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]
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]
Tuesday, 11 June 2019
Those with a sweet tooth may feel in heaven when coming to the comparatively ugly urban sprawl which comprises the municipality of Selvazzano Dentro south-west of Padua and north of Abano Terme: In the neighbourhoods of San Domenico and Tencarola, devided by the crossing of the river Bacchiglione you will find a confectioner's shop cum day bar, an ice-cream parlour and finally a supermarket serving customers preferring organic food and delights.
When entering the municipality from the west following Via Euganea your first stop should be at a roundabout with
an Italian day bar cum Viennese-style cafe cum confectioner's shop where the main ingredients are organic.
At Pasticceria Da Angelo you will find organic and vegan options clearly marked, and the friendly staff will proudly and often even unasked point out what's organic. If you don't feel like a delicate ice-cream or a gorgeous pastry along with an organic coffee drink (with organic soy milk if you prefer) have
a tramezzino sandwich or toast together with a freshly made organic smoothie, or an organic soft drink. Vegan sandwich options are readily available, with organic "cold cuts", while the meat items on non-veg versions usually aren't organic. A serving of ice-cream comes at 1.40 EUR, with each additional scoop for 1.10 EUR. Vegan varieties aren't restricted to fruit flavours, you can also choose among a number of flavours made with rice or almond drink. Buy a bag of organic cookies to take home if you like, and if you're lucky there may be an organic lunch, dinner or ice-cream special during your stay. Advanced booking by phone is required for such an event.
Not enough ice-cream or arriving after half past nine in the evening? Well, you can be helped.
Gelateria Soleluna a few meters east opposite Hotel Piroga uses more than 80 percent organic, and predominantly locally sourced ingredients for their granite, gelati, and ice cakes. A delight not to be missed,
one ice-cream scoop goes for 1.40 EUR, each additional one adds approximately 1 EUR to your bill. Personally I prefer the delicate, creamy dairy flavours to the vegan fruit-based ones. The granite are available in two sizes, for 2.80 or 3.50 EUR -- the refreshing lime-mint or coffee varieties will get you going in a minute on a warm summer day. Unfortunately the granite are served in one-way plastics cups, each with one-way teaspoon and straw, so you will produce a lot of waste.
On bank holidays the shop keeps open as on Sundays.
To buy everything you need organic, from fruit and veges over dairy products and vegan alternatives to dry food, natural cosmetics, the forgotten towel or household detergents follow Via Euganea in eastern direction, cross both, the bridge over the river, and the street side. Here, on Via Padova (the street changes its name in Tencarola) you'll find a well assorted NaturaSi supermarket which also has a small section of self-service zero waste dispensers for grains, nuts and a few other dry foods. This would also be the place you had to do most of your organic shopping when living in one of the villages in the vicinity -- your next real options being the NaturaSi in Abano Terme or, naturally, the ones in the city of Padua.
There's one notable exception north-west of Selvazzano, in the village of Montegalda half way to Vicenza. Surprisingly it has a small organic grocery, Alimenti biologici Come Una Volta ("organic food as once upon a time"), a few steps north of the gelateria on the central roundabout (which you'd better avoid). Here you find a decent choice of organic dry goods, vegan alternatives and body care, a small fridge with refreshments, and a handful of seasonal fruit and veges, probably directly from the owner's garden. When cycling or driving through make sure to pay a visit to this friendly shop.
[Padova, Padua, Selvazzano, Montegalda, organic, biologico, zero_waste, vegan, ice-cream, supermarket, coffee, cafe, grocery, bodycare, household]
Monday, 10 June 2019
Its lively main street, the Corso Palladio dates back to imperial Rome and, still today, is framed by buildings of the arguably most influential medieval architect, Andrea Palladio.
When feeling hungry while you stroll through the Unesco World Heritage head for spacious, wholesale organic supermarket Silene in a quiet side way a few meters North off Corso Palladio. As you enter you will notice the self-service coffee bar immediately, open for a coffee, healthy drink or snack even before the supermarket opens itself. But there's a real restaurant when you proceed into the building: At the left hand side you'll pass the open kitchen, and arrive at a water tap where you can refill your drinking bottle with both, plain and sparkling water. There you are: more tables to sit down, you will be served.
The small menu offers vegan and vegetarian Italian wholefood, tasty pasta and risotti of course, but also surprising twists as the hearty risotto-style oat porridge with spring vegetables I had, or carrot-based falafel (which I liked less). A refreshing surprise was the alcohol-free "sangria". Unlikely you can have the same, though, as the menu changes according to season and daily availability of fresh ingredients. Needless to say that the coffee was a delight, too, and the staff helpful and friendly. If you're looking for the toilets: They are hidden at the opposite, right wall of the supermarket, and open for guests.
The supermarket itself will provide you with all daily necessities, all types of fresh and dry food as well as organic household chemicals and a superb choice of organic body care. Unlike other groceries it keeps open throughout the day without an afternoon break. There's a second Silene supermarket a little further west, without a day restaurant though.
All days including Sundays (though not on public holidays) the Vicenza branch of Germany's DM chemist's chain will provide you with a great selection of organic food, drinks, natural body care and sustainable cleaning detergents. The spacious supermarket in Corso Andrea Palladio opened in 2018 and is a great source of eco- and climate conscious products at budget prices, but since the majority of the items still are conventionally produced be careful to check eco and organic labels.
For a treat of ice-cream follow Corso Andrea Palladio to its Western end and proceed straight ahead, past the Giardini Salvi park to the right. The less shiny neighbourhood San Felice hides a gem: Gocce di Bio ("gocce" meaning "drops"), a vegan-friendly fully organic ice-cream parlour. With its modest window front the spot-free place with its fresh-green painted walls is easy to oversee, but unlike other shops it sports a clearly visible organic logo over the entrance. On the premises of a traditional neighbourhood gelateria it's one of the ice-cream and no frills (not even coffee) places you'll rarely find outside Italy serving a mouth-wateringly creamy all-organic delight. Unless you avoid alcohol try the Malaga variety, and you will be cured for all time from that fake yellowy sweet and flavoured stuff with raisins and perhaps low quality alcohol going under this name elsewhere: The Malaga ice-cream here has distinct, melting flavours -- cream, grappa and raisins of highest organic quality, delightfully combined.
Unfortunately the place is closed on public holidays.
Ceased to exist
A few years ago the following gelateria served very nice organic ice-cream but unfortunately did not survive:
[Vicenza, biologico, organic, vegan, ice-cream, coffee, supermarket, grocery, eatery, restaurant, breakfast, lunch, bodycare, household]