One of the liveliest and most enjoyable days we’ve ever spent in Venice began when we met Countess Enrica Rocca beneath the Rialto Bridge on a balmy autumn morning. We then embarked on a food market tour, the prelude to a full day of tuition in the subtleties of Venetian cooking. A warm and friendly woman with a passion for the distinctive food of her native city, Rocca is a graduate of the famous Lausanne Hotel School. Completely fluent in English, she lived in Cape Town and London before returning home to launch a business from her family’s magnificent palazzo. As she guided us through the stands of the Rialto market — where she is on first-name terms with most of the vendors — she pointed out seasonal delicacies such as purple artichokes and baby fennel from the garden island of Sant’Erasmo, and discussed the vast array of seafood from the Venetian Lagoon. Rocca is a spontaneous cook and never has a menu in mind until she sees what is for sale in the market that day. On this particular morning, she filled her basket with squid, tiny clams, arugula, tomatoes, garlic and parsley. We then retreated to a nearby bacaro, or Venetian wine bar, to discuss the culinary possibilities. Back in the loft-like apartment of her family’s palazzo, we assembled in her open teaching kitchen. First, she showed us how to clean the squid, which we then grilled to garnish a salad of arugula and tomatoes. Next, she taught us how to make a classic spaghetti alle vongole. Finally, we sat down to lunch with our fellow students — a charming young couple from Boston and two delightful English ladies — and remained at the table conversing until it was nearly time to start thinking about dinner. This course offers a wonderful insider’s take on Venice, and I cannot recommend it too highly. Dorsoduro 568/A, 30123 Venezia; [email protected]; Tel. 39 338 6343839.