VENICE: Enrico Rossetti who was born and lives in Burano, Venice, has become a bit of a symbol of Venice’s difficult few months. His photo, taken in front of Venissa, the restaurant he worked in, during the high tides went viral.
Now, because of the COVID-19 crisis and Venissa closed, Enrico has started working in the vineyard of the winery that owns the restaurant.
The vineyard is home to one of the unique grapes of the region, the Dorona of Venice which is used to make the Venissa wine.
Enrico worked at Venissa since 2019 and the company gave him an indefinite contract. But with tourism coming to a complete halt, Enrico has been working in the winery in the winery instead. “I cannot complain. I am working in the ‘countryside’, in the tranquility of the lagoon and being in the contact with nature is something I really enjoy,” he said.
But it is not only Enrico’s job that has been saved. The walled vineyard of Venissa was also saved from the November high tides that threatened to destroy the vineyards of Venissa.
As the water rose, the vineyards were flooded with sea water. For months, the owners and staff at the winery hoped that the damage would not be irreversible. A few weeks ago, the first buds emerged which is an indication that the vines have survived the salt water that drowned them in November.
The winery in Venice has been facing difficult times as the floods were soon followed by COVID-19 which brought a halt to everything forcing the closure of the restaurants and wine resort, a small haven in the touristic chaos of Venice.
“It is incredible that nature manages to adapt. The water from the high tide has an amount of salt that theoretically should put the vineyards at risk but the Dorona di Venezia has adapted to centuries of high tides and was saved once again from destruction,” Matteo Bisol, the director of the winery said.
Venetians are living a surreal situation. Dolphins and other fish have been sighted in the crystal clear water that is normally polluted with tourism activity. And one of the only remaining activities in the city is agriculture which is much less known by tourists.
Bisol says the crisis has created a huge opportunity to rethink tourism in Venice for the coming years. Venissa is already protected from the mass tourism that Venice is known for. The islands of the lagoon are coves for people looking for isolation away from the crowds even if it is for just a few days of relaxation. “This situation can be turned into an opportunity. Tourism, if it is the right one, can enable us to keep the traditions of Venice alive, like artisans and agriculture for example.”
He said Venissa was an example. “We have recovered an autochthonous grape variety and we bring people to discover the true lagoon with fishermen who supply our restaurant with fish. People have responded well so far because we are all looking for something new. We need to understand that the small canals of Venice are not designed to cater for mass tourism. We need to make a choice and we have an opportunity to restart with a virtuous model,” he said.
A new wine
The company has also launched a new wine. Venissa have presented Dorona Venusa 2017, a white wine that is made from the same vineyards where the Venissa is made. Venusa is made from the second selection of the Dorona di Venissa grapes and is fresh and mineral.
The creation in the cellar is however different to the Venissa. The Dorona is macerated for just a few days instead of weeks and is then left to rest in cement for two years compared to four for the Venissa.
Apart from the winery, Venissa also has two restaurants inside the vineyard that are enclosed in the medieval walls of the island of Mazzorbo. Venissa Restaurant and Osteria Contemporanea are led by Chiara Pavan with Francesco Brutto.
The winery also has rooms allowing guests to stay in the tranquility of the islands of Venice, away from the normal crowds of Piazza San Marco.