I got overwhelmed by a sudden desire to travel again, so a friend and I spontaneously went online and booked the cheapest flight tickets we could find. Thus, last weekend our journey led us to Bella Italia: Venice.
And let me tell you: Venice is a stunner! We were really lucky to enjoy four days of warm sunshine and since the season hasn’t begun yet, the city wasn’t too full of tourists. Jon, a real Italian guy who sat next to us in the plane, told us that we chose the right time for Venice, referring to the city’s bad smell in summer.
We stayed in Leonardo’s apartment, which was located so close to the water that we had sea view from the balcony. Oh well, because of the many small canals in Venice pretty much everthing is close to the water. Venice was build onto 120 small islands, only connected by dozens of bridges. The lack of space led to buildings standing very close to each other and with this narrow streets, kind of a big labyrinth. Nearly the whole ground of the city is paved, plants outside pots are rather rare. Also, there are no cars in Venice, only water buses and gondolas. Life happens on the water or on all those Campos.
Once we found our apartment, we abandoned the map and got lost in the streets. Behind every corner was something new to explore. Well, sometimes we ran into dead ends or in circles, but somehow everytime we got stuck, an old Italian man appeared and kindly helped us to get back on track even though none of us spoke the same language.
On the second day of our stay we decided to learn more about the history of Venice and joined a free walking tour. Aida, our tour guide, walked us 3.5h throughout the city, impressing us with her knowledge of Venice, from its early beginnings to the origin of carnival. But from my point of view the most interesting part of her tour was, obviously, the one we talked about food. Firstly, there are four types of restaurants in Venice: Bacaros (which is kind of the same like tapas, but n e v e r call them tapas in Italy), Osterias serving wine and small things to eat with, Trattorias (smaller restaurants, offering only a limited number of dishes in the menue) and Restaurants (big menue, most expensive). At Bacaros and Osterias the rules of self-service are common, at restaurants and trattorias they’ll charge you “comperto”, a service fee. However, you’ll get bread and sometimes sparkling wine as an aperitif.
And here comes a guide for findng good authentic venetian cuisine:
5 Signs to stay away from a restaurant (if you are looking for good food)
- The restaurant is offering a “Tourist Menue” (sometimes also spelled “Torist Menue” or “Turist Menue”) –> BEWARE!
- There’s a fancy guy standing outside the restaurant telling you how beautiful you are + that you should come inside to eat exactly at this place. Beautiful women will be placed at the window to attract more customers. But seriously, good food doesn’t need a guy to promote it.
- The menue is translated into more than two languages. English is okay, but as soon as German, French or Chinese enter the stage, the food will no longer be authentic. Real Italian cooks or waiters speak Italian to you, no matter if you understand it or not. Mamma mia.
- There are pictures of food on the menue. That means the cook will exactly serve you what you see on the picture, for the exact price standing next to it. But that’s not the Italian way. In Italy cooks are considered as artists and artists will serve you whatever they feel like in that moment. Pictures will only limit their creativity.
- There’s actual food displayed in the window. Sorry, but I don’t need to see a dried-up pizza, I know how it looks. Restaurants willing to throw away food at the end of the day just for the purpose of displaying it, don’t cherish food good enough to make it good.
On our first day we coincidentally walked past a Trattoria that seemed to fulfill Aidas criterias for good food. Without a map, we tried to reconstruct the way to it and actually made it! The search was rewarded with delicious black pasta with prawns and pumpkin flowers (!) and the best Tiramisu we ever had. Italians usually eat four courses: Antipasti, Primo, Secondo and dessert (Wikipedia says they even have ten courses). Unfortunately I was never hungry enough for all courses. That’s because we ate gelato all day, every day.
Regarding the drinking culture in Venice, Aperol Spritz seemed to be a national drink. People drank it from sunrise to sunset, same goes with coffee and wine. But independent from your choice of beverage, there was one common picture we saw: People stand while they drink. Let me explain why: One espresso for example is about € 1.50. But as soon as you sit down to drink it, it becomes € 2.50. Well, depending on the view your seat offers, you could even pay up to € 14 for a coffee including the seat (so as at San Marcos Square). Thus, most people buy a drink and drink it either directly at the bar or while standing outside in front of the shop.
On one evening we found a street along a canal full of wine bars. These bars sold single glasses of wine and some snacks. There’s no real night life in Venice, but in the evening people like to meet up at these wine bars to enjoy a glass or two.
Glass is also a commonly sold product in Venetian shops. The famous Murano glass has its origins in Venice. More precisely: Murano glass is produced on the Murano island, one of Venice’s islands that only can be reached by boat. If you visit Venice, I recommend you to buy a day ticket for the water busses (which is about €20) and to use it to its fullest by visiting the islands in the surrounding. Murano is a little touristic (only go there if you’re into glass art), Burano with its colored houses instead is a must-go and the cementary is also worth a short visit. Afterwards you can catch a bus going to the southern part of Venice to enjoy the city’s skyline from the water at sunset.
Whatever you’re up to in Venice, never stick too tight to your plans. There’s so much to discover and explore, like the World’s most beautiful book store “Alta Aqua Libreria” or many other impressive buildings. Just get lost and enjoy la dolce Vita!
- Eat: Tiramisu at the Trattoria Antica Besseta, Sea Food Platter at La Colonna (the cook will never let you leave before you try his Limoncello, some kind of vodka and lime), Gelato at Nico’s in Dorsoduro or at San Stae‘s in Santa Croce, a glass of wine at Vino Vero
- Sleep: There are so many cool apartments on Airbnb. Leonardo’s is definitely a recommendation.
- Do: Free Walking tour, Island hopping with the day ticket, use the public gondolas ( € 2 / river cross)
- Shop: Books and Postcards at the Librera Alta Aqua