I walked the path that leads to Museo Casa Andrich until I arrived in front of a huge iron gate. I sent Paolo a text message to let him know I was there, and he soon greeted me followed by his enormous and very friendly black dog Ethos. The moment I entered I understood I was in a sort of eden: 11.000 square metres of garden with breathtaking view over the lagoon.
Paolo inherited the house from his uncle Lucio, eclectic Venetian artist that used to live there with his wife Clementina and left a very rich collection of artworks that include silks, sculptures, engravings, tapestries, paintings and more. Before going inside, he showed me the view of Palude della Rosa, one of the most beautiful areas in the lagoon, from which you can see the Dolomites. While he was trying to describe me how the lagoon formed geologically, the process of erosion of the stones and the origin of Nuova Altino (how Torcello was initially called), I got distracted by the plants of limonium (from which the bees of the lagoon take pollen to make honey) and samphire, so he picked some and gave it to me to taste. Delicious, salty, soft and crisp, perfect added raw to a salad or to a frittata.
The patio to the villa has a row of white deckchairs and a telescope for observing the sky. The villa, then, is just incredible. I was feeling quite envious. At the front, an outdoor dining area with a stone door that leads to nowhere, a chandelier, a marble-top table, colourful glass sculptures and other only apparently random objects. He invited me to take a seat and prepared a petit dejeunaire that made my day. The ceramic cup and saucer, the vintage teaspoon, the linen napkin, I just couldn't help notice how every detail was so sought-after. I was brought a luxurious cappuccino and three slices of toasted homemade bread to top with his quince jam. Wow, I was in heaven. He also offered a taste of balsamic apple vinegar, sweet and astringent at the same time. The vinegar is made with the variety of apples called Pom Prussian, red with yellow stripes, and produced at the Acetaia Reggianini in the province of Modena, it has a curious taste and can be used in both savoury and sweet preparations. I thought the packaging too was lovely: a bright red box with the reproduction of one of Lucio's works.
I was curious to know how it feels to live on an island that currently counts 9 residents and has no bakery or supermarket and he replied he loves it. If he doesn't make his own bread, he goes to Burano, which is only one boat stop away, and obviously he has his own boat, so he can easily go everywhere. He's also very good friend's with a moecante (fisherman specialised in soft shelled crabs) called Domenico Rossi, so fresh fish happens to be on his menu often and sometimes he organises special fish lunches or dinners. Together with Domenico, they do what is called 'pesca turismo', so they bring individuals or very very small groups around the lagoon to fish and then prepare the catch of the day in his stunning garden, grilled or fried in the open air. Something I would definitely enjoy! During the day he offers guided tours of his didactic farm (see calendar), but not that many visitors actually know about this reality. By the way, this is the only place from where it is possible to see the view of the Lagoon of the Roses and also, from March to September, pink flamingos, which returned to the lagoon about 5/6 years ago, bringing hope and joy. Well, Paolo is the first person to see them every morning (in case you weren't jealous enough already)...
When I had finished, we went inside and he gave me a tour of the house. Lucio Andrich must have been really energetic, because it seemed as if every corner carried his signature. I was too busy trying to recover from the marvel, so to be honest I don't remember all the details, the techniques and the stories behind the various artworks, but in case you are curious, this video will give you an idea of the environment that inspired him (watch here). Paolo really spoke a lot and gave me so much information that it would take book to report it all. He is a real entertainer and listening to him was fun and quite educational! At a certain point we started chatting about Venetian wine and of the 're-discovered' native grape Durona, cultivated in the lagoon by the local association Laguna nel Bicchiere, which does it mainly for didactic and social purposes (everyone is welcome to participate in their tasting events and to the annual harvest!), and by the Bisol family, owner of the restaurant Venissa on the island of Mazzorbo, who instead produces from the same grape a more sophisticated and expensive white wine (150 euros) called Venissa like the restaurant and nicknamed Vino d'Oro (golden wine). The production is very limited, only about 3.500 bottles a year, of which 2.000 are sold at their restaurant and resort, the wine is iodised and scented, yet very delicate.
While we were in the living room, he showed me a video and then, from an old brown leather briefcase, he took a couple of small silks and placed them next to the window, to show me how they had been made. His bedroom too is an artwork... with more paintings and two small windows overlooking his garden and the rosemary plants.
Back in the garden, I was introduced to the three goats and showed the various trees: pear, plum, cherry plum, fig, grape, flat peach, pomegranate, apple, not to mentioned the artichoke plants and all the herbs. Allow me say it again: wow... Of course living in such a place entails constant care and work, but I think I could get used to it. Anyway, it is a dream that only few can afford. The properties, in fact, are very expensive and to that you must add the renovation works. I think he's a very lucky man! In the garden there are also two small dependences for his guests, with white walls, a spacious bedroom and private bathroom.
What a wonderful morning! And thank goodness I didn't have any other appointments that day, because when I looked at the clock I saw it was already 11! I had spent more than 4 hours in this amazing place and felt incredibly regenerated. I had also finished all his bread, so when I left he came with me to take the vaporetto and go to Burano to get some provisions!
Simply wonderful, so if you decide to visit Torcello, do consider stopping at Museo Casa Andrich. You will be able to see amazing views and learn a lot about the origins and evolutions of Venice, plus... you will be offered fruits and herbs straight from his garden. A unique and unforgettable experience!
Address: Torcello 4L, 30142 Venezia (VE)
Phone: +39 3472391861