As regular readers will be aware, at Saucepan Kids we love food and travel so what better during our tour of Italy than a food tour of Venice? Venice was the final stop on our tour and is renowned for its food so we teamed up with Walks of Italy to learn more about the Venetians’ passion for great food.
We met our guide Francesca and our companions for the morning tour in a square near the Rialto bridge. As the group was small, 12, and the nature of the tour with regular food stops probably didn’t lend itself to it, weren’t given headphones for this tour as we had in others. This was more comfortable however occasionally when we were walking around it was a bit difficult to hear Francesca.
Francesca began the tour by giving us some interesting facts about Venice for example there is only one Piazza, St Marco and all other squares have the Venetian name Campo which directly translates into field. Another interesting fact was that building numbering system starts in the centre of Venice (the Doge’s Palace is number 1) and then spirals its way from there – so the bigger the house number the further you are from the centre.
It’s never too early for cicchetti (and wine)
The first food stop was a small Bacaro called All’Arco. A Bacaro is a small Venetian restaurant/bar where the locals go to socialise, drink wine and eat cicchetti, which are small snacks. Even though it was still fairly early in the morning Francesca took our wine order (red or local white, Verduxxo, – which was very good) and came back with the drinks (soft for the kids) and a selection of cicchetti that we could all try.
The cicchetti were all small pieces of toasted bread topped with a variety of delicious local ingredients, including cured meats, vegetables and fish. Our favourite was Baccalà which is a salt-cured cod pâté and was so, so tasty.
A visit to Rialto Market
After this we visited the famous Rialto food market which is aimed at residents as there is a wholesale retail market on the mainland. There is an absolutely fantastic array of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables. The market finishes at 1pm so there will be bargains to be had in the run up to 1 o’clock. Francesca pointed out an interesting plaque on the wall at the entrance to the market which states the minimum size in cm each type of fish has to be for it to be allowed to be sold.
After this another pit stop was required and this time we stopped at a fantastic place between the food market and the Rialto Bridge called Al Mercà. Here we had a glass of local prosecco (sparkling white wine), cordial for the kids, and a lovely selection of cicchetti including paninis and polpette di carne which are deep-fried meatballs. Again everything was delicious and in fact we loved it so much we came back the following day for lunch.
When is a gondola not a gondola?
Replenished, we crossed the Grand Canal in what the tour description describes as a gondola. Whilst this is strictly correct, it was not a traditional gondola but essentially a larger gondola ferry powered by two men that simply crosses the river back and forward. This clearly annoyed one family in our group as a gondola ride was the only reason they had booked the tour! There are a number of these ‘ferry’ gondolas, which charge €2 per person per crossing, along the grand canal as there are only four bridges which makes crossing difficult.
Lunch with the locals
We walked through one of the districts, Cannaregio, and down some small calles (narrow streets) to find our lunchtime restaurant. This was a delightful little place called Taverna Al Remer which you’d never find without Francesca’s local knowledge. This is clearly a local’s place and it was great to see gondoliers having their lunch their, a good indicator of its quality.
Here we had another glass of wine and that day’s special, black spaghetti made using squid ink. Ellen and I had had this the evening before and this was definitely superior.
The tour ended here once lunch was finished. Francesca offered to walk back to the main street if anyone wanted to but we decided we’d continue our aimless wandering around Venice’s narrow streets to walk off all the morning’s excesses.
If you are a lover of good, simple, local food and immersing yourself in local culture and cuisine when you travel then this tour is most definitely for you. Debbie, the kids and I all loved trying the different delicacies and the tour cost includes all of the food and drinks. As a local, Francesca’s knowledge of Venetian lifestyle and customs was great and really gave us a view of the social life in Venice as well as the amazing local food. On top of this we got to see a good bit of Venice finding out lots of interesting facts on the way.
Disclaimer – Thank you to Walks of Italy for providing us with this discounted food tour of Venice for the purposes of this review.
This review is, as always, 100% honest and our own opinion.