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