Does the world need another guide to Venice? Probably not, and yet I can’t stop myself from joining the chorus. Truman Capote was right when he said, “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueur in one go”. It’s a sensory assault on the eyes, taste buds and sometimes even the nose. Walking through its myriad of canals and shady piazzas is like stepping into a baroque painting and catching a glimpse, of another, grander time.
As tourists we did everything expected of us. Armed with our DK Guide we took to the streets, ready to be transported to the world of Byron and Bellini. We filed obediently through the Doge’s palace, cooing on cue at the fresco-lined walls. We trod in Casanova’s footsteps over the Bridge of Sighs, and were oared down the Grande Canal by a singing gondolier. It was enchanting and I could guise myself as a cultural connoisseur, but what I really am is greedy and for me Venice was all about the food. Some of our best memories were made around the table, indulging in the culinary delights of this ancient city.
Osteria da Fiore
This is one of the most popular restaurants in Venice and for good reason. With the accomplished Mara and Maurizio Martin at its helm, it boasts a Michelin star, and has been hailed as “the gastronomic art of today’s Venice”. The food is exceptional, and hinged on the availability of incredible local seafood. Mara is the head chef, serving up delectable dishes like crostini with shrimps or linguine with crab and artichokes. Throw in a cheerful, not to mention knowledgeable, sommelier and you’re in for a fabulous evening out. The ambience is cosy and intimate, especially if you’re lucky enough to nab the one table with a private view of the canal.
Skyline Rooftop Bar – Molino Stucky
We visited the skyline rooftop bar at the Hilton Molino Stucky on our first night in town and it was the perfect introduction to Venice. The building itself is not the most charming, but with unparalleled views of the city, it’s the ideal spot to crack open a bottle of Prosecco and watch the sunset over Venice’s rooftops.
There was no chance I’d miss visiting this iconic Venetian coffee house. From Goethe to Goldoni, the café boasts an impressive clientele spanning across three centuries. It’s gilded rococco rooms and plush velvet chairs made my heart sing, as did the hot chocolate, decadently served with whipped cream.
Perhaps the oldest market in the world; Rialto has been the beating heart of Venetian cuisine for seven centuries. Now it’s predominantly a fruit, vegetable and fish market. All the produce is still delivered to the site via boat. I was lucky enough to visit in spring when towers of white asparagus and baby artichokes filled the stalls. Venice can be an expensive city, but for me one of the cheapest thrills was buying a punnet of juicy strawberries from the market and snacking on them as I strolled back over the Rialto Bridge.
Not to be confused, with the Michelin starred restaurant mentioned above. This is a more rugged establishment, but equally as fun. In fact we loved this little taverna so much, we went back two nights in a row. It’s in San Marco, but just far enough from the main tourist stretch. While you can enjoy dinner in the restaurant, we preferred sitting at the bar, nibbling on the risotto-filled arancini and sipping Negronis into the early hours.
We stumbled across this tiny bacaro while wondering aimlessly through Dorsoduro. The queue ran down the street and we couldn’t resist joining it to see what all the fuss was about. Happy customers were emerging from its little door with plastic plates of colourful crostini and a sign advertised Aperol Spritz for only One Euro – this was our sort of place! By the time we reached the front of the line we were practically salivating in anticipation. Two queue barges saw an opportunity to muscle in, while I was deliberating. Make sure you stand your ground and don’t dilly-dally over whether to have the crostini con lardo or crostini con pecorino – have both! It was worth the wait, we wolfed down our crostini, while gazing across the canal at the oldest gondola workshop in Venice.