The Flavor of Venice includes delectable small bite savory cicchetti with an ombra (small glass of wine) throughout the day, chocolate and cake and freshly roasted coffee tastings, or a Venetian cooking class if you'd like to take a deep dive into the Venice’s luscious cuisine.
Monica Cesarato and I talked about the food and tasting events she offers in Venice, plus the other quintessentially Venice experiences to capture while you’re there.
Tasting Venice’s Cicchetti
Cicchetti are a type of small plate finger food or tapas typical to the city of Venice.
Because of its location Venice has always been a gateway for trade full of merchants and travelers who “lived” the city moving about Venice throughout the day. Cicchetti became the habitual way of eating - quick bites and a small glass of wine on the go in a tiny osteria or wine bar (bacaro).
Venetian love this culinary tradition and have embraced it as their own. Cicchetti are often eaten as a sort of appetizer before lunch or dinner (and sometimes even breakfast), and many - including Monica - often opt to skip meals all together in favor of delicious cicchetti throughout the day.
Cicchetti are savory bites - seafood, meat or vegetarian. Some classics you'll find in Venice are fried baccalà, mozzarella cheese, deep fried vegetables, tiny meatballs.
I've been on Monica's wonderful Cicchetti tour, an edible walking tour throughout Venice to savor some delicious bites at off the beaten track local venues.
Tasting Venice chocolate and coffee
Again, because Venice has historically been a city of merchants and a gateway for trade chocolate and coffee came to this Italian city early on.
Monica offers a Venice cake and chocolate tour and a Venice chocolate and coffee tasting tour.
For a detailed history of chocolate you'll enjoy The True History of Chocolate.
Tasting Venice and Veneto region wines
The Veneto region is the biggest producer of wine in Italy and has the largest number of indigenous grape varietals, not to mention the region’s numerous blends and imported grape varietals.
If you love Italian wine this is the region to visit to take a deep dive into some of Veneto’s unique wines and grape varietals. Monica offers a few wine tasting options in Venice proper.
Would you like to know more about the Veneto region’s wines? Start off by exploring this 700 year old Dante Alighieri winery.
Tasting Venice and the intangible flavors of the city:
Murano became Europe's luxury glass making center in the 15th century although glassmaking in Venice dates back to the eighth century and it's believed that glass production in Venice began as far back as 450.
Murano is a cluster of small islands that became the epicenter of Venetian glass making. Over the centuries the secret technique and skill involved in Murano glassmaking has evolved and present day Murano glass is none other than exquisite. A visit to Murano and its glassmakers is a must when you visit Venice and although Murano glass is not inexpensive it's well worth the price when you consider the skill, time and history that goes into its making.
Murano glass beads are officially recognized by UNESCO for their intangible heritage, and specifically for the art of glass bead making.
Burano Island - colors and lace
Burano island in Venice is known as the colorful city of lace and it's considered by many to be one of the most colorful cities in the world. Monica says it's all due to the people as their joyful nature make the city colorful and not the other way around. When you visit Burano residents are always happy and full of smiles and Monica feels this is why the island has evolved to become such a colorful little island.
Burano lace dates back to 1500 and displays incredible workmanship - it's a must when you are in Venice. There's a lace museum you can visit on the island.
Gondolas and gondoliers
The gondola is a traditional flat bottom rowing boat perfectly suited for the Venice lagoons that dates back to the 11th century. It's usually propelled by a gondolier and back in the 12th century following their origin gondolas were an important means of Venice transportation.
Nowadays gondolas and gondoliers have become a typical tourist attraction in the city but still well worth the experience. Prices are regulated by the city and if divided among six passengers gondola rides are very affordable. If you're looking for a gondolier who sings this is a separate cost although sometimes you might run across a gondolier who simply enjoys singing.
Monica says it's best if you choose a gondola and gondolier in one of the small canals rather than near St. Mark's Square. Not because the gondoliers in the Square aren't as good – Monica says they absolutely are - but she says you'll enjoy Venice more with a gondola ride that takes you through the small side canals of Venice.
Are you wondering how gondolas are made? Then you’ll definitely enjoy this book, The Gondola Maker.
Ditch the cruise ship experience and plan your trip to Venice sustainably
During the Covid lockdown. the waters in Venice became clear once again and it was possible to see aquatic life and fish. Not that the water became clean, although this is true in part, but because there wasn’t any boat and water vehicle activity in and around Venice the sandy base settled which permitted visibility.
In years gone by cruise ships were much smaller and they came into port and stayed for a week or so while visitors experienced Venice and only returned to the cruise ship to sleep. Now cruise ships are so large that a new port was constructed to accommodate them. Often cruise ships come into port for just a day before moving on and oftentimes passengers stay on the ship and buy gifts and souvenirs in the port shops - mostly imitations of artisanal items like Murano glass. Obviously this has damaged local Venice artisans, not to mention that travelers miss out on a true Venice experience and the flavor of Venice.
Monica and many others are in favor of a return to a more sustainable form of tourism with smaller cruise ships and longer stays in port. It remains to be seen if this will happen but when you're planning your visit to Venice think sustainable and plan a Venice experience that will give you a true flavor of Venice.
Is Venice disappearing?
The answer is probably yes and the true miracle is how this city on water has managed to survive so long. Monica thinks that in 100 years Venice will be gone simply because of geographical changes in the area like changing water levels.
The waters and the sandy sea beds in and around Venice are under constant study by the very best scientists and every effort is being made to preserve this miraculous and beautiful city. It remains to be seen how successful these efforts will be to preserve and extend the life of Venice.
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