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Rowing boats during Vogalonga race 2019 in Venice

Venice going nuts with Vogalonga

June 14th, 2019 | Landgänge

Venice is almost like coming home. I was here already so often to go aboard with my dearest captain. This time he picked me up on a Sunday morning in June on the shuttle bus from Treviso airport, and took me almost immediately in a “quiet, idyllic restaurant right on the canal with food as at home in a Venetian family.” The food was indeed as promised. The atmosphere… quite different…

Venice going nuts with Vogalonga

Reason was the Vogalonga, a 30-kilometer rowing regatta, which has its starting and finishing point at St. Mark’s Square. The ship’s agent mentioned it in a subordinate clause, but we had no idea what to expect.

At 28° C the beautiful old lady Venezia groaned under the heat and the tourist crowds. The way to the Trattoria da’a Marisa was exhausting. My dearest captain was even faster than usual to avoid the hustle and bustle: “At the Marisa in Cannaregio quarter, everything will be very different – quiet and cozy, you will see.” I saw nothing first – for all people. But then: boats, where the eye looked. An incredible number of boats: kayaks, canoes, gondolas, rowing boats, dragon boats, stand-up paddlers – as far as the eye could see.

The canals were lined with people, the restaurants and trattorias right on the regatta course were down to the last seat. Now we realized why the Italian officer on board had needed several stubborn attempts and genuine Italian persuasion on the phone to reserve a table for two.

In the Trattoria da’a Marisa all the furniture had been brought outside. Nobody wants to sit inside during the Vogalonga! I was in doubt, because really every place seemed occupied, but in front, right on the water, was actually still a small table for two people. Yes, that indeed was ours! What a box seat! And the spectacle on the water had just begun.

The rowing regatta Vogalonga, which means something like “long rudder”, has been around for 44 years. The regatta starts at St. Mark’s Square, leads across the Canale Grande via Burano and Murano back to Venice. In 2019, as we later learned, about 6,000 participants took part in nearly 1,500 boats. It was a crazy spectacle, we were sitting right in front of the bridge “Tre Archi”, the bottleneck where all boats had to pass two small and one large bridge arch. The crews of two fire boats, armed with boat hooks and whistles, and several swimmers with helmets tried to bring order into the paddle-chaos. As I said, a crazy spectacle.

A conversation was hardly possible, especially since our table neighbors was a very (!) lively and happy group of seven Venetians. In fact, all tables were occupied by locals. For the day of Vogalonga the restaurants are booked out for months, they told us. All the more we appreciated our table “fought” by the Italian officer and that was probably the reason why we were adopted by our table neighbors at the end of the extensive excellent lunch with a handshake.

The food at the Trattoria da’a Marisa was excellent. They serve exclusively fish. There is no menu, all guests get the same four courses for a fixed price of 40 Euros, including wine, water and coffee. And of course the menu, as it is for Italy, consists of an appetizer (antipasti), a first course (primo), a second course (segundo) and a dessert (dolce).

Sarde en Saor (sweet-pickled sardines with onions, raisins and pine nuts), baccalà mantecato (fine stockfish cream on crusty bread), gratinated mussels, raw marinated fish, pulpo in umido (mini-octopus in tomato sauce), polenta… all that reads like the whole menu. But no, that was just the antipasti. We continued with a delicious fish and shrimp lasagna. The culmination of the meal was a large plate of “frittura mista” with deep-fried sole, tender squid rings and shrimp. A fine mascarpone cream was the sweet end of this wonderful Sunday lunch like “La Mamma” at home would cook it.

There are dinners or lunches that are remembered for a lifetime. That in the Trattoria da’a Marisa will certainly belong to it. Not because of the announced “cozy meal for two”, but certainly because of the good food and the stunning spectacle on the water. Vogalonga… you have to have seen it!

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