In 1934, just three years after opening Harry’s Bar in Venice, Giuseppe Cipriani pursued another dream. He bought an unpretentious wine and oil shop on this little known island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoon and opened a small inn. Locanda Cipriani met with immediate success, recognized and appreciated for its warmly rustic character and it simple, soul-satisfying views.
Considered the oldest continuously populated region of Venice, with archeological finds suggesting its occupation by the Romans as early as the 1st century A.D., Torcello is a sparsely populated island today, with less than 100 residents. After the downfall of the Roman Empire, Torcello was the first island to be populated by those who fled the mainland to escape repeated barbarian invasions, soon becoming the most largely populated (10,000 people) island in the lagoon and one of the most important trading centers of the Venetian Republic. Torcello reached its peak around the 14th century, then began to decline as the island gradually became a malarial swamp, forcing its populace to abandon the island, leaving behind splendid palace and church architecture, much of which simply disappeared into the swamp or was pilfered for its building materials.
Two relics of this era remain and attract many visitors: the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the 12th century Church of Santa Fosca. The vividly painted Locanda Cipriani, both inn and restaurant, is a short walk from the ferry landing along a lovely bricked pathway that follows the curve of the main canal, flanked on either side by green fields. Immersed in a sumptuous garden, with a view of Torcello’s two churches and the bell tower, the inn was a favorite refuge for Ernest Hemingway in 1948, as he wrote parts of Across the River and Into the Trees. Giuseppe’s grandson, Bonifacio Brass, is the current owner and he adheres to the vision that his grandfather had for the Locanda, keeping its six rooms, simple yet elegant, a décor that reflects an ease of country style hospitality and warmth, a place where each guest is made to feel comfortably at home.
One need not stay the night to enjoy what the Locanda is best known for, and that is its restaurant, open for lunch and dinner. Tables spill out of the inn’s dining room to a sun-filled patio, enveloped in a garden of roses and pomegranates, lavender and climbing jasmine, trumpet vines and hydrangeas – a veritable haven. The food, the fish, the vegetables are local and intensely fresh. The recipes are creative, yet uncomplicated, and utterly divine. No wonder Hemingway stayed for months at a time, and visitors return year after year. I am so pleased that I have been their guest as well.
All images and reviews copyright 2015 by Ginda Simpson
Piazza Santa Fosca, 29, 30142 Torcello - Venezia, Italy
View from Locanda Cipriani ~ Original watercolor painting by Ginda Simpson