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Bespoke cruising and fine dining beyond Venice

Discovering the spectacular beauty of the Venetian lagoon on exclusive gourmet cruises.

Visiting Venice is a highlight of any Italian holiday, but there is more to the city than St. Mark’s Square, the Bridge of Sighs and a ride in a gondola. Many visitors add on a day-trip to the islands of Murano or Burano, the first famous for its glassmaking and the second for its lacemaking traditions. But there is still more waiting to be enjoyed on the lagoon and its 118 islands. One exclusive way to discover them is to cruise on Eolo, a traditional Venetian fishing boat. The 17-metre Eolo has been refurbished by its owner Mauro Stoppa, who delights passengers with his bespoke cruises and gourmet dining that features many of the lagoon’s traditional recipes and local delicacies.

“We can take up to ten people for cruises that typically last from three to eight days. I like to plan the itineraries according to what guests want from the lagoon. They may be interested in art or history, or maybe they just want to relax and enjoy nature. So each of our cruises is different, and of course our routes can also change according to the tides and the winds,” says Mauro.

Days on Eolo are spent visiting some of Venice’s most popular islands and other lesser-known ones, discovering the lagoon’s hidden waterways and secret corners and sitting down to enjoy Mauro’s culinary creations. In the evenings Eolo docks next to boutique hotels, inns and elegant villas where guests spend the night and can dine in local restaurants.

Eolo’s classical tours include the 8-day From the Hills to the Lagoon starting in the Euganean Hills close to Padua to explore castles and historical towns, with nights in heritage villas and grand hotels. Venice and the Lagoon brings guests to the Brenta Canal to admire Andrea Palladio’s beautiful villas, and the 6-day Cooking Cruise stops to buy fish in the market in the town of Chioggia, which is a mini-Venice.

The 3-day Magical Lagoon cruises stop at the island of Burano, famous for its brightly coloured houses, at Torcello to visit the Basilica with its stunning Byzantine mosaics, and at Sant’Erasmo which is known as the vegetable garden of Venice. On this itinerary guests stay in Casa Burano, a charming design hotel with contemporary rooms and suites in five smartly renovated traditional fishermen’s houses. They also overnight not far from the Adriatic resort town of Jesolo, at the La Locanda alle Porte, an inn that opened in 1632 and has six comfortable bedrooms, alfresco dining in summer and roaring fires in winter.

Eolo can also cater to larger groups with the eight-hour Pearls of the Lagoon cruises that sail in the mornings or in the late afternoons and can take up to 30 guests. “These day and evening cruises are particularly popular with incentive and corporate parties. We sail alongside another historic boat, and we drop anchor together so that we can comfortably accommodate all our guests on deck for lunch or dinner.”

Dining on Eolo is one of the key moments of any cruise, and in the cooler months  guests sit at the long table on the boat’s covered lower deck, where they are able to watch Mauro and his crew work their culinary magic in the tiny galley. The menus are always a surprise as Mauro uses only seasonal local produce, which can go from the lagoon’s famous moeche soft-shell crabs to sea bass from the nearby Adriatic Sea and from vegetables grown on the islands to meats sourced locally.

Being Italy, there is never any shortage of fine wines on board, many produced in the Veneto region like Orto, the grapes for which are grown on the island of Sant’Erasmo, with the bottles left to mature for months under the waters of the lagoon.



Photos by Paolo Spigariol.


Contributing Editor - Luxury Travel Advisor, TTG Italia, Emotions Magazine, Resorts Magazine, | + Posts

Pamela McCourt Francescone was born in Dublin and educated in Ireland, Holland, Switzerland and London. She left her career in Irish Television when she moved to Italy where she worked for Rome’s American newspapers before moving into travel writing. She specializes in destinations, luxury travel, air transport, MICE, art, culture and food for prestigious Italian and international publications. A passionate traveller, she has visited 103 countries and she loves airports - “They are a fantastic place for observing human nature,” Asian food, Italian opera, art, books and photography. After Ireland and Italy she considers Myanmar her third home.