Sep 192016
 

A delicious walk on a Venice food tour

Venice is an amazing, magical city made for long, meandering walks that get you lost in the maze of alleys and bridges. To enhance our walking experiences in the city and capture a sense of Venetian history and culture, Mr. TWS and I took a remarkable Venice food tour offered by Walks of Italy.

Getting a taste of Venice with our guide Cristina (bottom left) on a Walks of Italy Venice food tour

Getting a taste of Venice with our guide Cristina (bottom left)

I’d heard that fine cuisine is not something to expect in the most tourist-centric areas of Venice where catering to the throngs of tourists involves basic and non-regional dishes depicted on menus with pictures and English language text. But escorted by our fun and knowledgeable local Walks of Italy guide Cristina we stopped to sample authentic Venetian cuisine and culture in small, tasty bites.

Here’s a little preview of what to expect on the Walks of Italy Venice Food Tour.

Our highlights of the Venice Food Tour

Our small tour group met at 10:30 a.m. on Campo San Giacomo di Rialto near the famous Rialto Bridge. We were warmly welcomed by our smiling tour guide Cristina who then regaled us with stories of Venice past and the history of its culinary culture before moving us on to our first bacaro, wine bars popular with Venetians for cicchetti (small bites, snacks) and wines of the Veneto region. Cicchetti, important in the food culture of Venice, most often consists of crostini with toppings, small panini sandwiches, and fritti (fried fish and vegetables).

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere

Prosecco in the morning? Of course! Near our meeting point was Al Merca, a bacaro where we enjoyed a bubbly beginning to the tour.

First stop on the Walks of Italy Venice Food Tour -- Al Merca

First stop on the Venice Food Tour — Al Merca

We were told that bacari are key places for eating more like the locals in Venice and for getting good, local, and inexpensive food and wine. The small wine bars are popular and typically quite busy with patrons enjoying the fare standing up. There we sampled our first cicchetti, several mini panini made with local ingredients.

Enjoying Prosecco and panini with our guide Cristina at Al Merca in Venice

Enjoying Prosecco, panini, and fried eggplant with our guide Cristina at Al Merca

In the footsteps of Casanova

Hanging out with the locals at Cantina do Mori, one of Venice's oldest bars

Hanging out with the locals at Cantina do Mori

Tucked away along one of the countless intriguing alleys near the Rialto Market is Cantina do Mori, another popular bacaro, which has been operating continuously since 1462. Entering the small bar crowded with boisterous locals, you feel that you might just run into Casanova, a notable customer of the bar back in the 1700’s.

Platter of chicchetti at Cantina do Mori in Venice

Cicchetti, including octopus and salted cod fish at Cantina do Mori

Enjoyment of food and wine accompanied with conversation is part of Venetian culture and we observed several of the city’s senior residents slowly making their way from one bacaro to the next, a daily routine.

Fresh Venice

It’s not a surprise that seafood specialties are abundant in Venice and at the Rialto Fish Market many varieties are on display.

Rialto Fish Market, Venice

Rialto Fish Market

And it’s not just about seafood in Venice — there are plenty of fresh meat, produce, bakery, and other food options in the markets. On our walk, we browsed market booths and shops filled with colorful fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and spices of the Veneto region.

Vendor peeling artichokes; fresh, in-season produce at the market in Venice on the Walks of Italy food tour

Vendor peeling artichokes; fresh, in-season produce at the market

We visited in late April when fresh asparagus, especially the white variety, were abundantly in season and we got to experience many dishes that featured them. A special treat was watching the friendly vendor peeling artichokes while conversing in Italian with the locals.

Handsome gondoliers and pasta

The final highlights on the tour were a short gondola ride (included in the tour) across the canal to a restaurant for pasta. We weren’t going to have time to take a pricey long, romantic ride on a gondola during our stay so we really enjoyed the brief trip on the tour from one side of the Grand Canal to the other.

Our handsome gondolier takes us across the Grand Canal during our Walks of Italy Venice Food Tour

Our handsome gondolier takes us across the Grand Canal

In a cozy and intimate restaurant, we ended the tour with a sampling of squid ink pasta — a first for me  — that was much tastier than I expected. As pleased as I was (as a person who is not a huge seafood fan) that I gave it a try, I haven’t had a craving for it since. Mr. TWS thoroughly enjoyed his serving and said it was dramatically better than the similar pasta dish he had at Eataly in Chicago just weeks before.

What we liked about our Walks of Italy tour

We loved our Walks of Italy Venice Food Tour and highly recommend it to quickly get a taste of this magical city that will leave you craving a second helping on a future trip.

  • Duration — The duration of 2-1/2 hours is just right to savor the experience, to learn the ropes for eating like a Venetian, and to leave much of the day for further exploration of the city.
  • Group size — We felt very comfortable with the small group size (always 12 or fewer) giving us a chance to enjoy pleasant interaction with our fellow tour members and stay close to our guide.
  • Local guide — Our expert local guide enthusiastically shared her knowledge and engaging anecdotes. On our own, it would have been difficult to find our way around and we would have missed the insider insights about notable places along the way and their ties to Venetian culture and history.
  • Customer service — It’s easy to get lost in Venice — and that’s a wonderful thing. Mr. TWS and I had some spare time before our Walks of Italy Venice Food Tour, so we meandered along dozens of short, narrow alleyways. By the time we decided to head to the meeting place, we were far removed from the mainstream tourist areas of the city and the tour meeting point. We were totally lost. But a phone call to Walks of Italy’s customer service number connected us immediately to a helpful and friendly representative who pointed us in the right direction and notified the tour guide that we would be arriving very soon, albeit a little late.

Our TWS recommendation 

When visiting Venice, especially for the first time, look up the tours available from Walks of Italy to really maximize your time and get insights of Venice that you may not find on your own. We loved their After Hours at St. Mark’s Basilica and Venice Food Tour itineraries, but there are other options as well. These two were excellent.

Disclosure: Walks of Italy hosted our Venice Food Tour, but the pleasure was all ours.

  8 Responses to “Small Bites of Venice with Walks of Italy”

  1. Great post about a great city. I have only been one time but it was such and experience getting lost in the small alley streets. We take walking food tours occasionally and this one sounds very nice. I immediately saw the pictures of the Asparagus and was drawn to them. I just love the stuff. For me, it is all about the pasta and sauces in Italy,

  2. A Venice food tour. How dreamy! I imagine there is more than just pizza, pasta, and gelato, although that is fine with me.

  3. This tour sounds like a really good idea. I’ve never had much luck finding good food in Venice, I really need a guide!
    Lovely pictures 😉

  4. There’s an old saying that if you have a bad meal in Italy you must be in Venice, but I can see that this is certainly not always true.

  5. Not having been to Venice in over 20 years, if I went back I think I’d like to get more of a local spin like this tour. Food looks great, of course and the prosecco doesn’t hurt first thing in the morning!

  6. I think if you manage not to get lost in Venice, you’re missing part of the experience—-or I’m a master of cognitive dissonance. My Venice food story is admittedly a little bizarre. For their first trip to Europe, we took our then teenage sons to Italy. Venice was on the itinerary after several days in Rome. As often happens to me, by the time we were in Venice, I was getting tired of even good Italian food for every meal, so our younger son and I set off in search of a Chinese restaurant we somehow learned of. Fortunately, our son has a self-described GPS in his head and he managed to find the place. In retrospect, we were sorry. It was awful. After a bad Chinese meal, we were happy to return to the default local cuisine.

  7. These guys do such a great job on their food tours. Loved all the photos. Really made me longing for some cicchetti and Italian wine.

  8. I think a food tour in Venice is a very smart idea. A lot of visitors there don’t know where to eat and end up coming away from the city with an underwhelming perception of the city’s food.

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