I’ve recently returned from the most incredible trip to Italy, which was more of a food pilgrimage to one of my all-time favourite countries. I stayed in the Northern part and did two lovely food tours in Emilia-Romagna (a walking food tour around Bologna and a visit to a Parmigiano Reggiano factory). I went to Venice for the first time and fell head over heels in love with this magical city. I knew that I would love it but I wasn’t prepared for just how much. It’s so damn pretty it actually hurts your eyes and I felt compelled to take photographs of every single thing. I also found some incredible food.
Venice is known to be overly saturated with tourists and I don’t think I will ever go in summer because of this, but it’s easy to escape the popular locations and experience a slice of Venetian life. The cookbook Polpo that is inspired by Venice is amongst my favourite cookbooks of all time. Since I bought it in 2013 on a trip to London and after an incredible dinner in the restaurant itself I have longed to go to Venice. The recipes will get your taste buds salivating and I’m planning on making further headway with cooking my way through this tome, especially now that I’ve been to the city and have a stronger sense of place with all the dishes. At the back of the book, the author Russell Norman includes a guide to 12 of his favourite places in Venice to eat and I managed to get to 6 of these. They were all wonderful and exactly as he described them so I’ll need to go back and get to the ones I missed.
As far as bakeries go, Venice has an incredible array of pasticceria’s and I stumbled by accident into Pasticceria Tonolo, which is a local favourite. I ate in quite a few others and just chose them according to location (i.e. not in the middle of the most touristy area) and by how many locals where inside. I also chose them based on how delectable their window displays were.
I did a lot of research prior to going to Venice and a lot while I was there. I was determined to make sure I wouldn’t eat one bad gelato but sadly on my last day, this happened. A little bit of research and a good walk to get to specific places will ensure you have a better and more authentic time. You will also need to make reservations at the more popular places, so try and get your evening meals sorted ahead of time at the places you really want to go. As for the daytime, Venice is a city to wander around and stop regularly to snack and have a spritz.
The Red Caffe or café Rosso in Campo Santa Margherita was my favourite square in Venice. I went there twice and hung out on a pavement table watching the world go buy. Their tramezzini sandwiches which are sold by the half are the things that sandwich dreams are made off. Pillowy soft white bread filled to the brim with a variety of fillings, I loved the shrimp and egg salad one. Pure heaven.
The Rialto fish market was amazing and I could only gaze at the incredible selection of seafood that we would never see here. It’s quite staggering. The overwhelming urge to cook this food was satisfied on my last day in Venice when I was lucky enough to do a cooking class with the famous Venetian cookery teacher Enrica Rocca. It was very memorable and deserving of its own blog post, so watch this space soon.
As a pedestrian city, you will land up walking extensively around Venice and eating loads of cicheti along the way. It is the perfect place to move around without stopping anywhere for too long. As a person traveling on my own, this was also a great way to get fed and I didn’t need to spend too many long lonely meals with no one to talk to. One restaurant I would absolutely recommend to go to – and its necessary to book is Paradiso Perduto. Situated in a less touristy neighbourhood near the Jewish Ghetto you will instantly know you are there because its packed and people are spilling out onto the pavement. Inside is canteen style tables and benches and people are crammed in for two seating’s (normally 6 or 8pm) – so try to make a reservation for 7.30pm and then you get to stay the whole night. They have live music on certain nights so if you can time it to go when they have a band performing, all the better. Expect gigantic plates of homemade spaghetti loaded with seafood and crustaceans (the house specialty) served in a load and boisterous restaurant. I definitely missed my friends at this one.
A few of my tips for visiting Venice:
- Google Maps is your friend. If you don’t get your own local Italian data sim card – which I highly recommend, you can download Google maps to view offline. I would have been lost without it. I did try and get lost (for a while) because that is something I can also highly recommend, but it’s nice to quickly check your bearings on your phone and then get back on track. Drop pins of all the places you research before your visit and this gives you a view of a place at a glace.
- Try and book accommodation near to a Vaporetto stop so you don’t have to schlepp your luggage across the city. It really can be difficult if you have far to go with lots of canal bridges to get over.
- The Vaporetto is very expensive and buying the day pass is the best way to go if you are going to traverse the city a lot. I personally found walking the best and then bought a pass on the days when I wanted to travel slightly further afield and when I went to Burano Island.
- Plan how you want to tackle the city on the number of days you have to visit. Focus on certain areas at a time otherwise, you could land up crisscrossing all over the place.
- On my first few days in Venice I stayed near the Rialto Bridge and I enjoyed being very central. On my last 2 days, I stayed in the quieter Dorsoduro area and this is probably where I would go again. The city is not that big and I really like walking so being in a more chilled place appeals to me.
- Be prepared to walk and walk and walk. Take the most comfortable shoes you own – I would say trainers and just hit the pavements to experience as much as you can.
- Gelato: I researched the best gelato shops in all the places I visited and this pretty much ensured I ate the best. I only ate gelato that was artisan and you will see the ‘artigianale’ sign outside. Avoid places that have brightly coloured piles of gelato on display, this is unlikely to be of the best quality. If the pistachio ice cream is bright green you need to be cautious. Proper Pistachio gelato should be a dull almost khaki coloured green
- If you have time take the waterbus to the airport. The trip is about 1 ½ hours but so worth it. It’s a stunning way to leave the city and arriving by boat to an airport is totally novel.
A few places I highly recommend to eat at in Venice:
- The Red Caffe, Campo Santa Margherita
- Paradiso Perduto, Cannaregio 2540, Fondamenta della Misericordia (make a reservation)
- Pasticceria Tonolo, Dorsoduro 3764, Venice
- Nico, Fondamenta Zattere al Ponte Longo, Vaporetto Zattere
- All’Arco and Do Mori near the Rialto market. These are two of the oldest Bacaro in the city.
- Al Merca, Campo Bella Vienna (right next to the market) is a hole in the wall place that sells lovely chiceti. Its the perfect place to make a pits stop for a quick spritz or glass of wine when visiting the market. Their little crusty bread rolls filled with baccala mantecato are irresistible.
- Antico Forno, Ruga Ravano make amazing pizza by the slice. Amazing!
- Gelato: I loved GROM and there was a shop about 100 meters from when I started the first time so that was easy.
- Gelaterie iL Dodge, near the Campo Santa Margherita and very nice
- Rialto market – there aren’t any places at the market to eat, so pop into one of the bacaro’s I recommend above
Here are a few of my pictures of this incredible city
More stories and loads of images from my recent trip to Italy: