somebody else comes along, who doesn’t end up being the typical politician who speaks a lot before and then ends up doing nothing again. That’s information.. we will see. I hope this is a time the citizens will take control a bit more
[00:41:37.990] – Katy
OK. Well, I know you’re really busy, Monica, but maybe that’s a job for you?
[00:41:42.350] – Monica Cesarato
Nah, nah, nah. You need to… I could never… you know, you need to know what you can and can not do. But something I will never want to do is go in politics. That’s why Anima Veneziana is totally non profit and totally non-political. No I refuse to go into politics because what will happen once you go into there and you’ll end up being like all the others. So it’s easier to do it from your side. I’d rather do my change and give my mark from the outside.
[00:42:09.170] – Katy
I think it’s a real challenge all around the world at the moment, isn’t it? So I do have one last question for you. Now, where is the one place that you go to in Venice that you, where you feel the essence of the city like that? You’re a real part of it. So a special place you have.
[00:42:25.070] – Monica Cesarato
Oh yeah. My cicchetti places. That’s the first one I went to after lock down. When we were told that we finally we were allowed out of the cages in May. That’s the first thing. So it was on the Sunday. On the Monday they told us from tomorrow you can go out. I didn’t go to my hometown where I live. I couldn’t care less. I picked up the car, went to Venice because we couldn’t use the buses system, whatever.
[00:42:52.520] – Monica Cesarato
So we went over to Venice and that’s the first thing I did. I went to each one of my cicchetti places to check they were doing OK. To check that they were still open because so many places are closed because of the lock down for good. I just wanted to make sure they were all OK and I found them all.
[00:43:12.830] – Monica Cesarato
That was three months ago, and let’s say, I was a bit worried, but they were in good spirits. But let’s say they were optimistic, as in “we will get through this.” And I’ve got to say, three months on, they are still there. A lot of places have closed. There’s a lot of restaurants that have closed and haven’t reopened. It was to be expected. But I think this is because many of those places were the places that aim themselves, only at tourists .Those that were smart enough to always try to be part of the city. So not just tourists, but also we locals, they’re still going strong. So that’s my… I do food so it was a bit practically obvious for me, that it would be about just checking that the food was still there.
[00:44:07.190] – Katy
Yeah, I totally understand. I’m getting a bit teary myself. I really just want to go back as soon as I can.
[00:44:16.280] – Monica Cesarato
I have to say whoever…. I mean, I know Australians cannot come back. I know you have got British people listening to us and also other English speakers from other parts of Europe. Right now. I don’t think I’ve seen August or a summer so quiet and so beautiful. So you don’t just get the weather, but you do not get the crowds. You do not get the queues to go inside the museums. And if you do, they’re short queues for your safety because it’s a public place and they only allow so many people in. But it is for your safety, not because of the crowds. The shops are open and again, because of safety, you can only go in one or two, maximum three at a time. So again, no crowds. So it’s actually the perfect time to come now.
[00:45:06.380] – Katy
But I don’t think there’s ever a bad time to go to Venice, though. I mean,
[00:45:11.060] – Monica Cesarato
Well sometimes the worry was it is really, really crowded. And unless you knew how to navigate the city without meeting the crowds, I can understand it can be a bit daunting when you arrive. And if everybody just drop into St Mark’s square and there are like 50,000 people, it’s easy to to see why.
[00:45:30.140] – Katy
Yeah, that’s true. But even in winter, it’s lovely.
[00:45:33.140] – Monica Cesarato
Oh my God. And winter is fantastic because .. well, you know, Venice is a city of all seasons. Winter you have, apart from the acqua alta of course, but as long as you come with boots it’s fine and we don’t always get it anyway. It’s beautiful because you’ve got the fog. The fog in Venice is amazing. Spring is fantastic because you’ve got all the beautiful flowers and people think we don’t have gardens in Venice, but we do. And it’s beautiful. Summer is beautiful because it’s summer and autumn is fantastic because the weather is good – it’s not too hot, not too cold. OK, and the light in autumn is amazing.
[00:46:12.950] – Katy
And it’s my favorite time of year actually. Autumn. beautiful. Oh. So thank you so much for joining us on the show today, Monica, and sharing all your stories about Venice and the Anima Veneziana project. Before we finish up, how can our listeners stay in touch with you and learn all about your tours and experiences and how to donate to the project?
[00:46:34.820] – Monica Cesarato
OK, so if they want to book my tours, they go to my blog. That’s www.monicacesarato.com
[00:46:42.770] – Monica Cesarato
You can find my cooking classes on www.cookinvenice.com Cook in Venice, not cooking Venice. And you can donate to the project for the film at www.animaveneziana.com.
[00:47:01.520] – Monica Cesarato
Or if you’re not, if you don’t feel happy about donating via the new with PayPal, you can go on Facebook, you can find our page Anima Veneziana and you can donate with Facebook. We take everything, anything. You can even send bank wire transfers. We’ll take anything. Ten euros will be enough.
[00:47:25.120] – Katy
Oh wonderful. I hope it’s a huge success and we can’t wait to see the outcome of it. So grazie, Monica. Once again, thank you for joining us on Untold Italy. I’ve so loved being transported to Venice and talking about your amazing, amazing project to keep the stories of your city alive. Thanks for joining us.
[00:47:42.890] – Monica Cesarato
Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.
[00:47:46.950] – Monica Cesarato
Wow, what an exciting project. And of course, I love hearing all about Venice. As Monica said, there’s no place on Earth like it. All cities have their challenges but in Venice, a city built on water, the day to day running of the city is truly unique. Tourism is an important part of the city’s future. But as Monica said, balancing that out with the needs of everyday residents will no doubt secure its future for generations to come.
[00:48:11.300] You can find all the details of the Anima Veneziana project and how you can donate to it as part of their crowdfunding drive on our web site at UntoldItaly.com/35. I have personally made a donation and I’m looking forward to viewing the final film. If I can’t be in Venice, at least I can watch it from afar. If you’d like to connect with Monica, all her details and those of the artisans she mentioned are up on the site too.
[00:48:36.230] That’s it for our show today, Grazie. And thank you for joining us. And don’t forget to subscribe to Untold Italy on iTunes or your favorite podcast player so you don’t miss an episode. Ciao for now.