After a hot and delayed arrival in Venice followed by a lengthy exploration of the historic center by foot the day before, Dan and I had yet to do the Grand Canal run on the #1 vaporetto so we made exploring Venice by boat our agenda for the day.
After winding our way toward the vaporetto stop closest to our hotel, we started off the morning getting far too intimate with the mounting crowds on the floating platform behind us, everyone pushing and shoving their way to the boat like it was Noah’s ark. While waiting to board, I had grand notions of getting the perfect seat next to a big open window to catch the breeze and snap some amazing photos of waterside Venice. Instead we were herded onto the boat like a bunch of sheep-le, a hot sticky mass of people lurching from side to side as the boat puttered down the canal. Why oh why didn’t we just splurge like millionaires on a private gondolier for the day?
Eventually we were able to score a couple of seats next to a window although Dan, ever being the gentleman, didn’t get to sit long, always giving up his seat to the little Italian nonnas getting on at each stop. I was able to snap a few pictures through the sliver of window I had opened up next to my seat, however, I’m not promising any National Geographic worthy shots.
We had decided to take the water bus to the Eastern Castello district and check out this bronze statue I had read about outside the public gardens on Riva die Partigiani near the Giardini stop. Located on the steps of the embankment, the monument in the shape of a reclined woman known as La Donna Partigiani can only be seen at low tide. The statue serves as a memorial to all the women who were killed fighting in World War II. Pretty neat huh?
After a morning spent battling the crowds, we were more than ready to join Giovanna, a third generation Venetian from Urban Adventures for their Cichetti and Wine tour. Dan and I love to eat. No surprise there. The best part about traveling to some place new is getting to experience the culture through their cuisine. Food is often symbolic and a reflection of events such as celebrations, deaths, prosperity, rituals, and daily life. Food tours are awesome for navigating and tasting the best of a city’s cuisine as well as picking up tips for good restaurants or neighborhoods to grab a bite to eat later on in your trip. We had a blast with Taste of Italy in Rome and We Hate Tourism Tours in Lisbon during recent trips and were looking forward to learning more about cichetti culture.
Cichetti are small snacks or side dishes served in the cichetti bars known as bacaros or osterias easily discovered down narrow mazelike cobblestoned alleys all over the island. They are Venice’s answer to the pintxos enjoyed in the Basque region of Spain which we happily gorged on during our trip to San Sebastian.
Common cicchetti include tiny sandwiches or combinations of seafood, meat, or cheese laid on top of a slice of bread, plates of olives, and fried pieces of deliciousness. Most Venetians make a meal of the various cichetti by ordering several plates, often eaten in lieu of lunch or as a hearty afternoon ‘happy hour’ snack. Venice doesn’t boast any nightclubs or cinemas, so bacaros are where the locals come to spend their leisure time, gathering with friends and family over a bottle of wine or even coming alone to sit at the bar and chat with the proprietor. The informal style of how cichetti are eaten by hand, usually standing up and gathered around the bar, fosters that social element of Venetian culture making new friends glass by glass.
I was so busy filling up on the delicious fried cichetti and chatting away with the other Americans in our group that I neglected the camera around my neck and forgot to take many pictures, sorry! That and its hard to hold a glass of wine, a cichetto, and keep the camera steady.
After filling up at six different bacaros, including the oldest one in Venice dated from 1462, and imbibing just as many glasses of wine and prosecco (they really should just call it the Wine and Cichetti tour), Dan and I were more than ready to call it an early night. Hey, early to bed means early to wake right? That is unless, wine is involved.
Tell me, have you been on any food tours that wowed your taste buds?