Hanging With The Cool Kids In Venice


Walking down the streets of Venice can be difficult at the best of times. Regular tourists, cruise ship passengers, vendors, beggars, school children, delivery men with hand carts piled twice their height all jostling for space on these crowded streets all seem to part way for the guy leading our pack. A cross between a WWF wrestler and ‘The Dude’, he clears a path not only with a loud “Ciao” and the occasional clasped hand but also his purposeful walk and intense stare. Following behind in her tattoo sleeves and Magenta hair is the better half of the dynamic duo, making sure the group sticks together, has time to take photos, pointing out occasional architectural oddities, making sure nobody is hitting the wine bottle too heavily. They are the masterminds behind Venice Bites Food Tours and if they are taking you on their #1 ranked food Tour in Venice, Italy, they are also your new best friends. 

Why am I writing about Adam and Maya Stonecastle when I’m in one of the most beautiful cities in the world? Because Adam and Maya are Venitians of the Heart. In the city of Love and Dreams, they are lovers and dreamers, both for themselves and for their city. Five years ago when they met online, Adam had a final line to his profile “I want to live in Europe.” Maya’s was much more specific “I want to live in Venice”. How many people put those sorts of comments in their profiles and then never move out of MiddleAmerica City, USA? However, these statements were deal breakers. After a quick trip when Maya introduced Venice to Adam (she has been coming to Venice for 20mmpmmm years), they returned for a month to see if this was possible – that two Americans (Maya does have Irish dual citizenship) could be accepted in this tight Italian, even more exclusive – Venetian, community. The resounding answer from all the locals they talked to was “YES!” 

The Venetians are excited to have people who are so enchanted and enamored with their city that they will drop everything and move there to be a part of it. Venice has a resident problem. The city loses 1500 people a year, the old and the young. One of the problems is that with it being such a huge tourist destination, it’s more lucrative to rent rooms on Air B&B per week than to residents on a lease for a month. Check out the 1000s of listings on Air B&B. Despite that challenge and still having two homes back in the states, Adam and Maya set a goal of moving to Venice in 8 months. Not just with some luggage. Oh no, they doubled down. They brought dogs. They shipped furniture. They ended careers. Just days before leaving they signed a lease, sight unseen, of their new apartment in Venice. With that, they’ve never looked back. 

Two and a half years and they are going strong. After a slow start, where they may have been second guessing their life choices, they finally accepted that they had a great product, that they were an amazing experience and started allowing reviews on sites like Trip Advisor. Things took off from there.  They now live a dream life in the City of Love, the envy of Expats everywhere. They are my new heroes and friends and if you are ever in Venice, take one of their tours your first day, so they can coach you on the finer points of the city they love. I took their tour and I’ve included  my review from Trip Advisor below. 

Venice Bites Food Tours

www.venicebitesfoodtours.com

818-303-9175


Trip Advisor Review

Where ever you go on this tour, you will see that all the locals know and treasure Maya and Adam. It’s the rare street you walk down without hearing “Ciao Adam!” or see a quick embrace with the kiss on each cheek for Maya. Your two tour guides are Venitians of the Heart, Americans still on their honeymoon with the city of their dreams – Venice. As such they take nothing for granted, showering you with beautiful views and local lore alike.


This is not a quick in and out, tagging only the biggest and most convenient. We visited 9 locations eating and drinking our way over two miles of the city in establishments stilled owned by families who have run these businesses for generations and continue to do so in a city being engulfed by corporate Disneyfication. A block a half from where you meet, you start off with “Coffee Corrected” with Grappa and a sweet Coronet, Italy’s answer to the Croissant. With this, and at every location, comes lessons in etiquette and cultural behavior which will serve you well at any of the establishments you visit during your stay. How to approach ordering, how to not get cursed out from the nonna’s for a lack of respect. A variety of establishments follow with an assortment of Venice’s little bites which define the drinking and eating community here. Most places have a variety of choices so even if you have allergies or foods you avoid, there is always something pleasing to the palate. All sourced local. All produced locally. A large sit down lunch which fortunately our group loved seafood because we had a phenomenal pasta with all the luxuries of the sea piled on top. Two dessert places – gelato (which locals consider more like a coffee break) and a pastry place. A final perfect people watching cafe on the grand canal with a “spritz” and a gorgeous view. 


Sure there are more generic, corporate tours that will hustle you in and out as a huge herd. Take this tour if you want to intimately have this city lovingly interpreted by two passionate Americans who have entwined their lives with the most romantic of cities.


Pretty Little Pictures of Firenze, Italia

Originally, this year’s European trip was supposed to be slow travel. I started off planning 12 countries over 8 months and was thinking it would be a leisurely slow roll through some of the most historic and majestic cities in the world.

Fast forward to me hustling along cobblestone streets with a 40 lbs back pack (yes dedicated readers, I got rid of 5 lbs of extra clothes this week) and a 15 lbs man purse slapping my leg and my hip while the strap somehow keeps unbuttoning my shirt. Hustle hustle hustle. 3 and a half days in a city isn’t enough time to soak, it’s hardly enough time to dip. It’s been a week and I am a little exhausted. Culture shock? Marathon? An added 25-30 miles of walking in a week?

As I said, three days in Florence is not enough time to enjoy one of the great cities of the world. A World Preservation site, every church, square, building, cornice, brick has a story that could be turned into a six part epic mini series. It is also the ideal tourist city. It feels like the landmarks are laid out like the smorgasbord you find at the city bars during Appertiva, the most amazing foodie Happy Hour on the planet. You buy one drink and a amazing array of food designed to get you to order another glass is yours, laid out like cities conquered by the Romans.


The photo at the top of the page was taken at Piazzale Michelangelo. You cannot take a bad picture from this scenic hill overlooking the entire old city. Point the camera in any direction, click, automatic living room material.  As you follow the street down the mountain, maybe not every street leads to redemption but most lead to churches and many lead to the Duomo. Any street with the dome centered in the center will probably win you that local photography contest. 

A note about the people, I thought the style was all in Milan, but is it possible to get tired of looking at beautiful people? Even though midday reached mid 70s, everybody dressed for the mornings low 50s which means they dressed for winter.  Ladies wearing full length wool coats or fur lined attic parkas. The men however wear 5 stylish layers – shirt, vest, sweater, suit coat, over coat. Commitment to style. Barbers were on every streets and very affordable. 

Don’t be surprised to be ignored in Florence. Despite Italians well earned reputation for hospitality, if they don’t know you, you are nothing. This means you need to be aggressive ordering at a counter or getting on a train. If you pause you lose, because I believe they truly don’t see you. No matter how you are dressed they have spotted you as a tourist from a mile away.