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Red wine & good times on the Venice Food Tour, with Kristina from Walks of italy

Red wine & good times on the Venice Food Tour, with Kristina from Walks of Italy

In the food-heaven that is Italy, if you’re going to get a meal which leaves you disgruntled or angry, chances are that it will happen in Venice.

Sure, you only have to read the comments in the Venice restaurants section on Tripadvisor to see that. Often even the higher ranking Venetian places to eat will have plenty of mixed reviews, with some customers having quite different experiences than others. (We’ve developed a theory about this; more later.)

Thankfully, help is at hand.

To introduce you to the highlights and traditions of eating in Venice, Walks of Italy has a wonderful Food Tour that will stuff you full of eats, drinks, and ideas.

This interesting & tasty tour is lead by a local insider, and we found, yes;  it really will help you find your way amongst the maze that is Venice & Venetian food.

The Walks of Italy tours start from Campo San Giacomo di Rialto, a central area near the Rialto bridge; nice, because it is easy to find, but not as completely crowded as St Mark’s Square. This campo is home to Venice’s oldest church, a beautiful 15th century clock, and this area was a very important banking centre in Venice’s heyday, with bankers coming from all over Europe to learn their trade. We got the background of the square from our friendly guide Kristina before she brought us around the corner for our 1st stop– which involved drinking prosecco at 10.45 a.m. It’s a hard life living the Venetian way 😉

This first stop also involved learning about & trying some of the cicchetti (small snacks or side dishes) that Venice has to offer. Not only did we learn about the types, but we discovered what is best in each place we visited, and even the best types by whom in the establishment has made them!

Rialto is one of the oldest parts of Venice, & where we started our Walks Of Italy food tour

Rialto; 1 of oldest parts of Venice, & where the Walks Of Italy food tour starts

Only The Best

Case in point- at one of our stops Kristina asked if the ‘Mamma‘ was back from her holidays, because it was she who made the very best sardine based cicchetti. (I believe it was the sarde in saor. For more info on the traditional Venetian foods, check out this post from Walks of Italy.) She wasn’t back, so Kristina told us she would wait to have hers for when the mamma came back, and maybe we’d like to, too. Italian food culture is like that– simply wanting the best and knowing what is best when, where, and by whom. With Kristina we had the Venetian insider‘s knowledge!

One of the cicchetti we probably wouldn’t have tried without the stimulus of being on the Walks of Italy food tour was bacala mantecato, a whipped salt cod topping. It sounded quite strange to our ears, but as it also has added garlic we were convinced 🙂 It’s fascinating how some dishes are so simple, but actually involve a fair bit of workbacala mantecato a case in point. Here’s a video I found that demonstrates this, and how you can make this traditional Venetian food.

[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/oA0WBNEkLkY” playlist=”Preparing Venetian salt cod spread; food in Venice”]

 

Beautiful Meats–but, Donkey?

In addition to several stops in places to eat (all so good!) we also were shown some butcher shops with beautiful looking meats. There was also an equine butcher shop, which you may also find unusual depending on where you are from. A food step too far for me was the idea of donkey meat products. Aww, nooo; donkeys are just too cute…I’m not sure I’d eat horse, but I definitely couldn’t eat donkey unless it was an emergency. Luckily we were all just looking at these, not stopping & sampling. It was interesting.

 

Walks of Italy Venice food tour: equine butcher shop

The equine butcher’s shop; very interesting, & it was great having Kristina explain what was on offer.

 

 Rialto Markets

More to my personal taste was being guided around the Rialto MarketsVeg & Fruit, and the Fish Market. This is where Terry just about had a breakdown 😉 We had a tight budget on this 5 day trip (booked & paid for when I was still working,) and so had just been eating sandwiches made with items bought from the grocery shop, a few cicchetti,  take-away pizzas and some gelato for the past 2 days. Poor Terry was starved for protein & a big, filling meal. (As a fitness trainer he has larger than normal requirements in this regard.) At the seafood market he was salivating even though he’s not normally a fan.

 Rialto Fish Market, Venice. Venice food tour, Walks of italy

Beautiful fish at the Rialto Fish Market, Venice

That reaction is easy to understand–everything was presented beautifully and looked so fresh. It was here that we decided that next Venice trip we’ll rent an apartment so Terry can cook most of our meals. Doing so saves money, and with such wonderful food products, using them is part of the joy of Venice if you enjoy cooking. In fact, Walks of Italy do have cooking classes, but none in Venice yet.

If you visit the markets, you will likely be tempted, too, and with the benefit of a Venice food tour expert to guide you, you’ll get the scoop on freshness, what fish/shellfish/produce is in season & best for what uses. Class!

I could go on & on about what we saw, learned, ate & drank on the food tour, but that may just be cruel as to how hungry it will make you 🙂 I’ll finish up with 3 more reasons we loved the food tour, and why I think you will, too. 

Rialto market venice Food tour, Walks od Italy

Rialto veg & fish market– so much to see & drool over! Loved the patient dog waiting as his owner shopped 🙂

 

1. The inside info & tips on where to eat. As we had a tight budget, we were wary of blowing it on mediocre yet rather expensive meals out. With Kristina’s fantastic guidance we were confident in choosing restaurants, and she also let us in on a few local secrets— like the place serving seafood risotto as good as someone-who-shall-remain-nameless-for-their-own-safety’s Venetian mamma!

2. We were introduced to the Doge’s Coffee, a Venetian coffee shop that also sells packaged Venetian-roasted coffee. I don’t think we would have found it otherwise. The coffee was lovely, and we bought some to bring home to Ireland. You’ll get a coffee there as part of the tour, and a grappa; be warned– that grappa is not for the delicate 😉

Doges coffee. Venice Food Tour, walks Of Italy

Doges Coffee, mmmm!

3. All the other little places you’re likely to see & learn about: the spice shop, traditional cobbler, bakers–and just traipsing down all the little lanes is magical. Bring your appetite, your curiosity, and your camera. Enjoy! We sure did!

Oh yes, and as for our own little theory for getting a meal in Venice that won’t leave you disgruntled- we found that as well as going to recommended places where locals also go, going for dinner not long after opening was a plus- it seemed that you’d get much better service before the place got busier with diners. So many Tripadvisor reviews grumbled about service even in the better rated spots! We only ate sit down meals twice ourselves, but developed this theory after a frustrating try (!) for dinner at a busy place, a  fair bit of restaurant-watching as we sat in nearby bars nursing a drink & having a few cicchetti, and our 2 successful meals. Have any of YOU got tips in this regard? Please do share in the comments below.

In future posts I’ll tell you more about the good places we ate, and the fab Airbnb room & area where we stayed.

If you’d like to find out more about the Walks of Italy Venice tours, click here

Also handy are some tips on eating in Italy from Walks of Italy.

Disclosure: Terry & I were guests of Walks of Italy, but I always give my honest opinion. If I didn’t, what’s the use of me giving recommendations! 

Spices, bakers, cobbler & more-- discoveries on the Walks of Italy food tour.

Spices, bakers, cobbler & more– discoveries on the Walks of Italy food tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Venice

Venice. A searing beauty

Venice.

Every time I close my eyes I see scenes from Venice. We are home two days now, but still she is imprinted on the visual cortex of my brain…

Is this why I’m feeling so muzzy-headed, so unable to do the mundane things; answer emails or write blog posts? I’m completely serious in saying all this…

I often want to sleep– is it because I need to close my eyes and see Venice again?

Thankfully she hasn’t wrenched out my heart & kept like Ireland did so many years ago, necessitating that I move here to make myself whole again.

But, yes, Venice has burned her beautiful after-image deep into me and I’m not sure when I’ll see clearly again.

Venice dusk

Dusk

Venice, eastern Castello

All is still on this canal

 

Morning Venice, eastern Castello

Quiet morning; eastern Castello

heading out of the Grand Canal.

Heading out of the Grand Canal.

Gondola on the lagoon, Venice

Gondola on the lagoon

Venice- lagoon beauty

The lagoon shimmers

A quick kiss of the hand, Venice

A quick kiss of the hand

The moment when you go from quiet canal to splendor- entering the Grand Canal, Venice

The moment when you go from quiet canal to splendor- entering the Grand Canal

 

Venice reflections, love

Reflections

A beautiful October day in Venice, eastern Castello

A beautiful October day in Venice, eastern Castello

The morning shop with the faithful friend, Venice

A misty morning shop with the faithful friend

your gondola awaits- Venice

Your gondola awaits- will you come to Venice?

 Soon I hope to be back to normal, and then I’ll give you information & tips you can use on your own trip, as well as some more photos for you to enjoy. Terry & I got most of our ‘Must Dos’ done, and thankfully the Walks of Italy were 2 of those- the photos taken from inside the gondola are from one of those Walks! Will tell as soon as I can 🙂


Into The Sun. Flight Fest Dublin Ireland

Leaving on a jet plane- for Venice!

What’s on your  must see/do list for Venice? What is high on your must avoid list?

Tell us in the comments- Venice tips gratefully received!

For us our Must See is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and much as we can of the Biennale–of course including the Ireland pavillion, and our Must Dos are take the #1 vaporetto down the Grand Canal in the evening light, eat some authentic &  tasty Venetian food, visit Murano &Burano, and generally linger, stroll, photograph & soak up the Venetian atmosphere.

Our Must Avoid list consists of massive crowds and really high costs; these are why we are going in late October and staying air bnb in a family home in the residential district of Castello.

Actually, one of our very first Must Dos is to get an Italian data SIM for my Samsung Note! I always try to get a local SIM card, because this is SO much cheaper than data roaming. I’ve come across a very helpful Italy SIM info post and I will let you all know how I get on myself later on this month. 

Now with added wi-fi.. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. :-)

Now with added wi-fi.. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. 🙂

Also assisting Terry & I in our pursuit of our Must Dos is Walks Of ItalyI had chatted with them during TBEX in Dublin, and now they’ve invited us to be their guests on 2 of their Venice walks!  We’ll be doing the Food Walk, and the Welcome to Venice Walk, which also includes a gondola ride. The gondola ride is an extra thrill, because if you just have a gondola ride on your own steam they start at €80. I’d never pay that much. But with the Walks of Italy Welcome to Venice tour, you get your 2 hr guided walk and a 30 min gondola ride from just €59 pp! Okay, there can be up to 6 people from your tour in the gondola with you, but this is the sort of good value we love! Here’s what the Welcome To Venice Walk consists of:

  • Rialto Bridge
  • Fondaco dei Tedeschi (from outside)
  • San Giovanni Gristosomo (inside with paintings by Bellini and Sebastiano del Piombo)
  • House of Marco Polo (from outside)
  • Church of Miracles (from outside)
  • Campo San Giovanni e Paolo
  • Scuola Grande di San Marco, Venice’s main hospital (from the outside)
  • Bronze Equestrian monument of Bartolomeo Colleoni by Verocchio
  • Campo Santa Maria Formosa
  • Arch of Paradise
  • Church of San Zulian (from outside)
  • Gondola ride (30 minutes)

The Food Walk  sounds a dream come true for us, too. You have probably heard that Venice is the hardest place to get really good food in all of Italy, due to its massive tourist ‘population.’ But if you know where to look, you will find foodie treasures. The Walks of Italy Food Walk will bring us to those treasures, and we’ll get to sample them 🙂 Here’s their Food Walk blurb:

dreaming of venice

A nice coffee and a planning for Venice daydream…

Eat, and shoplike the locals do! On this exploration of Venetian food and wine, you’ll learn how to navigate the island’s restaurants and cuisine like a true insider. Experience the bustling Rialto produce and fish markets, stroll streets that have been selling the same foods and spices for centuries, and, of course, enjoy tastings—including panini, crostini,frittiprosecco, local wine, a caffè and grappa

Oh yeah, liking the sound of that! I believe the walks are going to deliver the excellence they promise because I’ve met Stephen and Loredana, read about Walks of Italy’s sustainability ethos & practice, and checked out the reviews on TripAdvisor. I will let you all know how our Walks pan out, and I hope to be sharing plenty of photos from Venice, as long as my SIM hunt goes to plan.

 

Remember, if you’ve Venice tips you’d like to share with us & other readers planning for Venice, please do comment below. We’ve never been before, and I’m sure Venice is a place where you could go a thousand times and discover some thing fantastic & new-to-you each visit. Share your discoveries! Thanks 🙂

I’m not sure if I want to put this amazing Castello bookshop on our Must See list… I’m afraid there will too many books I Must Buy!

Fantastic bookshop in Castello, Venice

Fantastic bookshop in Castello, Venice. Photo via air bnb Castello section


 

 one of Richard Mosse’s Infra photos

 Don’t let the photo confuse you, yes, there is a reason for a picture of Congo in this post titled ‘Ireland in Venice.’ In fact, it could even be titled Kilkenny in Venice!

What am I on about??

Kilkenny native Richard Mosse is going to be the artist representing Ireland in theVenice Biennale 2013, and Kilkenny’s Butler Gallery director, Anna O’Sullivan,

 is Ireland’s commissioner/curator for this year’s Biennale.

Powerful

Mosse will be continuing the work he started with his Infra photoghraphs, surreally documenting the ongoing conflict in eastern Congo. These are very powerful pieces, and I had the privilege of seeing some at Dublin Contemporary in 2011. For the Biennale 2013 in Venice, he will be doing things a bit differently:

 

“At Venice, Richard will push this work into a strong, immersive multimedia environment,” said O’Sullivan. “I am thrilled for Richard, who I know will rise to the challenge of this important opportunity, and will create an extremely original installation that will represent Ireland powerfully on the international stage.”

                              To find out more, do read the Irish Times article the quote came from, here.

                           

Corban Walker was Ireland's representitive at the 2011 Biennale

Corban Walker was Ireland’s representitive at the 2011 Biennale

 Read more herehttp://www.irelandvenice.ie

                                                                            

Venice

Like many of you, I ‘ve long wanted to visit Venice. Going to see  our own Kilkenny represtentitive 🙂 in Venice is a great reson to Just Do It! I’ve used Air BnB to find an inexpensive but characterful place to stay in the authenitic Venitian neighborhood of Castello– which is also home to the Biennale. I’ll be doing more trip research before we go, & will post up what may be useful to you all, as well as reporting back 1st hand info & tips from our visit. Roll on our October 2013!

 

I & other readers would love to hear any Venice tips YOU may have- please leave them in the comments below; and thank  you 🙂