I've decided to create a new segment to The Dizzy Traveler today called SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW and I am thrilled to introduce to you the very intelligent, entertaining, and beautiful Francesca Marucci from Venice, Italy. She was recently my tour guide for the Venice Urban Adventures - Cicchetti Wine Tour of Venice. All of us, from all over the world, (maybe 8 or 10 in total) enjoyed the experience.
Hotel Note: If you'd like suggestions as to hotels in the Cannaregio neighboorhood, here is the Al Ponte Antico Hotel and several more.
I was curious about how Francesca got involved with these tours and thought I'd ask her a few questions.
Francesca: I left Florence when I was 18 and I moved to Venice to study Etruscology at University. I didn’t know how charming Venice would have been to me. Now 16 years have passed, I still live here (but half of my heart is still in Florence).
For a long time my main interests were Etruscan Archaeology and Roman History. I got a PhD (in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology) and I worked at Ca’ Foscari University as a researcher, digging in a Etruscan sanctuary in Cerveteri (Rome). I worked as a researcher with enthusiasm, but without any chance of making serious plans with my life, as the contracts I got were always very short.
Reading, writing papers or classifying ancient pottery in dusty and dark storerooms was my daily work before starting a new life, last may. I wasn’t commended as I wanted, and I also realized I needed around me more people than ancient books or amphoras because I still had a big and unexpressed communication skill.
A: How did you connect with Venice Urban Adventures and become one of their cicchetti tour guides? How long have you been working with them?.
F: At "the right moment" I met Cecilia Cambero, first as a friend. As supervisor of the UA Venice she gave me the chance to work as a Tour Leader, giving walking or boat tours with cicchetti and wine tasting.
I immediately felt very comfortable in this new work, for the positive attitude of the whole team (Elisabetta, Giovanna, Iole, Claire and Simona) and also because my new job was exactly the same I was always doing for my friends visiting me in Venice: walking in the hidden city, helping them to discover details, keywords, shortcuts and the authentic flavors displayed in the many wine bars of the city. Any better?
A: I've done this tour twice now, once in November, 2012 and again with you now, in September 2015. We made some similar stops at taverns and some new ones. Do you, as the local, choose the stops the tour makes and how/why do you pick the taverns that you visit?
F: As a local, on Friday or Saturday I usually meet my friends in front of the places I also go with on the tour.
My friends and I eat just a small appetizer (cicchetto) and drink some wine in each of several stops. Venice isn’t that big, so we can stay in the fish market area or reach other parts of the city with a short walk. Sometimes, of course, we have just a few stops and then we go to eat in a restaurant.
The secret to find the good places? Trust the old Venetians! A good wine bar has the wooden barrel at the entrance and the old men are sitting outside (also in the morning) with a glass of wine or spritz. You could hear them arguing, always in Venetian dialect..
This way of eating is really part of the city: this is not to get drunk, but to appreciate food and company and to talk with as many friends as possible.
Many are the reasons we prefer eating standing...such uncomfortable way: of course because in the wine bars we find a very rich variety of yummy food (cicchetti), but also because eating like this, in osterie and bàcari (wine bars), is less expensive than ordering food in a restaurant. Moreover, because Venice is a chatting city and we don’t care for the small spaces of the wine bars: we prefer to stand out in the streets, even in winter, with a glass of wine...this gives us the chance of meeting friends, or to make some new!! So, the thing that makes me happy about working for this tour is that the cicchetti and wine tour reflects exactly a typical Venetian enjoyment, and that there’s nothing touristy about this.
|Outside one of my favorites - Osteria Al Sacro e Profano|
Different from the authentic wine bars (which are always well hidden), the tourist places are usually in the easiest-to-find locations and show pics of the food you could order. Pics of food are something very helpful, of course, but a local would never eat in a place like that. So, when I see people eating in an impersonal pizza place, I feel a little sad for them...cause I think that when you're traveling food is part of the experience!
A. As a food and wine tour guide you could just talk about the food and wine but you are a brilliant historian and therefore you offer so much history about Venice to your tour. Did you study that in school or is it just knowledge that you have learned on your own?
F. Both! I've spent a lot of time studying and I was always very perceptive...so now I take advantage of different facts, my knowledge and sensitivity as a historian, the experience of life in this strange city, my passion for food and wine and, also for the history of the local food (good food is something I take very seriously!) Of course, every tour is different, depending also on the interests of the group - something I had to learn very quickly... but especially in Venice, a place so touristy and full of stereotypes, I think it's necessary to have someone offering great knowledge and advice...and to keep away from the most beaten paths.
|Daily menu at Osteria Al Sacro e Profano|
F. It is, but I try to do my best every time, even if I'm tired. One of my goals is to build a group and a good atmosphere, that is necessary to break the barriers between the people. Once I reach this target, I don’t feel the pain of the work. Working with Urban Adventures is not just a matter of giving information to tourists (as a common tour leader would do) but to give the people the best day of the trip. I totally agree with this kind of philosophy cause in my opinion traveling is not only a matter of visiting a place, but also of meeting people.
It’s clear that if I am happy to work, also the people will have fun with me, and if I am not mechanical in explaining I will get more fun and attention from the whole group. Obviously, sometimes is harder! Anyway, maybe because of my past life as a “bookworm”, now I feel lucky and I'm enthusiast about working with smiling tourists!
|Assortment of cicchetti.|
A. You meet so many people from all over the world. In our tour there were people from Australia, Canada and even Seattle, Washington here in the states and of course me and my travel partner Bud, from New York City. All were so friendly. What are some of the other parts of the world, people have come from to enjoy your tour?
F. As I give tours in English, in my groups there are mainly American, Canadian, and Australian but we also have tourists from England, Scotland, and North Europe. Also the Eastern countries are well represented. Moreover, the UA Venice team also give tours in German (Elisabetta) and French (Claire).
A. Are there any tours where something very unexpected happened? (Good or bad) Any funny circumstances?
F. The expertise I have in leading groups is still very short as I started in May. Maybe I was lucky cause I don’t have bad unexpected circumstances to remember.
|Talking with Francesca.|
Thank you again, Francesca for sharing your story with us. Obviously I can't recommend a tour with Francesca "highly" enough. It's especially great for first time travelers to Venice. It gives you a true feeling of what real Venice is all about.
I mentioned this in my previous post about the actual cicchetti tour we went on with Francesca but wanted to repeat it here, especially so I could share this with her.
As mentioned, some of the people on the tour with us were from Australia and several days later we were crossing a bridge on the other side of Venice, in the Dorsoduro area, and down below in a gondola there they were. We waved to each other and one of the women yelled up to us, "We'll meet you at the bar!"