Sunday, 23 June 2019
Whether you're after a noisy beach holiday at the Adriatic coast or want to escape the buzz of Venice but stay within the Venetian magic -- the former fisher town of Chioggia with the suburb of Sottomarina and its beach is definitely worth a visit. It's easy to reach by local train from Rovigo -- a travel back in time with noisy cars, some of them without air conditioning, where you open the windows in the vain hope that the hot summer wind will refresh you --, bicycle or bus no 11 from Lido SME. The latter travels on board of a ro-ro ferry at the south-end of the Lido di Venezia at Alberoni over to the isle of Pellestrina. At the ferry terminal next to the Pellestrina graveyard, Cimitero Pellestrina, the bus ends and you go on board of the waterbus ferry with the same name, to Chioggia.
If coming by bicycle from Venezia Santa Lucia train station take the ferry no. 17 from Tronchetto to Lido San Nicolo (from the train station you must carry your bike over the steps of the Ponte della Costituzione bridge), and simply follow the direction of the bus (the bicycle route over the islands is properly marked). You will also take the ro-ro ferry from Alberoni and later the waterbus from Pellestrina to Chioggia. For persons the ferries are covered by the ACTV day, two-days and three-days passes bought in Venice but you have to buy additional bicyles tickets at one EUR per bike and ferry ride.
Where to stay
Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any places to eat and stay with a throughout trustworthy eco-conscious mindset. The nearest you get for a sustainable overnight stay is Hotel Mediterraneo, directly located at Sottomarina's beach promenade, the Lungomare Adriatico. The hotel with its pleasant rooftop terrace carries the Legambiente ecolabel for sustainable tourism. However: The promised organic breakfast was predominantly conventional, with the notable exceptions of -- unfortunately prepackaged -- rice wafers and rusk (the latter was also available in a conventional variety), organic honey, and two types of (yummy) organic biscuits. Neither the tea bags, the bread nor the milk were organic, and the coffee from the automatic machine completely undrinkable for Italian standards. The hotel itself certainly fullfills higher eco demands than average, but they easily could do better introducing waste separation, re-usable toothbrush tumblers and natural body care on the rooms, and of course by raising the number of organic products notably.
Having said this, the hotel manager, Sonia, was cordial and helpful, the room clean and suitable for a family, with actual sea view, and sufficiently isolated against the noises of the beach party places -- off-season. The washing and cleaning detergents used on the room as well as on the bed linen and towels did not leave disturbing remainders of artificial perfumes. The a la carte menu on the hotel's restaurant, Saporoso, was done by a skilled chef which should better have had organic ingredients at hand, to enhance the taste to very good.
Where to eat
Sad to say but if you really want to eat organic you have to buy your own food for a pic-nic -- at least I wasn't able to spot at minimum predominantly organic eateries or restaurants. Let me know if you find one!
Your next best bet may be
Pizza Fantasy, a beach shack pizza restaurant next to the Astoria Village pleasure ground at the Lungomare. On occasions they seem to use organic wholemeal flour and olive oil for the dough, and this may point to a generally more conscious mindset. However I wasn't able to confirm the general use of organic ingredients.
For lunch you may also check out the sandwiches at Tentazioni Tipiche in the old town of Chioggia a few steps from the ACTV ferry stop, but again I cannot say how reliably they contain (or rather: not) organic produce.
The tour through the ice-cream parlours near Sottomarina beach starts with a case of greenwashing: L'Arte del Gelato da Marco e Giulio
advertises to use organic milk, but take this with a grain of salt: The 10 liters milk boxes by Parmalat delivered to the place were without doubt not lavelled organic. The ice-cream and the frozen yogurt are nevertheless smooth and easily palatable, though too sweet for my taste. None of the toppings for the frozen yogurt were organic. They take 1.80 EUR for a generous small serving of ice-cream, and 2.50 EUR for a small frozen yogurt with two toppings. The queue during evening hours makes it easy to identify this place on Piazza Italia.
A few steps along the roundabout, and you'll find L'Oasi del Gelato. The ice-cream here still looks very conventional, but for 2019 the owners promised to start using organic products -- organic milk in general, but also (on occasions) organic strawberries. How far they've already embraced this path I cannot say, but: Keep on going!
The Grom chain of ice-cream parlours stopped promising organic ingredients in 2019 (except for the milk in the milk shakes), but for the records: Yes, there's a Grom branch at the Lungomare.
The best source of organic food I could find is just around the corner from the ice-cream parlours at the Piazza Italia roundabout: Nuovi Sapori da Laura e Elena is a small, Sunday-open convenience store offering organic milk (the very lattebusche milk promised by the L'Oasi gelateria), juices, cheese, cookies, jam, wine, a good selection of dry food, and more -- you'll have to check for organic labels and ask at the cheese-and-meat counter.
The traditional Italian Tentazioni Tipiche delicatessen at the northern end of Corso del Popolo
next to Palazzo delle Figure in the old town of Chioggia is another small
grocery offering a -- rather limited -- range of organic (dry) food.
For organic and fairly traded bodycare (though no sun cream), dry food, sweets, preserves, wine, soft drinks, fairly traded fashion accessoiries and gifts head to the southern end of the corso: The Altromercato Commercio equo e sociale also stocks (not always certified organic) products of territories freed from the mafia, under the Libera Terra ("freed land") label.
More organic body care, using hemp as an ingredient, and other (partially organic) hemp products can be found at Canapa for you in Sottomarina which I did not have time to visit.
Some organic products are also available from the Supercoffeeshop coffee bar in Sottomarina. The coffee probably isn't organic, and I cannot say anything about the milk since I could not make it there.
If you are adventurous try to find Le verdure di Marco e Camilla in the old town of Chioggia, supposedly a quite new full-blown organic grocery also selling
fresh organic fruits and veges. I did not have the time to find the place, so please let me know if you know where exactly it is located.
More to try
[Chioggia, Sottomarina, biologico, organic, ice-cream, supermarket, grocery, bicycle, hotel, accommodation, fair, gifts, shopping, bodycare, coffee, cafe, hemp]
Thursday, 20 June 2019
To no surprise Padua has a branch of the
artisanal ice-cream parlour chain
Grom: Located directly at Piazza dei Signori the main branch in the very city centre
serves natural ice-cream and milk shakes made from organic milk. There's a second branch in Via Roma, but since the chain stopped to advertise the use of organic ingredients I can no longer whole-heartedly recommend it.
But fortunately there's an alternative: About 50 meters to the right from the Grom at Piazza dei Signori you'll find the city's only fully organic ice-cream parlour,
Gelateria Gnam Gnam.
I was amazed how much delight one can add to natural artisanal ice-cream when restricting oneself to 100 percent organic ingredients. The Gnam Gnam fare is extremely delicate, with a lot of surprising flavours such as "cinnamon and ginger" or "pineapple and ginger", about one third of them vegan. The smallest serving with one flavour comes at 1.80 EUR, a small one with two flavours at 2.70 EUR, three flavours at 3.60, and each additional one adds one EUR to your bill. For extra 60 or 80 cents you can choose the flavour of your wafer cone: plain of course, or perhaps ginger, cinnamon, liquorice...? The (vegan) slush goes here under the name Venetian ghiacciate, and can be had in eight different flavours, small, medium, and large (small for 2.70 EUR, medium for 3.80, large for 5.20). My coffee ghiacciate was a deliciously melting dream, ways better than the extremely tasty one I had a couple of years ago at a Grom branch in Florence. Apart from this you can have a freshly pressed fruit juice or a chocolate-coated ghiacciolo (iced lolly).
If you find it difficult to part buy a package of organic meringues or a small glass of the organic spices they use (like cinnamon, liquorice, curcuma or ginger) for you or as a small gift.
Just for the records: Directly opposite Gelateria Gnam Gnam you'll find yet another ice-cream parlour focussing on all natural ice-cream: The Al Bancale at Piazza dei
Signori, 2 uses Galatea products to make their ice-cream, a brand that also offers an organic product line. However, no organic ice-cream here.
For a change you may also try ICream.it north of Prato della Valle. Their ice-cream is hidden in locked containers instead of openly presented, an important sign for high quality ingredients and no fuzz processing. Flavouring ingredients like basil or matcha often are organic and play the most important part in extremely smooth non-diary ice-creams (I had an intense yet delicate lemon-basil which unfortunately isn't always available). The milk used in the non-vegan flavours is not organic, but feel free to enquire about the origin of the ingredients: When I was there the staff was both friendly and knowlegeable. In 2018 a single scoop went for 2 EUR, and I did not have the time to check whether the place still exists in 2019. Let me know if you do.
[Padua, Padova, biologico, organic, vegan, ice-cream, gifts]
Going wild in the maze of Venice in search for organic food, drinks, or the forgotten natural sun screen can be a real downer, so it's best to know where to head.
Fortunately the odd Coop supermarket has a reasonable selection of organic (though usually pre-packaged) fruit and veges, drinks, cookies and food. This may save your life, especially since they usually keep open on Sundays.
To spot one of the
three long-established independent organic convenience stores
in the maze of the city's beautiful old houses may be more difficult.
Two of them are now affiliated under the Cuore Bio label of Italian organic supermarkets, and the one formerly known as Rialto Biocenter is now a NaturaSi branch. Here you will also find organic bodycare, sun blockers, eco-friendly detergents and more. The NaturaSi near Rialto also stocks fresh bread and other sweet and savoury bakery items as well as unpackaged fruit and veges, sufficient to provide you with a decent picknick supply. On the other hand the Naturalia shop in Dorsoduro not far from the train station isn't suitable if you really are in the need for food.
If you're looking for an eatable or drinkable souvenir pay a visit to Pantagruelica, a crammed delicatessen
at the western end of Campo San Barnaba. It
stocks mainly certified organic items and food at least partially produced adhering to organic principles. If departing the waterbus at Ca' Rezzonico stop you can't miss it when following the only way into the open of the square and keep an eye on the left side. The shopkeeper can be a little annoying with his ever almost identical rants on the quality of his products, but he doesn't mind being cut short, and instead being drawn into a real chat.
More to try
[Venice, Venezia, biologico, organic, deli, supermarkets, grocery]
Right after arrival at Venezia Santa Lucia train station, you may arm yourself for the queueing at the waterbus ticket office with a delicious ice-cream, milk-shake or granita from Gelateria Grom fronting the entrance hall towards Canal Grande. Until recently they promised to use organic milk, some organic fruit, only natural ingredients and of course no additives, and had in general an eco-conscious agenda. However: In 2019 the promise was reduced to "natural ingredients", and the only thing they promise to use in organic quality is the milk for the milk shakes ("frappe"). All hints to the former supplier of organic fruit, the Mura Mura farm, have been deleted. Nevertheless -- the ice-cream is still gorgeous, and a favourite of the locals, too, as can be seen by the increasing number of often crowded Grom branches in Italian cities.
For the ice-cream you have to specify a size -- small, medium or large -- and can choose a suitable number of varieties; up to two varieties for the small size (at a hefty 2.60 EUR), and up to three for medium size (3.20 EUR). For something different (or if you are vegan) try a granita water ice slush (small at 3 EUR, medium at 4 EUR or large at 5 EUR).
Grom has more, in fact older branches in Venice, one of them on Campo San Barnaba square. If departing the waterbus at Ca' Rezzonico stop you can't miss it when following the only way into the open of the square and keep an eye on the left side.
On local websites the owner of Gelateria Alaska, a small whole-in-the-wall shop near Campo Santo was dubbed "king of organic ice-cream in Venice", so I went there to try and ask. While the all-natural ice-cream itself was perfectly palatable he told me that the main ingredients, milk and sugar, were too expensive, but he would occasionally use organic fruit and spices. Unfortunately he couldn't tell me whether any of the flavours on display contained organic ingredients that day.
If you read my post on Rovigo you may be tempted to try Gelato Fantasy in Calle dei Fabbri. DON'T! They are not connected with the Gelateria Fantasy in Rovigo, and they definitely do not use organic ingredients.
Ceased to exist
The following place does no longer exist, though you find still find references on the web:
[Venice, Venezia, organic, ice-cream]
Monday, 17 June 2019
The city being more or less a lively and living outdoor museum has one major disadvantage compared with other Italian cities: When it comes to eating out it is difficult to follow the rule: "Follow the natives". Arguably it might be the only place in Italy where spotting tasty, or even reasonable food is a real challenge -- especially when your tastebuds are used to organic food.
But things have improved vastly since I first visited Venice.
For a decent lunch or dinner with a romantic view of the Giudecca island try Pizzeria Oke on Fondamento delle Zattere between waterbus stops Zattere and S. Basilio. The place looks quite touristy, with US-nostalgic interior, but in fact it is not just a decent pizzeria using organic kamut flour for the dough and organic veges, but a full-blown restaurant. They serve tasty, local-style food prepared with high quality ingredients. If you like give their seafood dishes a try. Wine lovers should try "Calaone'", the product of a pleasant organic vineyard in the nearby Euganean hills, and there are more organic wines on the menu.
There's a second branch, the name spelled the Italian way Ae Oche, near Santa Lucia train station in Dorsoduro -- the perfect place to order a pizza to take away on the train.
For the informal pizza snack head for Bella&Brava, a 100 percent organic fast food pizzeria. Although you may sit down on a bar stool to have a crispy, tasty pizza and an organic softdrink, beer or filtered tap water they do not own any real dishes, not even a single glass for water. Whether you eat on the spot or order to take away -- your pizza is always served in stylefully designed alveolar cardboard boxes, producing a lot of waste. Although comparatively small the pizza itself is surprisingly filling since the dough is made from aromatic wholemeal. Apart from the seafood pizza "Venexiana" all pizze are vegetarian, and four of the six varieties are vegan. Loves for taste and first class ingredients, the organic soap in the bathroom as well as for the tasteful and clean interior but thumbs down for the throw-away mindset.
More to try
[Venice, Venezia, biologico, organic, pizza, dinner, lunch, Italian, restaurant, eatery, takeaway]