Category Archives: Beyond Venice

Even the most devoted Venezia-philes among us get out of town occasionally…

Judy shares the secrets of her Divina Cucina Toscana

2009recipebookcover.jpg Not an encyclopedia. Not a lush tabletop book oozing over-saturated color photography. No overwrought oratories reiterating the praises of bella toscana. My endlessly exuberant friend Judy Witts Francini’s new book of recipes – just recipes – is the result of living in Italy for not years, but decades, cooking non-stop, exploring the mercati and chatting up every customer and vendor who strikes her fancy, refining, perfecting, and ultimately passing along all her knowledge to students and travelers on both sides of the pond.

This cookbook is a pleasure to consult, from its charming design featuring watercolor cover illustrations to the hand-written text. It’s obviously been created to be used, too: measurements have been converted from the metric, and a lined page faces each recipe for taking your own notes, and there are options for enhancing or simplifying many of the almost 100 Tuscan dishes from antipasti to contorni. Judy’s intro, definitions, and recipes are straightforward and completely comprehensible — such as this tip offered decades ago by her mother-in-law: “Spend more time shopping and less time cooking” — making Secrets an ideal assistant for recreating the savory Tuscany of your travels in your own home.

Judy is a professional, but for me, what gives this book its credibility is that she has kept her Tuscan hubby’s tummy happy for over twenty-five years (see his “seal-of-approval” on the front cover). Unless you have had reason to hang out extensively with Italian men, you likely have little idea of what cucina means to them. If her marito was not happy with Judy’s cooking, he would either be cooking for her, or be eating elsewhere, period. If it’s good enough for him, it’s more than good enough for me.

Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen is €20 plus shipping. You can order your autographed copy from her website and obtain a wealth of other info on cooking, her classes and groups, recommendations for restaurants and markets across the region and more at Judy’s website,

Abruzzo Earthquake in L'Aquila: How to Help

My only connection to this terrible earthquake was an unexpected harbinger that came in the form of 20 seconds of tinkling glassware, several hours before the actual quake hit over 500 km south of Venice. It’s either a tremor, I thought, or I have a poltergeist. Unfortunately, it was the former.

In order not to reinvent the wheel, I’m instead linking to Sara Rosso’s blog, Ms. Adventures in Italy, who in her post has included a comprehensive list of links that offer ways to support the people of Abruzzo, L’Aquila and those assisting them.

Three-day sale, Air France to Europe for March departures


Just got a notice that Air France – KLM is having a brief sale to transatlantic European destinations, good for March departures. I’m a big Air France fan, free champagne & wine, French bread with meals, on-demand movies, and footrests.

The sale runs through the 26th of February and is good for travel to destinations throughout Europe. Pack a scarf and a windbreaker, and com’on over!


Living Venice Blog Broadens its Horizons

“Living Venice” is still the title of my blog. I’d like to announce, however, that Fulbright scholar Shawn Keener and I have officially established a cultural organization under the same name, dedicated to exploring, documenting, celebrating the authentic Venetian character and culture of yesterday and today.

Shawn and I believe that, for all that has been said and written about Venice, there remains an abundance of valuable stories to be told — above all, stories to be told by Venetians’ own words, rather than reported by its interpreters. Our mission is to create quality visual and aural documentary projects that bring the personal narratives of the lived experience of Venice and its lagoon to an international audience, through media works of lasting educational, cultural, and artistic value.

Our first project is the motion picture documentary, Voga alla Veneta: the Cradle of Venezianità. Beyond the image of the famous gondola, the voga is the element that unites today’s Venice with that of its origins. The documentary will explore the many facets of the rich culture that surrounds this unique rowing style born in the Venetian lagoon over 1000 years ago and made famous by the iconic gondolier. We are rowers ourselves, and have already done a great deal of research on the story of the voga: its origins, its integral role in the Venice throughout the city’s history, its near disappearance at the onset of the motorboat traffic, and its struggle, both physical and cultural, to survive today. The voga remains the only unbroken thread tying today’s Venice to that of its origins: ss Giovanni Giusto, president of the Coordinamento Associazione Remiere puts it, “as long as we row, true Venice lives.”



There are a number of additional projects under development, including a narrative film and written works. For more information, please see the new dedicated web site,

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Living Venice is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of Living Venice may be made payable to Fractured Atlas, and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.