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  • Writer's pictureStefania Gioia

A Vineyard in Venice

Walking through a vineyard may seem the least expected in Venice. Yet, on Sant'Erasmo island, home to the violet artichoke and considered for centuries the garden of Venice, it is possible. In this small nature paradise, almost 15 years ago, French wine lover Michel Thoulouze bought a piece of land and converted it in a grapevine. Last summer we visited this amazing place: here's a short story about it.

Our water route twists and turns through the sand banks toward Northeast, signed by the bricole, wooden poles used by sailors to follow the course. As we sailed from Fondamenta Nuove and just gone past Murano island, from the bow of the boat we can spot San Francesco del Deserto, Burano and Mazzorbo islands. We're headed to Sant’Erasmo, the biggest island after Venice, otherwise known as “the Serenissima's garden”, because of its fields planted with a variety of vegetables, vineyards and fruit trees. While we dock at Sant’Erasmo-Capannone, sun is still high and cicadas are loudly singing. Lazzaretto Nuovo island, mysterious and half hidden by natural, intricate vegetation, is just in front of us. We planned to rent a bicycle and circumnavigate the island.

Beyond Torre Massimiliana, a fort built in 1848 - now restored venue for various cultural events - we came across the property of a beekeeper: he produces types of honey from the fertile sand banks' Limonium Vulgare flowers, and from the Violet Artichoke flowers the island is famous for.

Following a path that meanders through vineyards and fruit trees we spot some greenhouses, sign of a strong farming culture. We won't visit them at this time, nor the Bacan beach, a tiny sand stripe on the Northeast coast: we’ll keep biking, instead, as we arranged a wine tasting at Michel Thoulouze's Orto di Venezia winery.

Thoulouze, a french man passionate about wine and fond of Venetian lagoon, in 2005 bought a piece of land on Sant’Erasmo and realized the soil was fertile, mineral, filled with copper and sediments brought by rivers from the Dolomites to the Adriatic Sea.

Thinking the land's features would allow him to grow a vineyard - yet having no experience whatsoever - he asked some Bourgogne wine makers for advice. Initially considered crazy, Michel was helped by an agronomist who taught him how to fertilize the soil without destroying its delicate, biological balance: in other words, without ploughing. In twenty-four month work, the soil was ready to grow the graft between Malvasia Istriana, typical from Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Vermentino, which needs salty air to mature. Where a grape grows with minimal impact, no weedkillers or pesticides, "the wine is made by earth, not by man", exactly as it should be, according to Michel.

Some of the bottled wine is aged under the lagoon water and, after a year, comes up soaked with weeds and small sea snails: produced in a limited number, these bottles are reserved for a niche of curious valuators.

Close to the end of our exciting adventure, we finally sit on Michel's charming terrace, sipping his delicious wine and enjoying the stunning lagoon horizon.

While the sky changes its colors and the sun slowly pours down the cloud banks, we appreciate the peace of this place, far from the popular Piazza San Marco and the crowded Ponte di Rialto, reachable in just an hour boat from the airport, so magically untouched that it just looks unreal.

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