Venice has a powerfully delicate charm, a strength that relies on flexibility. It adapts as it changes, though its beauty remains eternal. Within its alleys, a microcosm of resilient activities keeps it alive and soulful. Many of these are led by women.
The Serenissima has a century-old tradition in honouring and voicing women’s place in society, in the arts as much as in academia, in crafts as much as in professional roles – contracting, negotiating, managing assets and creating objects as much as meaning.
As today’s cultural life in Venice continues to be deeply influenced by the female gaze, we talked to a diverse group of veneziane – by birth or by choice – who share a sheer love for this one-of-a-kind city and are contributing to its flourishing. As prominent personalities in the sphere of visual arts, food, hospitality and activism, we collected their unique stories – of staying, of coming and going, of leaving and returning, of setting roots – as well as their inspirations and most-loved places in town and in the Lagoon.
Marie Yuki Méon - Food Designer at Manger Manger
Marie Yuki Méon founded Manger Manger, her food styling and design business, in 2017 to combine her penchant for the culinary arts and her background in architecture and interior design. Tokyo born, she studied and worked in Paris before discovering Venice 15 years ago. She now spends long periods of time in the lagoon, creating tailor made food narratives and experiences made of edible elements and installations that are a feast for the eyes and the palate alike.
She finds the slow pace of Venice especially inspiring. The zeroing of stopwatches, the distance from the tensions and rhythms of the big city: everything favours a deeper state of contemplation and self-exploration. “I am sensitive to the passing of time and to the power of memory. I love mixing the emotions that spur from remembrance and bring them back to the present.” In her work and life, these combine with the sensorial influences that Venice offers at every step: “I love colours and light and how they play as reflections on the water. I like the old patinas, faded hues, and the apparent frailty that exists alongside a powerful sense of elegance. Light has a taste and the air has a flavor. All this is deeply fascinating to me.”
Marie has always felt that there was a correspondence between the cuisine of Venice and that of her country of origin, Japan. The quest for the best ingredients, the strict seasonality, the freshness of seafood, the use of crustaceans and fish in their many variants, the preservation methods are all common elements. “It’s a cuisine of the inland but that’s heavily influenced by the proximity to the sea.” She says.
In the city, Marie loves sestriere Cannaragio, clinking wine glasses at La Sete and sharing Japanese-Venetian dishes at Osteria Giorgione. On a good day, a walk along the Zattere or a day at the beach at Alberoni are her preferred destinations.
When asked what she wishes for the future of Venice, she says: “May it be eternal and repopulated with people that here to preserve it.”
Sibylle Righetti - Manager and Project Coordinator at Edipo Re
Sibylle Righetti was born in Pordenone but has created a strong bond with Venice, first during her University years studying philosophy at Ca’ Foscari, and then as a documentarist – a passion and a profession that culminated at the Venice Film Festival in 2011 with the screening of her first full-length docufilm project on Italian rockstar Vasco Rossi. In Venice, Sibylle chose to establish her life and business at the helm of Edipo Re.
A historical boat previously owned by the painter Giuseppe Zigaina, who was known to host dreamy gatherings on board (guests included Pasolini and Callas, among others), Edipo Re was later acquired by Sibylle’s family. Today, it acts as a cultural, social and entrepreneurial reality based in the Venice’s Lagoon – founders are Sibylle and her business partner, Enrico Vianello – and it is engaged in the promotion and protection of its natural and historical heritage through forms of thoughtful tourism based on values such as sustainability, inclusion, territory, arts and culture.
Sibylle says of Edipo Re: “It has been my therapy, an intimate expression of freedom from social constrictions; a mean through which I can read other people’s dreams and let them become true. This, in turn, allowed me to find the true purpose of this project that is so deeply bound to Venice and the lagoon: to teach people to understand, love and protect the environment while diminishing consumerism that is so detrimental to this fragile ecosystem.” When not onboard of her beloved boat, where, she says, time seems to disappear, and where she can share meaningful experiences with guests while sailing across the lagoon, Sibylle loves spending time in the kitchen, cooking while surrounded by familiar sights, entranced in the joy of the moment.
Her much-loved Venetian places include Casa Andrich in Torcello, of which she says: “It will forever be home, it gives out a positive energy that allows me to connect with my inner self.” And then: “Poldo Bar in Campiello Convento in Murano. I go there with my family, eat a vintage style popsicle and feel far and disconnected from everything. Then, of course, Riva di Corinto in Lido during the Biennale as it comes to life with our festival, Isola Edipo: that’s when I feel the true presence of a community that goes far and beyond Venice. And finally, the island of Pellestrina. There’s a place there where I can clearly see a future, and it gives me the strength and the adrenaline that are bound to any new exciting challenges.”
Michela Bortolozzi - Founder of Eat & Run
Born in 1986, Michela Bortolozzi grew up in the Venetian lagoon. With a background in fine and visual arts, she left Venice after her studies to fulfill her penchant for traveling. She worked as a ceramist in Denmark, as a glass designer in Germany and in art galleries in Lisbon and South Africa and eventually landed in Marrakech, where she took part in a Master’s program on sustainable development that heavily influenced her vision and her work thereafter, particularly with regards to the connection between artisan products, materials and local cultures. Back in Venice, she began teaching sculpture and opened Eat & Run, a workshop based near Campo do Mori, in Cannaregio, where she creates iconic craft objects that create a dialogue between Venice’s artistic heritage and its oversized tourist model.
“Unfortunately, in cities like Venice, mass tourism has transformed the social tissue and most of the souvenir shops sell cheap objects made in far-away factories, so depriving souvenirs of their original meaning and impoverishing both the local culture and the exchange implied in the act of traveling.”
With Eat and Run (which includes products such as architectural earrings, lollipops. and Murano-Glass broches, among others), and most recently with her popular and iconic candle series, Re-Light, Michela wants to raise awareness on the frailty of Venice as well as sending a message of hope after years of hardship– first with the Acqua Granda of 2019, then with the pandemic. “With an act as simple as lighting a candle, my hope is to metaphorically give some much-deserved light back to Venice. I also hope to bring the attention back to places we sometimes take for granted and reflect on how we tend to consume them,” says Michela.
Her colourful candles, inspired by the flower-shaped windows and architecture of Palazzo Ducale and Ca’ D’oro, are made from recycled wax and moulds Michela creates herself, while the bases are made with leftover wood from gondola oarlocks. “I want to support small local businesses. In an ever more mass-marketed world, the importance of recovering a slower dimension and treasure our traditions and diversities is evident, particularly in a place like Venice.”
Allison Zurfluh - Artist
Born to a Swiss father in Hollywood, Allison grew up in California before moving to Switzerland aged 23, In her life, she’s been wearing many hats, working as a translator, magazine editor, author, as well as in communications, public relations and public speaking. Now living and working in Venice and particularly in the Northern Lagoon, she is evolving into the world of oil painting and watercolours as her main activity.
Allison discovered Venice while working as a translator for classical music. “At that time, I was invited to experience a culinary cruise aboard a bragozzo, navigating up into the far north. It was a foggy February day, and as I stood on the prow, I was mesmerised by the colours and textures of the Lagoon. They were exactly those painted on the walls of so many palazzi and fine halls of Venice. I felt at that moment that I had found a place I would never leave, that I could finally see what Venice was.”
Her vision deeply influenced by the light and waters of the Lagoon, and, in turn, their way of influencing human and natural relationships, Allison finds inspiration in Venice’s ability “to change and morph and evolve, while staying exactly the same; the proud way it has defended its freedom and strength over the centuries, its commitment to beauty and all things beautiful. Its delight in simple food, a simple lifestyle; the importance of one’s physical wellbeing, which they know influences one’s emotional and psychological health. It is this sense of an Old Italy that I long for and wish to live out.”
In her art, she is moved by the colours of the barena and mud flats, as well as their shapes and movements; the oddly fascinating juxtaposition of art and nature, the perfectly harmonious relationship of all that is elegant and all that is wild; fish, birds, fishing nets, fishermen fishing silently in shallow waters. “Just as there is a kind of savage naturalism about Venice that can be mirrored in its proud history and opulent palazzi, there is a distinct sense of refined elegance in the traditional fishing techniques of the north. From the sleek colours and dainty size of fish that inhabit the waters to the long and graceful row boats, the Lagoon is graceful in every way. Even in its course wildness is grace.”
She shares in the wish for a Venice repopulated with Venetians and adopted Venetians who love and want to live in Venice, to which she adds: “I wish Venice would help the opening of non-touristic businesses that can support a living population, under which a new generation of locally-owned shops would flourish. I also hope that the Lagoon of Venice – especially the North, which is still in our power to save – will be respected and protected at all costs for its unique beauty and environmental importance instead of being trampled on, stampeded against. As something delicate and fragile, it must be held and cradled – by holding the tourism industry accountable, cutting short-term rentals and, most importantly, limiting maritime traffic.”
Silvia Rozas - Chef, Birraia La Corte
Originally from Bilbao, Spain, Silvia Rozas has studied Gastronomy and Culinary Arts at the Basque Culinary Center, where she trained with the most celebrated chefs and culinary entrepreneurs, and interned at top-tier restaurants such as Noma and El Celler de Can Roca. Love led her to Venice as she fell in love with a Venetian, Marco Zambon, with whom she took over the kitchen of the historical Birraria La Corte in Campo San Polo.
It was a woman, Bruna, Marco’s grandmother, who opened Birraria La Corte in 1998. Fast-forward to the present, Silvia and a new generation of Zambon are revolutionising the food offering of the place while also staying true to Bruna’s vision as she, now 90, still visits La Corte daily to learn and share her insight on Venetian cooking.
“When I arrived in Venice, my first impression was that of a very profit-driven city – a place focused on fast tourism. Thankfully, I had the chance to change my mind as I interned with Chefs Chiara Pavan and Francesco Brutto at Venissa. Their research on the lagoon opened my eyes to a different Venice, to a vibrant community of like-minded, creative people doing great things for the future of Venice. I believe gastronomy has a key role in encouraging the honouring of regional traditions and sustainable living. We can also promote the use of good ingredients and support local producers by creating initiatives that will lead the local population to more ethical forms of consumption.”
Falling in love with and feeling protective of the floating city came easy to Silvia as she got acquainted with its more authentic aspects – the Venetian dialect, the local people, the food and traditions of the lagoon. “I discovered a charming place – art-rich and inspiring, multicultural, livable and familiar – that steals my heart and makes me feel at home day by day.”
When not in the kitchen, Silvia loves doing voga – Venice’s traditional rowing style – and boating through the lagoon and the baren, to Pellestrina or to Torcello, to eat fish, or to Sant’Erasmo or Vignole to explore the gardens and orchards, as these will also be the produce she’ll use in her kitchen at La Corte. “Venice is a journey through the senses and each corner of it is entirely unique.”
Marta Meo - Founder and Chef at SARDEA
Marta Meo has been working as an architect for years before shifting to cooking, her true passion. She founded Sardea as a way to reset her life and start over with a new professional project. “Sardea in Venetian means sardine. It’s the humblest of fishes. You can’t farm it. Yet, it’s possibly the most healthful I wanted to start from here, from the simplest of things – the truest and nearest to me.”
With Sardea, which she runs with the help of Beatrice Marca (a native of Brescia, a background in art history and a sheer desire to make Venice her home), Marta offers a variety of services, from private dinners to small events, and from cooking lessons (most recently with Mimi Thorisson at Casa Flora) to food-centered research projects for cultural institutions. She describes her cooking style as simple and people-centred as it requires time and care and a desire to share and be together.
Marta believes in the contemporary spirit of Venetian food and in its ability to combine elements that appear to be very far from each other – from local to exotic ingredients, and from opulence to frugality. “Venetian cooking has a syntax whose rules haven’t been fully coded yet, so it affords an extraordinary freedom in declining ingredients as much as old and new traditions. Venetians have always travelled, so it’s only natural that our culinary heritage is solidly planted in local traditions but loves and affords small incursions from new, far-flung flavours. That’s what we also like to do at Sardea.”
And when thinking about her native city, she reflects: “There’s always a reason to get mad at Venice, but you’ll eventually fall back in love with it. You’ll choose it again and again. Or perhaps she chooses you. I was born here and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s at once a small town, an international city and a natural park. There’s just no place like it.” Among the many things that make her fall in love with her city every day, she mentions the colour of the lagoon at a specific time of the day, the salt in the air that welcomes you as you return after a leaving for a few days, the flat surface of the Grand Canal at night, and her fisherman, offering her a raw shrimp even if it’s just 9 in the morning, just because he knows she loves them.
“I just wish for this extraordinary city to make room for normal lives. For workers and families and youth and artisans. It just needs to find the guts to invert the process and keep its people here.”
Benedetta Fullin - CoFounder and Restaurant Manager, LOCAL
“I love Venice. It’s the city where I was born and raised, it’s my home. Lucky for me, it’s the most beautiful home in the world.”
Benedetta Fullin didn’t spend her entire life in Venice, however. She studied in Milan and then moved to London to work in luxury restaurants and hotels and refine her craft as a hospitality expert. Both experiences, she said, gave her a new perspective on her own native city and eventually made her appreciate it more. And so, she returned. Her family has for long been in the hospitality business. Her grandmother opened the iconic Pensione Wildner– a small hotel with a restaurant and the most stunning of views – in Riva degi Schiavoni in the Sixties. Her mum has been a Slow Food Convivium Leader for years, passing her awareness and knowledge of local, sustainable products down to Benedetta.
Following these lessons – she mentions her mum and grandmother as her role models – Benedetta decided to open her own place, Local, a refined restaurant set in the heart of the Castello district, in 2015. The vision was as simple as it was revolutionary: local products, Venetian food traditions, innovation and internationality, all combined with a warm, family-like atmosphere – just like her grandmother used to do. And in time, all the hard work paid off as in 2021 Local was awarded its first Michelin Star for its role in elevating the food offering of the city. In her work, Benedetta says that she is inspired by “the unique setting of Venice and the lagoon and its richness of ingredients and flavours, which here are enhanced by the saline soil – like the violet artichokes from Sant’Erasmo and the Dorona from Mazzorbo.”
“Equally, as a Venetian, I am regenerated and inspired by travel. My trips always revert around food and my wish to try this or that restaurant or taste this or that ingredient. I can’t wait to be able to travel freely again, and to far-away places. This said, Venice is a place that never fails to surprise me and that I’m never done exploring. I love boating around the lagoon with my barchetta, be at one with nature, share a merenda with the veci of the Northen islands, visit San Francesco del Deserto and immerse myself in that mystical silence…I wish I had more time to do all this!”
Camilla Glorioso - Photographer
Born in Padova, Camilla Glorioso studied Visual Arts and Theatre at IUAV and Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion. After a period as a photo agent, she started working as a freelance creative producer for advertising, fashion brands and publications, while focusing her photographic research on long terms documentary series. She moved to Venice in 2020 and now works as a photographer, focusing primarily on the connection people share with unexpected items, be it garments, work tools or everyday objects.
“My relationship with Venice is one of stubborn love, brewed slowly over the years. Commuting from Padova during my BA, it remained ideal but undoable during my time in London. Moving to the island was a big leap of faith to try and make my freelancing work. I ended up in town during the first lockdown in 2020 with the perk of it being so quiet. And even if 2020 was tremendously slow work-wise, it was fundamental to think and visualise the potential of this city once mass tourism was out of the equation. Fast-forward to today, I find myself elbowing masses of people, sighing over the lack of perspective and inputs for residents my age, but at the same time meeting more and more kindred souls planning and plotting to activate, subvert, revitalise daily life here, which makes me excited and hopeful for the city’s future. It requires a high degree of stubbornness – as carrying my equipment up and down countless bridges when going on assignment isn’t always a piece of cake – but it’s home now, and it’s all worth it.”
As a creative, Camilla says that Venice allows her to access two realities that hardly co-exist elsewhere: an international platform for worldwide clients with people coming from all over the world, and the size and relaxed pace of a small Italian city. Living in Venice also changed her photographic perspective on the city. “Coming here from abroad, I would be interested in tourists, with tourism in Italy being one of the main themes of my street photography work. Now my attention has naturally shifted to the everyday. There is a certain, stereotypical look people expect Venice to have, but then all the mundanity of everyday life gets lost, while this is exactly what I seek. Also, having studied fashion photography, I love the sociological and anthropological aspect of fashion on the streets. I find Venice very peculiar in this sense. I often find myself observing the amazing clash between old Venetian ladies with brooches, matching cardigans and shopping carts, and twenty-somethings art students storming the calli with catwalk attitude as if a soundtrack was there for them to walk it.”
Camilla finds inspiration in nature as well, as she mentions one of her favourite things about Venice is the lagoon on a clear winter morning as the fog starts to lift and the sun to show, “but everything is still slightly desaturated and milky”.
“I am lucky enough to have built an incredible network of young women I admire – like the founders of MAY Venice, artist Sophie Westerlind, and goldsmith Giulia Vecchiato of Suri Jewelry – all working tirelessly on their own projects here in the lagoon while taking them far out, contributing to a fundamental creative bridge between the city and many different parts of the world, bringing new people in, taking us all out. My hope at this stage is for young people to have a reason to come here and for us, the ones who came back or stayed, to be able to create the solid grounds for this to happen and for the Lagoon to thrive.”
Alice Ongaro Sartori - PHD Candidate, CoCurator of MICROCLIMA
Alice Ongaro Sartori loves to wear many hats. A PhD candidate in Art History, she has been running the public agenda of the association Ocean Space in Venice, for which she also hosts a podcast (Nowtilus. Storie da una laguna urbana del 21esimo secolo) on the complex relationship between the city and the lagoon. She is also co-curator of MICROCLIMA, an independent project focusing on culture, ecology and the public sphere, now hosted at the Serra dei Giardini in the Castello district.
“One of the main things I’ve learnt about Venice is that its cultural and natural heritage are juxtaposed. It’s an extraordinary fellowship that I’ve witnessed here like in no other place. Venice has this strong, roaring façade, but the truth is that our lagoon is as extraordinary as it is fragile. The effects of each and every human action towards the environment is very amplified here.”
In her work, Alice is strongly inspired by Venice’s artistic and literary world, citing masters from the past as much as artists from the contemporary scene, and women poets and librarians amongst her influences. In her list of favourites: Vittore Carpaccio “for his ability to combine the urban observation with poetic and fantastic elements” and Gabriele Bella, who better than others depicted the festive life and mores of the Serenissima during its last century. But also, Luigi Divari, painter and author of many books on the lagoon and with whom she curated an exhibit for MICROCLIMA in 2019. And finally, the many collectives that create inclusive, creative atmospheres and independent projects. Like ABOUT, who organise concerts, markets and social lunches; the collective garden of AWAI; or the exhibits at Casa Punta Croce. Within the literary sphere, she mentions a Venetian poet from the 1500s, Moderata Fonte, whose book, Women’s Merit, is a brilliant example of literary proto-feminism; and, moving on to today’s scene, Sabrina Rizzardini of bookshop Marco Polo; and Cristina Giussani of Libreria Mare di Carta for her selection of books on the sea and the lagoon.
In her final reflection on the city, Alice says: “Venice as a collective utopia. It’s a city that inspires people – including myself – to think in utopic terms and to believe in the possibility of realising these utopia through powerful, positive synergies. In Venice 2nd Document, philosopher Maurizio Cacciari calls Venice “city of the mind”. Previously, architect Le Corbusier named it “city of the future”. Following their lead, I hope it will also become a “city of action”, so that this utopian dream of a city where people live sustainably can actually become a reality. I hope that it’ll protect and preserve itself while also becoming a communal network of creativity, work and ideas.”
Elena and Margherita Micheluzzi - Founders of Micheluzzi Glass
Born into a family of Murano glass masters, Elena and Margherita Micheluzzi founded their brand, Micheluzzi Glass, to carry on with the family tradition and their muranese heritage by creating a very personal line of vases and glasses. Their entire collection is made in Murano and all pieces are blown, shaped and finished by hand combining traditional techniques with a modern, intimate vision. Each creation is unique in colour, shape, size and surface, and each gives way to a different sensorial perception of the glass.
Elena and Margherita returned to their native Venice after a series of experiences abroad. Elena studied philosophy in Venice and art at the Sorbonne in Paris before moving to Milan and then London, where she worked in contemporary art galleries. Margherita trained in fashion and communications and worked in sales and retail for a variety of prominent fashion brands in Milan and London. Their combined backgrounds came together as they created Micheluzzi Glass, becoming a true asset in the launch of their business upon returning to Venice.
“Venice is a fascinating place, always suspended between past and future, an island with an international feel. Its uniqueness, we believe, stands from its strong connection with its surrounding landscape and its ability to propel itself into the world out there. Our job wouldn’t be possible elsewhere. Not only are we lucky enough to be living in this special part of the world, we also get to work in Murano, where glass was brought to an art. We get to witness the best craftsmen at work. Stepping into this world of timeless techniques – a world that seems to be frozen in time and that has been passing down this sublime art for centuries is an extraordinary, emotional experience, no matter how many times we live it.”
For their lines, they find inspiration in art and old glass objects as much as in the natural wonders, colours and reflections of the lagoon. “We want to create glass objects that are precious but also domestic and functional, just like we were used to have around the house growing up.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, when asked what their most-loved place in Venice is, the answer is their boat. “On a boat, you have the chance to see the city from a different perspective. The real “streets” of Venice are its canals; the city is designed to be toured by boat.” San Giorgio and Giudecca are favourite destinations, alongside the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. “We’ve always loved this place. It communicates a strong sense of belonging while also being different from all the other museums in town. We now love the work of Karole Vail as the new director. She is the grandchild of Peggy Guggenheim and is doing an excellent job in directing the museum.”
Now that they have settled back in town, their shared wish is for more young Venetians to stay or come back. “Venice needs new energies, new voices that can valorise its history and its heritage and adapt them to the modern world. At times, it may look as if it’s on the verge of sinking, but don’t be fooled: Venice has the ability to reinvent itself. It will always come back.”