Luca Marchiori was born in Venice to a Venetian father and English mother. As a small child his family took him to live in his mother’s native town of Bournemouth where he grew up, shuttling back and forward between there and his beloved Venice. His interest in his native city can best be described as an obsession, and he spends as much time there as he can. He now works as an editor and writer, elucidating Italian food and culture for English-speakers everywhere. Luca can currently be seen talking about the history of coffee in Venice on the Netflix series Somebody feed Phil. I met him via a fellow Venetophile who recommended that Phil write for our book First Spritz Is Free: Confessions of Venice Addicts. Hopefully one day we’ll meet in person!
What do you never fail to do in Venice?
Visit Panificio Volpe Giovanni, the kosher bakery in Calle del Gheto Vecio. They sell a variety of biscuits which are traditional to the Venetian Jewish community. My favourite are azime dolci, sweet cookies flavoured with fennel seeds, traditionally eaten at Passover. As it’s the only Jewish bakery in Venice, it’s practically the only place in the world where you can buy them. They are an overlooked but important part of traditional Venetian cuisine. I love them for breakfast.
What is your Venice soundtrack?
Whatever the band’s playing in the Piazza San Marco. If the band’s not playing then it’s a Venetian Coronation 1596 by the Gabrieli Players and Paul McCreesh. It’s an educated guess at what music might have been played at the coronation of Doge Marin Grimani. If I’m not in Venice, all I have to do is put it on and I’m back.
Walk or take a boat?
Mostly walk since it tends to be faster. I only take a boat if I’m tired or going out to the islands. Walking gives you a much better mental map of the city than you can get on the vaporetto. However, navigating the city on a private boat is a whole other thing.
Which is your favorite Venetian festival and why?
The Festa della Salute. I love November as it’s a real turning point in the weather, bridging the still warm October days with the wintry ones of December. The Festa della Salute always seems to be on one of those crisp, cold days, and it’s the one festival of the year that still belongs almost exclusively to the Venetians.
Spritz or Bellini?
Until a few days ago I’d have said spritz, but with Cynar, a traditional Italian bitter made of artichokes, instead of Apérol. It has a more sophisticated taste and a less lurid colour. However, now I’d say neither but Il Varo, the signature cocktail of the fabulous Il Mercante bar opposite the Frari church. British readers will understand me when I say it’s Christmas Pudding in a glass.
If you could have dinner with any Venetian, living or dead, who would it be and why? What would dinner be?
Marietta Tintoretta (1560–1590), the illegitimate but much-loved daughter of Jacopo Tintoretto. She bucked convention by working as an assistant in her father’s bottega, often weaing male clothes to fit in. She ended up becoming an artist in her own right. Unfortunately, almost all of her work is lost, so I’d like to have dinner with her so she could show it to me and I could get a female perspective on Renaissance Venice. We’d feast on sardele in saor and a dish of her choice which is now lost, too. It would all be washed down with the finest malvasia.
Casanova: genius or cad?
Cad and that’s all I’m going to say. There have been so many great Venetians whose lives and achievements represent our city better than Casanova, Marco Polo, and Vivaldi, yet these seem to be the only three people know. I have a policy of not writing about any of them so I can introduce people to the others.
If money were no object, which palazzo would you buy?
The Palazzo Contarini Fasan. Although it’s on the Canal Grande, and belonged to one of the most important patrician families in Venice, it’s tiny. It’s a palazzo you could really live in. It also has rather spurious links to the obect of my other obsession after Venice—William Shakespeare. Since the nineteenth century it’s been known as the House of Desdemona, the heroine in the play Othello. This is an example of early tourist marketing belonging to a time when all the cities mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays were scoured for buildings to link to the plays. Luckily Ca’ Contarini Fasan never achieved the fame and commercialization of the House of Juliet in Verona.
Which gelato flavor are you?
I was going to say lemon which is my favourite, but I think you want one that sums me up. So, I’d say cheesecake since it’s an Anglo-Saxon-Italian mix. Just like me.
How can readers learn more about you and your creative pursuits?
I blog about Italy and Italian food at http://lucasitaly.com with a weekly post dedicated to Venice. You can find links to my other work on the “Who’s Luca” page of that site.