Venice is a beautiful city. Unique in design. Rich in history. Liberal in attitude. And full of souvenirs made in China.
Despite the entire city, along with the Venetian lagoon, being a world heritage site, it can be difficult to get past the tourist traps.
I found my way beyond the souvenirs on the Rialto Bridge and crowds in St. Mark’s Square by taking a food tour thanks to Walks of Italy. We were a small group. Just me and a couple from Oregon, Rod and Lourdes, who had already been in Venice for a few days. Our guide, Cristina, was a native Venetian who was both knowledgeable of the history of the city and generous with personal tips for preparing foods we learned about along the way.
Rod and Lourdes declared the tour to be the best thing they had done in Venice since arriving.
One day in Venice
As Cristina explained, those who come from Venice consider themselves Venetians first and Italians second. Located on the northern tip of the Adriatic Sea, Venice, in centuries past, was an important city state that thrived as a trading gateway to Europe. The city was influenced by the products, people and cultures that entered its port making food a perfect lens through which to view the city and its history.
We met just west of the Rialto Bridge at 10:15 in the morning. Our first stop was the Rialto from which we had a look at the Grand Canal and got a broad historical overview of the city. Then it was back west into the markets to see the food!
Beyond the markets.
After the markets we then wove our way through the narrow streets of Venice. We’d pop into stores such as the Mascar spice shop and stop to discuss the name on a street sign and the story it tells about the history of the city. The time passed quickly as Christina shared interesting facts and anecdotes about Venice.
We didn’t just look. We ate too!
We stopped at four places along the way to eat cicchettis, drink a glass of wine and, at the end, have a cappuccino and grappa. The food was delicious but, for me, it wasn’t the food that was the highlight of the tour. It was Cristina’s way of revealing the life of the city through the food tour experience. It was her answering our every question and sharing the Venetian way of things. It was learning lessons that could be taken home. Yes, I will never again let a risotto go past al dente. As Cristina said, if that happens, it must then be thrown out and you start over.
Thanks to Walks of Italy for allowing me to attend the tour. My fellow tourists paid US$61 each for the three-hour tour (it was supposed to be 2 1/2 hours but Cristina was enthusiastic) with food and wine, espresso and desert.
I was staying in Bologna in the Emilia Romagna area of Italy. Just thirty-five minutes by train to downtown Florence and an hour and ten minutes to Venice, Bologna is perfectly situated for a visit to northern Italy. It is also a city worth visiting itself. Please see: